Mice To Breathe Easy Once Again

September 3,1999 The Rural News

The common house mouse will soon be breathing a sigh of relief as the winter feast of Australia's smaller birds of prey nears completion in the Riverina..

National Parks and Wildlife Service Griffith assistant district manager John Brickhill said the Riverina during the winter months was very popular for bird watchers wanting to observe many of the smaller birds of prey such as Australian Kestrels, Brown Falcons, Black-shouldered Kites and Whistling Kites.

"For birdwatchers the Riverina over winter provides some fascinating opportunities for people wanting to observe some of our birds of prey," Mr Brickhill said.

"One of the reasons we see the birds of prey around at this time is the good food source that the common house mouse as one of the main targets for the smaller raptors provides.

"During this time the raptors can be seen all around the Riverina soaring on air currents in their search for food.

Mr. BrickhiIl said he has been monitoring the populations of raptors in the area since 1978 and their populations seemed to be constant.

"We do get seasonal fluctuations on the number of the raptors we see each year, but often that can he due to weather patterns and availability of prey.

"For example, back in 1982-83 we did see a fall in the number of Australian Kestrels, Brown Falcons and Whistling Kites during a major drought in the area.

"Similarly the abundance of all species was very high in 1984-85 when there was a mouse plague in the area."

Mr Brickhill said the surveys also reflected the type of habitat the different species preferred around the Riverina area.

"Australian Kestrels are seen more commonly on the open plains rather than the irrigation areas, whereas Brown Falcons arc more commonly seen in irrigation areas over winter and on the plains during summer and autumn." he said.

Mr Brickhill said the information gathered about the presence of many of the smaller birds of prey in the Riverina over winter suggested that kestrels and falcons migrated to the area from the highlands during the cooler months.