Pest tree sparrow reported at Onslow

27 Sep, 2012 12:52 PM
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The public are reminded to report sightings of unusual birds following the discovery of two tree sparrows at the Onslow foreshore.

Department of Agriculture and Food biosecurity officer Michael Elliott said a tourist reported the bird to the Department of Environment and Conversation.

Mr Elliott said the tree sparrows had most likely flown in from a ship and were nesting in a palm tree.

Sparrows have the potential to damage grain and horticulture crops, and spread disease.

“It is important for those working and living at or near ports to help protect our native wildlife and agricultural industries from exotic pests by quickly reporting any unusual birds,” Mr Elliott said.

Tree sparrows are a declared pest in Western Australia and are occasionally found near ports, after arriving on ships from Asia.

The birds are about 15 cm long and look similar to finches but are slightly plumper. They are brown or dark grey in colour, with a streaked back and a wedge-shaped beak.

“Sparrows are especially attracted to sites including bird-feeding tables, aviaries, grain storage facilities and seed works where they can feed on spilt grain,” Mr Elliott said.

“With increasing shipping movements comes increased risk of exotic bird incursions. Vigilance by ships, port workers and the community assists in detecting these potential threats.”

Effective removal can involve extensive surveillance and planning by department officers, who also rely on cooperation from the community.

Any sightings of sparrows or other unusual birds in the area should be reported to the department’s Pest and Disease Information Service on freecall 1800 084 881.

For more information on sparrows and other pest birds, visit the department’s website www.agric.wa.gov.au

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