The behaviour of birds and bats in the Mackay-Whitsunday appears ti have been thrown into disarray in the aftermath of Cyclone Debbie.
It’s thought food shortages for the animals following the devastating weather event in late March are largely to blame.
Walkerston birdwatching, author and president of BirdLife Mackay, daryl Barnes, has noticed birds normally associated with rainforest like Eungella moving to populated areas in large numbers.
Another development – which may be seen as positive by some – is that some flying fox bat colonies appear to have moved on from some Mackay region towns. Mr Barnes said a large colony that used to roost near Walkerston home had all but vanished. He’s sure the strange scenario is down to changes in the birds’ and bats’ normal food supply, as the cyclone stripped fruit and berries from trees and shrubs.
“Anyone who takes particular interest and observes their environment will tell you that here, around Mackay, we have been seeing birds that we don’t normally associate with the area and they are here in numbers,” Mr Barnes said. “It goes to show you the devastating effects this cyclone has had on the environment, subtle changes that most people would not realise were occurring.
“Small fruit and berry eating specialists like the wompoo, superb, rose-crowned fruit doves, brown cuckoo does and emerald doves are some of the most noticeable birds affected. They are turning up around town in house backyards and other coastal bushland areas that support fruit and berry producing trees.”
Mr Barnes said the movements were putting pressure on ‘local’ birds relying on similar food sources, such as figbirds, friarbirds, mistletoebirds, silvereyes, rosellas, lorikeets and varied trillers.
“There is only a certain amount of food available to go around,” he said
When it came to the flying foxes, Mr Barnes was sorry to see the bats so badly affected by Debbie, but conceded he’d appreciate his Walkerston home not being covered in bat droppings and urine for the time being.
Discussing any potential long-term impacts on bats and birds after Debbie, Mr Barnes said he expected the animals to bounce back and eventually return to normal behaviour.
But if the apparent prevalence of severe weathe events in north queensland continues at its current rate, he’s concerned bird and bat recovery following events like Debbie will be increasingly difficult.
Generally, Mr Barnes described Mackay as an excellent, if underrated area for birdwatching in normal circumstances.