Restoring landscapes across the Mount Alexander Region

Unveiling the Feathered Five’s Fading Symphony

Posted on 3 October, 2023 by Ivan

Three of our region’s Feathered Five are now listed as threatened. We have partnered with Birdlife Castlemaine District to deliver a series of blog posts describing these species, why they are threatened, and what we can do to support the conservation of these species into the future.

Extinction is a modern issue

The word extinction may evoke thoughts of the Wooly Mammoth or the Dodo. But in Australia, extinction is very much a contemporary issue. Currently 39 Australian mammal, and 22 bird species, are extinct; a further 154 birds are threatened with extinction. There are very recent, examples of extinctions. The Christmas Island Pipistrelle, a native bat, was last recorded in 2009 and formally declared extinct in 2019. Australia has also recently experienced its first documented reptile extinction. The Christmas Island Forest Skink went from being abundant and common up until the late 1990s to officially declared extinct in 2017. The last one died in captivity in 2014 less than five months after Australian legislation finally listed the species as endangered.  Climate change represents a real and serious threat; the Bramble Cay Melomys, a bright-eyed native rodent, was declared extinct in 2014, likely due to rising sea levels impacting its island habitat. To date, there have been 100 extinctions in Australia since European colonisation (click here).

Our Famous (Feathered) Five… but for how long?

Just a few months ago, three of our beloved Feathered Five: the Diamond Firetail, the Hooded Robin (south-eastern), and the Brown Treecreeper (south-eastern), were listed under the Federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. This means that the birds are now protected under federal legislation, but the declines that lead to these listings raises concerns about the status of these species into the long term.

Male Hooded Robin along Mia Mia Track. Photo: Geoff Park

What can you do? Conservation action in the Mount Alexander area

When a species is listed as threatened under the EPBC Act, the Australian Government develops a conservation advice document. These are intended to guide recovery planning and identify actions required for conservation and recovery of the species. For detailed information, you can read the conservation advice on the Diamond Firetail (click here), Brown Treecreeper (click here), and Hooded Robin (click here).

We would be devastated if our beloved Feathered Five slipped away and are hopeful that the listing of these species prompts wider conservation action. The listing of these species has prompted our friends and project partners, Birdlife Castlemaine District, to hold a meeting and consider what local actions could be undertaken to preserve these species. Into the future, we will be working with Birdlife Castlemaine District to seek funding support for these species, and to continue to raise the profile of these important species and do our best to conserve them.

An adult Diamond Firetail resting in a gum tree, note the finch beak. Photo: Geoff Park

Birdlife Castlemaine District have proposed the following simple, practical actions that landholders can take to help protect these special birds:

  • Plant and retain locally indigenous shrubs and native grasses, and – importantly – allow them to go to seed, to provide food for seed-eating birds. Many gardens in the area already have wallaby grass – rather than mowing them, let them go to seed. Indigenous seeds are available from the Castlemaine Seed Library for a select number of species.
  • Insects are also an important food source for some of the Feathered Five species, so plant local, insect-attracting plants. Reduce spraying of garden pests such as aphids.
  • Provide water for birds and consider using water sources that hang to reduce predation from cats at bird baths.

Keep cats inside – see the Safe Cat website for information on how to keep cats (and wildlife) safe.

Brown Treecreeper need a variety of native trees and shrubs to forage and nest. Photo Geoff Park


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