In a heart-warming effort to protect the Little Penguins at Low Head, students from three George Town schools have joined forces with the Friends of Low Head Penguin Colony to provide these flightless birds with safe nesting boxes.
This community-wide project was coordinated by the Friends of Low Head Penguin Colony, which was formed in response to a devastating series of dog attacks that claimed the lives of over 100 penguins. With the aim of safeguarding these precious birds and their habitats, this initiative highlights the importance of coming together as a community to preserve and protect our wildlife.
Steve Gordon, Chair of the Friends group, welcomed the involvement of the students. “The Group raised the necessary funds, we had local businesses help us purchase the materials and cut them to shape, then the students were invited to construct the nest boxes.” he said.
“There were more than 50 students in three schools that built the nest boxes, and all were so enthusiastic to be involved and contribute,” he added.
Nest boxes have become an increasingly important tool in the effort to protect penguins and their habitats around the world.
The nest boxes are so important for penguins because they provide a safe haven from predators with many penguin species being vulnerable to attack from predators such as dogs and feral cats which can decimate entire colonies of birds.
By providing nest boxes, researchers and conservationists can give penguins a protected space in which to raise their young without fear of predation. This not only helps to keep individual birds and their offspring safe, but it also supports the long-term survival of entire colonies.
The Tasmania Parks & Wildlife Service and the local tour operator have supported the project.
“We’ve seen widespread community interest in the project, and the nest boxes are drawing in the next generation in the community to protect the penguins.” Mr Gordon noted.
Dr Eric Woehler OAM, Convenor of BirdLife Tasmania, has been involved in the Group’s efforts since the first public meeting.
“BirdLife Tasmania has undertaken surveys and mapped the colony, and worked closely with the FOLHPC since 2018. They’re a remarkable and dedicated group from the local community that are committed to protecting the colony after the dog attacks.” Dr Woehler said.
“Surveys have shown that the penguins have adopted the nest boxes almost immediately, using them for breeding and moulting.” Dr Woehler added. “It’s a remarkable success story for other coastal communities throughout Tasmania.”
During a recent nest box check at the end of January, it was discovered that 47 boxes were empty, signalling the conclusion of the breeding season. At the same time, only 9 boxes remained occupied, with 4 adults and 10 large chicks who were preparing to leave the colony.
Moult feathers were also present around the colony which indicated that the annual moult, when penguins must replace all their feathers whilst still ashore had begun.