Merri Creek Management Committee

Wildlife & Habitat Guide for Merriang Landholders

Grassland & Paddocks - Almost treeless plains, dominated by native grasses. Paddocks with exotic pasture remain suitable for some animals

Lined Earless Dragon
Tympanocryptis pinguicolla

Endangered Nationally Flora & Fauna Guarantee listed

Description

An extremely rare lizard, possibly on the verge of extinction in Victoria. It is a tiny (to 10cm) ‘dragon’ type lizard which lives in spider-burrows in grassland. There is a pattern of white diamonds running down the back. The Jacky lizard is larger (to 30 cm) and is a more slender animal mainly found in woodland habitats.

Habitat needs

  • Open grassy habitat.
  • Spider holes in which to hide.

Threats

  • Fox and cat predation.
  • Ploughing and pasture improvement.

Things to note

  • The species perches on the tops of grasses to hunt insects.
  • Some of the most recent records of this species in Victoria are from the Merriang area but even these are becoming quite old.
  • Collection of reptiles is illegal.
  • ¬ëRock-rolling¬í to detect reptiles and frogs is disturbing and potentially fatal to the animals. It should not be carried out for trivial purposes. Guidelines regarding the legalities and animal welfare aspects of handling wildlife may be sought from the Department of Sustainability and Environment.

Things to do

  • Maintain remnant Native Grassland habitat on your property.
  • Be on the lookout for illegal reptile collection in your area.
  • Fox and cat control.
Visit the Australian Government Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts Species Profile and Threats Database for more information and images

Red-chested Button Quail
Turnix pyrrhothorax

Flora & Fauna Guarantee listed

Description

A small, sparrow-sized button quail (11-15cm) with a buff coloured breast and streaked upperparts. This species is superficially similar to Plains Wanderer, ‘true’ Quails and to other Button Quail species. Most views of Button Quail and ‘true’ Quails (Brown and Stubble) are of birds flying away. Brown and Stubble Quail are considerably larger than this species and fly with a loud, vigorous whirring of wings. In contrast Red-chested Button Quail, along with the very similar Little Buttonquail flutter low over the grasses before dropping to the ground (they are sometimes called ‘Butterfly Quail’). The back of the Red-chested Buttonquail is yellowish-grey in contrast to the distinctly reddish Little Buttonquail. In the Buttonquails the female is larger and more brightly coloured than the male.

Habitat needs

  • Grasslands, stubble and crops.
  • Nests are built below grass tussocks

Threats

  • Predation by foxes and cats
  • Destruction or disturbance of tussock grasslands during the breeding season (October-March)

Things to note

  • This species can be quite nomadic or migratory, occasionally occurring in large numbers, especially in response to drought.
  • This species usually breeds in October-March

Things to do

  • Maintain areas of tussock grassland.
  • If possible, maintain undisturbed refuge areas when conducting harvesting, burns or grazing.
  • Fox and cat control.
Visit the Western Australian Museum’s FaunaBase to view an image and specimen map. Note: the specimen map does not accurately represent distribution within the Victorian volcanic plains.

Brown Songlark
Cinclorhamphus cruralis

Description

The male birds are about the size of the introduced Blackbird and during the breeding period have sooty brown upperparts and blackish underparts. In spring the male performs bold flights into the air, making a loud metallic song and dangling its legs below. Females are almost half the size of the males and are streaked and marked similar to other grassland birds such as the Australian Pipit or European Songlark.

Habitat needs

  • Extensive areas of lightly grazed native pasture or native grassland.

Threats

  • Predation on the nesting females by cats or foxes.
  • Destruction of nest sites by harvesting or other broad scale pasture operations in early summer during the breeding season

Things to note

  • The female is extremely secretive and rarely seen.
  • Nesting occurs on the ground.

Things to do

  • Retain some areas of long grass for breeding areas, especially if nesting is suspected nearby.
  • Retain open long-grass areas (i.e. do not break up all naturally occurring open grassland areas with tree planting.
  • Predator control.
  • Keep all cats under strict control.
  • Avoid conducting ecological burns during the main breeding season of this species (September-November) where nesting is suspected.
  • Stage ecological burns or crash grazing in native grassland areas across multiple years, always retaining some unburnt/ungrazed habitat.

Visit the Western Australian Museum’s FaunaBase to view an image and specimen map. Note: the specimen map does not accurately represent distribution within the Victorian volcanic plains.

Flame Robin
Petroica phoenicea

Description

A small robin, seen on the ground or on posts in open country and paddocks. The male has a charcoal-grey back and orange-red underparts. It is very similar to its close relative, the Scarlet Robin, has a velvety black upperparts, a cherry red breast and white belly. Both have a white blaze on the forehead and a broad white wing bar. Females have brownish upperparts and whitish underparts.

Habitat needs

  • Grassland areas with closely grazed or burnt patches.
  • Hunting perches such as boulders, fences or shrubs.
  • Dense shrubs for roosting and refuge from predators.

Threats

  • Predation by cats and foxes
  • Loss of closely grazed or burnt Native Grassland area, particularly in former winter range areas near cities.
  • Loss of hunting perches such as boulders and logs from open land.
  • Pesticide exposure, especially at sports ovals or golf courses

Things to note

  • This is a migratory species. It spends the summer in mountain areas where it nests. It spends winter at lower elevations.
  • In winter the species can congregate in flocks
  • Serious declines in this species have been noticed in recent decades.

Things to do

  • Constrain domestic cats, even in daytime where this species occurs.
  • Predator control
  • Retain rocks and logs that form hunting perches
  • Conduct biomass reduction such as ecological burns or crash grazing in areas of native grassland
  • Minimise or cease use of pesticides that are known to affect birds.
Visit the Australian Museum website for more information and images

Golden Sun-moth
Synemon plana

Critically Endangered Flora & Fauna Guarantee listed

Description

A medium-sized, day-flying moth (about 30mm wingspread). Sooty brown wings have silvery circles. Hind wings of the male are a coppery brown while the female’s are metallic gold. Antennae are clubbed like a butterfly’s rather than feathery or whip-like as in other moths.

Golden Sun Moth

Habitat needs

  • Open Native Grassland where Wallaby and Spear grasses are common. Grazed native grassland is often ideal. Slopes around Stony Knolls appear to be especially favoured.
  • Males often inspect bare ground while searching for females.

Threats

  • Cessation of biomass reduction processes such as ecological burns or grazing.
  • Loss of grassland habitat to industrial or urban development
  • Use of exotic pasture grasses and fertilisers that result in dense grass growth.

Things to note

  • This species is listed as ¬ëcritically endangered¬í in Australia.
  • The females are semi-flightless and may be difficult to detect.
  • The caterpillars are thought to feed underground on the roots of Wallaby grass for two years. After emerging, the adults only live for a day or two.
  • The moths emerge over approximately 6 weeks in Nov-Dec. Usually in the middle of the day when the weather is warm and sunny and still.
  • The flying behaviour of the males is distinctive, fast and zigzagging about a metre above the ground.

Things to do

  • Biomass reduction in native grasslands with ecological burning or grazing
  • Avoid using pesticides in areas of potential habitat.
Visit the CSIRO Entomology website to view an image and specimen map. Note: the specimen map does not accurately represent distribution within the Victorian volcanic plains.