Tracking Bunyip Birds

Australasian Bittern_TurfFarm_July13_MG_2695

Movements of the rice-breeding Australasian Bittern population are slowly being revealed.


Four of our first five bitterns departed the Riverina after rice harvest.

Read “Robbie’s gone a roaming“, the Spring 2016 Australian Birdlife article detailing the full 323-day journey of the first ever Australasian Bittern to be satellite tracked.

For the latest tracking results, see:

MILo returns to Coomonderry Swamp

MILo returns to Riverina after five months on coast

Coleambally’s Cumbungi Channels to Coastal Coomonderry Swamp

Arnold’s on the move

MILo disperses 500 km to Shoalhaven Heads

Introducing Arnold, plus other news

Introducing MILo and Demo

Introducing Bidgee and Cumberland

Tootgarook bittern is Coly-Lion

Neil flies 450 km to Moodie Swamp; Robbie at Tootgarook?!

Robbie passes baton to Neil and COG 

Introducing No. 3: Coly-Lion + first nest

Introducing Vin, our No. 2 Bittern

First nest imminent, Robbie back in SA, prey study & more

Robbie back in Vic. as rice season begins

Robbie photographed before moving to Finley

Robbie returns to the Riverina

Summary booklet available; Robbie update + more

Bitterns in wheat, mice in bitterns + Robbie carving up Long Swamp

Enviro water for drain; Goulburn bitterns; key supporters & Robbie update

53 waterbird species in rice + first image of Robbie

Robbie is doing well but others didn’t make it

Robbie has been seen after surviving 50 km/h winds, 1.5 kms out at sea

Robbie back in Vic. giving coastal wetlands tour

Robbie likes what he’s found; and is connecting wetlands / people

Robbie now on South Australian coast: 557 kms away

Robbie has moved interstate: 264 kms and counting …

Let us introduce Robbie The Bittern


ROBBIE FULL to Dec 6th

Nine days after attaching the satellite transmitter on April 21st, 2015, with the rice almost fully harvested, “Robbie”, a 3-4 month old from Coleambally, NSW, dispersed 557 kilometres to Pick Swamp near Mount Gambier, SA. He spent four months at nearby Long Swamp, then returned to the Riverina in September, too early for the next rice season. He made his way back to south-western Victoria and to Pick Swamp, before beginning to retrace his journey, stopping at the Glenelg River mouth at Nelson, and then on December 17th, appearing back at Long Swamp. We lost contact in April 2016 after 323 days of tracking.


Where the bitterns go after rice harvest and spend the colder half of the year has been a mystery. Thanks primarily to our successful crowdfunding campaign in 2014,  we’ll be able to track at least ten bitterns and identify the network of non-breeding wetlands they rely on. This will enable targeted conservation efforts such as environmental water delivery and habitat management.


IMG_6531 - Version 2

Robbie has connected seemingly disparate places and people throughout his travels.


Over a 40-day period in September and October, 2014, the Bitterns in Rice Project raised more than $70 000 from around 300 individuals and 20 community groups and organisations. Note that not all of these funds were pledged on the Pozible website. Special thanks also go to Riverina Local Land Services for additional funding.

The community groups and organisations listed here made contributions of $2500 or more, and we extend our gratitude:

Ricegrowers’ Association of Australia
Cumberland Bird Observers Club
North Central Catchment Management Authority
Coleambally Irrigation Co-operative Limited
Murrumbidgee Field Naturalists Club
Murray Darling Wetlands Working Group
Canberra Ornithologists Club
Coleambally Lions Club
Murrumbidgee Shire Community Demonstration Farm
Murray Irrigation Limited

We’d also like to give special thanks to key supporters who contributed $500 or more:

Murrakool Land For Wildlife
NSW Land For Wildlife
Ecological Survey & Management
Les Gordon
Elisabeth Karplus
Birdlife Southern QLD
Cameron Brown
Neil Bull
Mariko Buszynski
JM & JE Byron
Hayden & Veronica Cudmore
Jessica Durrant
Chris & Sue Hardy
Sandra Henderson
Matt Herring
Tania Ireton
Warren & Alison Lang
Chris McKewin
Neambah Pty Ltd
Stuart Nixon
Ben Nottidge
Ruth & Len Wade


On this key component of the Bitterns in Rice Project, we are collaborating with waterbird tracking expert, Inka Veltheim (Federation University; University of Melbourne). We also gratefully acknowledge the assistance of the New Zealand bittern research team: Emma Williams (Massey University), Colin O’Donnell (Department of Conservation) and John Cheyne (WetlandWorks); and Eurasian Bittern expert, Gillian Gilbert (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, UK). Thanks also goes to Banded Stilt researcher, Reece Pedler (Deakin University), for loaning us some key equipment to get started.


PICK to discovery

Some of Robbie’s movements along the South Australian and Victorian coast, 550 km from his rice crop.