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Rare bird likes rice

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February 17, 2017

The Australasian Bittern captured and tagged at a Mayrung property in January will be used to understand more about the species. Credit: Matt Herring.

A rare bird discovered in a rice crop at Mayrung in January will be used to help uncover the network of wetlands the animal depends on in the colder months.

The male Australasian bittern, affectionately named ‘MILo’ by Murray Irrigation staff, has been fitted with a transmitter as part of the Bitterns in Rice Project, which is supported by Murray Irrigation.

It was found at Willum Park, a property north-east of Deniliquin owned by Paul and Shelley Scoullar.

Mrs Scoullar’s father John Hand took a photo of one of the rare birds on his own property eight years ago, sparking the idea for the project.

‘‘I’m just so thrilled,’’ Mrs Scoullar said.

‘‘Dad took the photograph that triggered this project, and now the first bittern tagged in the Murray Valley was captured on our property.’’

The Australasian bittern is on the global endangered list; it is estimated less than 2500 birds remain in the wild.

Ricegrowers’ Association of Australia environmental projects manager Neil Bull said the project helped to form a better understanding of the birds’ behaviour.

‘‘(The project is) focused on displaying how farming systems and environmental outcomes are not mutually exclusive,’’ Mr Bull said.

‘‘(It) improves awareness of how food production and wildlife conservation can work together.’’

The project has become the focus of a collaboration between the Ricegrowers’ Association of Australia, Murray Irrigation, Coleambally Irrigation, Birdlife Australia, Riverina and Murray Local Land Services and a number of other organisations.

Murray Irrigation chief executive officer Michael Renehan said the company was happy to be able to support an innovative project like Bitterns in Rice.

‘‘Many of our customers are rice growers and this project reinforces the habitat values of rice growing,’’ Mr Renehan said.

‘‘We look forward to staying in touch with MILo and continuing to support the project in the future.’’

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