The endangered bush stone curlew is educating the region’s children on the importance of wildlife conservation.
Head bird keeper at On the Perch in Kalaru, Steve Sass, has welcomed the third bush stone curlew chick born in the aviary since December last year.
“The hatching is of real relevance in the Far South Coast where we have all the threatened shorebirds,” Mr Sass said.
“The focus for now is to let the parents rear the chick without us around.”
Mr Sass was pleasantly surprised by the timing of the family’s new arrival.
“We’ve done well in comparison to other places,” he said.
“Featherdale Wildlife Park in Sydney have eggs but no chicks and usually the further south you are the later they hatch.
“We are also hoping for more chicks by the end of the year.”
He said habitat loss and predators such as foxes have been critical factors in the bush stone curlew’s disappearance from the Bega Valley.
“They are mostly a woodland animal and when we think about the Bega Valley and across the state, rich agricultural land is where they would have hung out,” he said.
“There’s really no easy fix with where we go forward with the bush stone curlew.
“It is the responsibility of zoos and wildlife parks to provide an opportunity to have an insurance population in captivity to be bred upon or be preserved for future generations to reflect on.”
Deciphering the sex of a freshly hatched bush stone curlew is difficult, and requires a little modern science.
“We don’t know what sex the bird is yet, and we’ll need to take a blood sample sample before we know,” he said.
“We just need to create the best environment for him or her.”
This ambiguity can also make it confusing for fellow bush stone curlews.
“There’s certainly plenty of cases where two males have tried to mate together,” Mr Sass said.
The ground-dwelling predator can reach adult size in as little as eight weeks.
Mr Sass said unfortunately this year, the black-throated finch has been classified as extinct.
“It means there’s been no sighting in NSW for 45 years,” he said.
“There are now 1070 plants, animals and communities threatened with extinction.
“Most people don’t know there’s such a big problem.”
The bush stone curlew is a relative of threatened shorebird, the hooded plover, who like most birds pairs with a mate for life.
“Along the Far South Coast the hooded plover and the pied oyster catcher are endangered and threatened by beach traffic and dogs,” Far South Coast Birdwatchers committee member Leo Berzins said.
The population of hooded plovers in NSW is estimated at as few as 60 individuals, with Mr Berzins aware of four breeding pairs along the Far South Coast.
Mr Berzins said signs warning beach-goers of nesting areas are only effective if the directions are followed.
“The locals all know about it but heading towards tourist season visitors might not,” he said.
The avid birdwatcher said Mr Sass’s breeding program is crucial to educating people on the importance of conservation.
“Steve is helping raise awareness and appreciation of birds,” he said.
“Any education is good because when people find out what’s happening the want to become involved in helping.”
According to the state government, experts are predicting that in 10 to 20 years it will be too late to prevent the bush stone curlew from becoming extinct.