Black-eared Miner

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image: be-miner.jpg

Common Name: Black-eared Miner
Scientific Name: Manorina melanotis

Size: 9-10 ΒΌ inches (23-26 cm)

Habitat: Australia; Murray Mallee region of South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales. It requires large blocks of long, unburnt and uncleared (older than 50 years), 5-8 meter tall mallee type forest, with an understory of small bushes, shrubs and chenopods. Its distribution in Victoria is positively correlated with stable dune fields with a relatively high loam level, amount of decorticating bark (from which it obtains much of its insect food), tree density, stem density, canopy cover and litter cover.

Status: Endangered. Global Population: 250 to 999 with a decreasing trend. This species has a very small population; numbers have declined and several locations have been lost. If present intensive conservation efforts are unable to stop the extirpation of the tiny sub-populations, then the species will be uplisted to Critically Endangered. However, if the early success of conservation actions is confirmed, the status of the species may improve. The fundamental reason for its decline is the clearance of the majority of favorable habitat. Although European settlers reached the Murray Mallee region in 1860s, it was not until the early 20th century that widespread clearing for cropping and pasture began, and in the 1930s pastoralists dug dams and drains and cleared vegetation to increase water flow. This has resulted in displacement of M. melanotis in habitat remnants by M. flavigula, and interbreeding between the two species is now the greatest threat to M. melanotis.

In reaction to the species's very low numbers in the mid-1990s, a colony of seven males and two females was taken into captivity in order to establish a captive breeding colony. Management actions completed or underway include genetic studies, regular surveys and monitoring, the study of habitat preference in Victoria, the purchase of leases within Bookmark BR, the adoption of a policy of rapid fire suppression within mallee in Victoria and South Australia, research into reproductive biology and ecology, establishment of a captive population, colony translocations, generation of community support and the establishment of a recovery team1. The threat of M. flavigula is tackled by the closure and revegetation of dams, and strategic removal of colonies.

Diet: Invertebrates and lerp.

Nesting: Monogamous and pairs appear to remain together for life, only re-pairing upon the loss of a mate. Breeding males within a colony are close relatives, whereas females, the dispersing sex, are not. Nests have been found in all months. Nests are usually built in mallee eucalypts, either in upright forks, amongst small twigs and foliage, or on epicormic shoots, between 1.5-4.5m above ground.

Cool Facts: For years there has been controversy over the taxonomic status of the Black-eared Miner. Various authors have considered it a species, a subspecies or morphological variant of the Yellow-throated Miner and a subspecies of the Western Australian 'Dusky Miner'. There are morphological and behavioral differences between Black-eared and Yellow-throated Miners and evidence for marked ecological separation exists. DNA evidence finally brought the Black-eared Miner in to its own.

Black-eared Miners can interbreed with Yellow-throated Miners, resulting in fertile hybrids that display a range of intermediate plumages.

Like other Miners, the Black-eared is social and nest and roosts in small colonies.

Found in Songbird Remix Threatened Endangered Extinct 2 and Songbird ReMix Australia Volume III

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