A new initiative is attempting to “capture” the return of threatened birds displaced by summer bushfires

The State Government has launched a project to oversee the use of nest boxes intended to attract the glossy black cockatoos, or ‘jars’, back to the southern Highlands of New South Wales.

The number of threatened species is declining, especially after the summer bushfires swept across the region.

“We have started working with the community to look at ways we can secure habitat for the glossy black cockatoos in the Great Western Wildlife Corridor,” said Lauren Hook, NSW Department for Planning, Industry and Environment Department planning, industry and the environment.

After the fires, the nest boxes were installed in trees, which the Glossys often feed on, as part of the state government-led Glossies in the Mist project.

The nest boxes are attached to forage trees and contain sensor cameras to photograph the birds using them.(ABC Illawarra: Tim Fernandez)

“We have the nest boxes up in the trees and there’s a remote sensor camera that looks down into the nest boxes and if something gets into the nest boxes, it takes a picture,” Ms. Hook said.

The nest box images are uploaded to a website called DigiVol, where the public can act as citizen scientists by identifying which birds are using the photographed nest boxes.

“It was incredibly rewarding that data we collected was used to impact their habitat to save their habitat,” said Glossies in the Mist volunteer Erna Llenore.

Blonde woman in the bush wearing blue NSW Government overalls with a hat on her head.
Lauren Hook uploads the nest box pictures to a website where citizens can identify the birds.(ABC Illawarra: Tim Fernandez)

Ms Llenore noted how the unique colorful markings on the female glossy black cockatoos make it easy to identify each one as an individual.

“We had a bird that was sighted on a property two days before the fires started and we didn’t know what happened to that bird,” she said.

“Her habitat was gone, and just about a week after the fires she was photographed again in the adjacent suburb.”

Erna Llenore - Glossies in the Mist Volunteer
Erna Llenore volunteers with the Glossies in the Mist project and identifies female glossy black cockatoos.(ABC Illawarra: Tim Fernandez)

Wingecarribee Shire Council has helped contact private landowners with suitable forage trees and glosses on their properties.

“Glosses are one of our iconic species… and having them as a narrative builder was really important to our engagement with private landowners both before and after the bushfires,” said Patrick Teggart, environmental officer for Wingecarribee Council.

Despite the many volunteers who want to watch the Glossys return to the region, the species has not yet been sighted in the nest boxes.

“Glosses can be outnumbered by other more common species, so if they get into those boxes first, they will defend the boxes from the Glossys and they won’t be able to breed in that area,” Ms. Hook said.

Other birds such as galahs, rosellas and self-crested cockatoos have so far dominated the nest boxes.

Bird's eye view of a rosella with red and blue feathers perched on a nest box in a tree.
Other, more dominant birds have been spotted in the nest boxes.(Supplied: NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment)

Regardless, volunteers are discovering new things about the species every day.

“Because we have the time to look at a lot of photos and interact with a lot of people, we are making observations of these birds that we believe are new observations and are not covered in the literature,” Ms Llenore said.

Volunteers for the project are still poring over tens of thousands of pictures of the birds using the nest boxes, hoping to spot the threatened bird in at least one photo.

“If there are no glossy films in the boxes, but there is a glossy nest in another box, we will bring more boxes into that area so that they can nest better in that area,” Ms. Hook said.

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