Threatened Species Commissioner Meets Bittern Chicks


It’s been a brilliant day. We’ve just had the pleasure of hosting the Threatened Species Commissioner, Gregory Andrews, as part of his tour of the Riverina that was organised by the new Landcare Irrigation Collective. In what was equal parts thrilling and a relief, we were able to show him bittern chicks. There was no better way to demonstrate what we’re on about and he was suitably impressed. This nest was found on January 15th, with only half the clutch laid, and hadn’t been checked since. There were no guarantees. Thankfully, four healthy chicks were found.

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On January 22nd, we welcomed the announcement by Federal Environment Minister, Greg Hunt, and Threatened Species Commissioner, Gregory Andrews, that the Australasian Bittern had been added to the national priority list for threatened birds. The list tops out at only 20 species and includes the likes of the Malleefowl, Southern Cassowary, Regent Honeyeater and Night Parrot.

In the rice fields of the NSW Riverina, there is so much that can be done to protect and enhance what is the world’s largest known breeding population of the Australasian Bittern. It remains a challenging and perplexing idea for many, but the marriage of farming and threatened species conservation, including the co-management of water, is central to our vision here at the Bitterns in Rice Project. Gregory could see why. He said he felt deeply privileged to find bittern chicks and kept thanking individual rice growers for being the custodians of one of the world’s most threatened birds. This recognition and sentiment was well received. Gregory did express concern about the potential impact from foxes and cats. If they do substantially impact on bittern breeding success, then it could be a key avenue for rice growers to boost their bittern yield in the future.

IMG_2071Threatened Species Commissioner, Gregory Andrews, with a bittern chick.

In other news, Robbie was recently photographed by Bob Green and Wayne Bigg at Pick Swamp in South Australia. He has since moved back to Long Swamp for yet another state border crossing. That’s nine now (NSW-VIC-SA-VIC-NSW-VIC-SA-VIC-SA-VIC), and the case for Bitterns Without Borders is stronger than ever. Meanwhile, Vin and Coly-Lion are doing as we’d expect, with movements concentrated on their booming territories.

Australasian Bittern known as Robbie photographed at Pick Swamp by Bob GreenRobbie is not alone. Photo by Bob Green.

K31_9171Robbie in flight at Pick Swamp, January 24th, 2016. Photo by Wayne Bigg.


  1. Mate, what a brilliant day indeed.
    I reckon Gregory will wear a smile for a fair while after that experience.
    Great work again!!
    Robbie (not the B)

    • Thanks Robbie (M). As always, you played no small part. It was great that it all worked out so well; second only to his Numbat release experience apparently.

  2. What an exciting day. I’m glad that you could show the Commissioner some Bittern chicks – I’m jealous. Did you mention cotton?

    • Hi Elisabeth, You might just have to wait until next time to experience baby bitterns but there’s little doubt that the site you saw near Leeton also has bittern chicks now. Yes, we discussed competing, alternative water uses like cotton, as well as a range of other issues, not least the trend towards sowing methods that result in a reduced period of permanent water in the rice fields, which is not good news for bitterns.


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