Mount Lofty Ranges Woodland Birds

The NCSSA/UQ Mount Lofty Ranges Woodland Bird Monitoring Program is a long-term monitoring program initiated by Professor Hugh Possingham’s research group that has been running since 1999. It aims to assess the evidence for declines in woodland birds through repeated surveys of over 150 sites throughout the Mount Lofty Ranges (from Kaiserstuhl/Patpoori Sanctuary in the north to Deep Creek Conservation Park in the south). Much of the data and associated reports and papers can be downloaded freely from: 

suebirdwatchingThe project uses bird monitoring experts in a systematic survey of sites. These sites are resurveyed annually to look for trends in the distribution and abundance of birds in response to a changing environment and broadscale ecosystem management. This study provides a tool to monitor and evaluate the performance of activities intended to maintain or restore biodiversity. The data can be used as a benchmark for the success of habitat restoration and rehabilitation. Furthermore it can be used as "before" data in before-after control-impact experiments on the success of actions like fencing, revegetation, feral control or weed removal.

Follow this link for a report published in the South Australian Ornithological Association newsletter on the project.

The NCSSA/UQ MLR Woodland Bird Monitoring Program Surveys run from September to December annually, dependent upon funding. The Nature Conservation Society of SA, Inc. manages and coordinates the survey as well as secures funding for the project. Innovation in research and synthesis, data analyses and scientific publications are carried out under the supervision of Professor Hugh Possingham at the University of Queensland ( and

Special thanks to past and present funding and participating organisations: Adelaide & Mount Lofty Ranges Natural Resources Management Board, Australian Research Council, Birds for Biodiversity ~ Conservation Council of SA, Department of Environment and Heritage (SA), University of Adelaide, and the University of Queensland. We’re also very grateful to our volunteers, surveyors, and those property owners that allow us to access these sites year after year… Continuity is of the essence for long-term monitoring programs such as this, so their ongoing participation is greatly appreciated.

    • Key achievements and outcomes to date include:
      • While occasional "snapshot" surveys may be sufficient to keep track of the more secure, stable populations, those that fluctuate widely must be monitored annually. This study represents one of few long-term regional scale studies of a group of species in Australia that achieves this goal.
      • Each 2 ha site is surveyed during three 20-minute visits between September and December. This repetition is necessary to estimate the observation error rates, which is crucial to determining statistically whether birds are declining.
      • Avid birders are hired surveyors, which increases species identification reliability. Their contribution is greatly appreciated. They have completed over 450 surveys at over 150 sites each year the survey has been run. Without this large number of sites the data is statistically pseudo-replicated and not useful for determining the causes or correlative factors that are causing changes.
      • The database has over 8 years of survey data. Ultimately this will yield a compelling, statistically robust set of population trajectories for a majority of species in the region. It has been redesigned to facilitate ease of administration and error-free data entry by volunteer Brian Knill. Max Possingham has provided countless volunteer hours organising, checking and archiving the database.
      • Liaisons with property owners, including local councils, DEH, SA Water, ForestrySA, Friends of Parks groups and private landholders, have included letters to seek permission for site access updates and providing bird lists for properties that request them.
      • Dissemination of project outcomes has included: Xanthopus articles; BirdsSA updates including presentations and SAOA newsletter articles; as well as published scientific articles in international scientific journals such as Landscape Ecology, Journal of Wildlife Management, Austral Ecology, Conservation Biology, Ecology Letters & Ecological Applications.
      • If you are interested in determining the success of management planned for areas over 2ha and want to add to the monitoring program – tell us.