Population decline of the White-fronted Chat (Epthianura albifrons) in New South Wales, Australia
Habitat modification through urbanisation and the alteration of the natural flows of rivers is a major contributor to the global decline of birds occupying specialist habitats. We measured the extent and pattern of change in range and relative abundance over 25 years of the White-fronted Chat, a small passerine that is predominantly found in saltmarsh. A particular focus of the study was the population in the Sydney region, which is now restricted to two locations in which we measured the response of birds to human disturbance. A significant decline of 65% in the reporting rate of White-fronted Chats was observed over the 25 years, with a decline of 44% over the last 10 years in New South Wales. Historical analysis of the White-fronted Chat in the Sydney region revealed a change in geographical distribution, with the current population now confined to only two of 56 former locations. Surveys of these locations concluded that in 2008, nine White-fronted Chats remained at Newington Nature Reserve and ~20 at Towra Point Nature Reserve. Measurements of the distance at which foraging birds flushed from an approaching observer suggest that this species is more sensitive to human disturbance than other co-occurring species. This study documents the decline of a species listed in 2010 as vulnerable under the New South Wales Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995, and confirms the need for recovery planning to prevent the further loss of populations, particularly those in the highly urbanised coastal zone. Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union 2011.