Fire Management Strategy for Red-tails

Earlier this year the Department of Water, Environment and Natural Resources SA (DEWNR) (formerly DENR) developed an ecological fire management strategy (EFMS) for the South-eastern Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo in South Australia. This strategy, which focuses on identifying fire management considerations and procedures when burning in Red-tail habitat within SA, is just one of a series of EFMS developed by DEWNR for a number of threatened or pest species in which fire is considered a threat or management tool.

Lighting up as part of a prescribed burn in Rennick State Forest.

Wildfire and inappropriate fire regimes, which result in excessive canopy scorch, can substantially reduce food availability for Red-tails in stringybark habitat for between 9-11 years after the fire. When fire scorches the crown of stringybark trees (causing leaf death), it takes an average of 10 years for the trees to return to their previous level of seed production (Koch 2003). To maintain the current food supply for Red-tails it’s important that most of their stringybark feeding habitat remains unburnt for at least 10 years.
The South-eastern Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo Recovery Team has endorsed the EFMS and continues to provide expert advice on how best to manage fire in Red-tail habitat. Of particular importance is the need to ensure that at least 85% of Red-tail stringybark habitat across the species range in South Australia and Victoria remains unburnt in any 10-year period.
It has been estimated that the long-term average extent of canopy scorch in any 10-year period across the cockatoo’s range is 15%. Because the Red-tail is limited by food availability, an increase in canopy scorch extent beyond this long-term average is likely to result in further reductions in the Red-tail population.

Improved fire management of Red-tail habitat continues to be a key focus of the Recovery Program and Team, who continues to work with the various fire management agencies to strategically manage the impacts of fire on Red-tails through;

•    monitoring habitat burnt and scorched each year to ensure that no more that 15% of SeRtBC feeding habitat suffers crown scorch within in any 10-year period;
•    application of low-scorch burning principles which reduce fire intensity and canopy scorch to allow for a much quicker recovery of trees to full seed production;
•    seed crop assessments to identify and protect the most exceptional food crops from burns for 12 months;
•    avoidance of burning in areas where there are more than 20 birds currently feeding; and
•    provision of expert advice to fire management agencies on best practice fire management procedures to ensure and maintain a sustainable long-term food supply for the cockatoos.

To download a copy of the EFMS for Red-tails please click here. You will be redirected to the SA Department of Water, Environment and Natural Resources Fire Management page.

For more information on fire management in Red-tail habitat please contact the Project Coordinator on 1800 262 062 or by emailing

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