Skip to content

Bringing Plains-wanderers back from the brink

The Bringing Plains-wanderers back from the brink project aims to recover the population of the critically endangered plains-wanderer (Pedionomus torquatus) in the region.

Female plains-wanderer

About the Plains-wanderer

Plains-wanderers are small, ground-dwelling birds found in sparse native grasslands of the Murray & Riverina. They have a yellow bill and legs, and feathers that are fawn in colour with black rosettes. The sexes differ in appearance, with the female being slightly larger, and she has a black and white collar above a red breast patch.

Plains-wanderers prefer sparse native grasslands, which typically occur on hard red soils. An open grassland structure with around 60% bare ground allows birds to easily move about, find seeds and insects to eat, and to detect and slip away from predators like foxes. Plains-wanderers will disappear from the habitat that becomes too sparse or too dense.

The last couple of decades in the NSW Riverina have been tough for plains-wanderers. There have been long dry periods and some very wet years. This has meant that large areas of habitat have often been too sparse or too thick to support birds, which has caused a steep decline in plains-wanderer numbers. There is estimated to be only 300 birds remaining in NSW and less than 1,000 in Australia.

What is the project doing for plains-wanderers?

We are working with landholders to improve grazing management practices on areas of plains-wanderer grassland habitat. We support landholders to manage paddocks for livestock production and plains-wanderer conservation, by offering incentives for pest and weed control, fencing, water points, saltbush plantations, stock management areas, and feeding infrastructure.

Landscape-scale fox control is also being undertaken over 95,000 ha in the Murray & Riverina.

By improving grazing management of grasslands & controlling predators like foxes, this project will safeguard suitable grassland habitat areas to recover plains-wanderers in the Murray & Riverina.

What can landholders do to help the plains-wanderer?

The most important thing landholders can do is to manage their habitat in ‘Ideal’ conditions. Ideal habitat has roughly equal parts bare ground and plants, with most of the plants being herbs and grasses around five centimetres tall plus a scattering of taller plants.

Grazing is an important tool for achieving this outcome. In some cases, no change to the current grazing regime will be required. In others, landholders will need to reduce grazing pressure in dry years or increase grazing pressure in wet years. The most critical times are during drought, when paddocks may need to be de-stocked completely for extended periods.

Plains-wanderer grassland habitat

More Information

If you wish to know more about plains-wanderers or get involved in the incentive program, please contact Claire Gannon on 0429 465 958, claire.gannon@lls.nsw.gov.au

Riverina Local Land Services have produced videos on the plains-wanderer project & the incentive program. Watch the plains-wanderer video here or the incentive program video here

For more detailed information on the plains-wanderer, please visit the NSW Government’s plains-wanderer profile.

This project is supported by Murray Local Land Services and Riverina Local Land Services, through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program and the NSW Government’s Saving our Species program.