Issue 5
Monday, 02 July 2018
Charles Darwin University
E-news
Zebra Finches will forage on buffel grass seed but prefer native grasses
Zebra Finches will forage on buffel grass seed but prefer native grasses

Zebra Finches prefer native grass seeds

By Patrick Nelson

Zebra Finches in Central Australia prefer to eat the seeds of two species of native grass over the widespread introduced buffel grass, a Charles Darwin University study has found.

Zebra Finches showed a preference for purple plume grass and woolly oat grass over buffel grass during an experiment with captive bred finches that explored the interaction between invasive grasses and native animals.

The research, published recently in the journal “Emu – Austral Ornithology”, by honours graduate Lauren Young and Dr Christine Schlesinger from CDU’s Research Institute for the Environment and Livelihoods, raises questions about the nutritional quality of buffel grass in the Zebra Finch diet.

“Buffel grass is displacing native seed-producing grasses on a large scale across semi-arid regions of Australia, leading to a loss of diversity and abundance of native grasses,” Dr Schlesinger said.

“It remains unknown if there will be detrimental effects on Zebra Finch populations if buffel grass becomes the major source of seed.”

Dr Schlesinger said that during the trial the finches consistently consumed at least some buffel seed when native seed was available, indicating a level of resilience to the invasive buffel.

“Nevertheless, the finches’ preference for the two common native seed types suggests that incorporation of buffel seed as a major component of the diet may be an opportunistic response to the abundance of a seed type that is less preferred, and possibly sub-optimal.”

The full article is online at: W: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/01584197.2018.1467212