Red Goshawk, Australia's rarest bird of prey, is facing extinction, according to new research.
The raptor's remaining stronghold is in the north of the country, chiefly the Top End, Tiwi Islands and Kimberley. It is now considered extinct in New South Wales and the southern half of Queensland, while a marked decline in North Queensland has left Cape York Peninsula as the last place in the state to support Red Goshawks.
PhD candidate Chris MacColl from The University of Queensland's School of Earth and Environmental Sciences led the research project that made the discovery and was shocked by the hawk's dwindling numbers. He said: "Over four decades Red Goshawk has lost a third of its historical range, which is the area that's it's previously been known to occupy.
"It's barely hanging on in another 30% of regions it has previously been known to inhabit. The Top End, Tiwi Islands and Kimberley are Red Goshawk's last remaining stronghold, making northern Australia critical to its ongoing survival."
Red Goshawk is currently listed as Endangered by IUCN (JJ Harrison).
The research team analysed four decades of sightings by citizen scientists to uncover the concerning population trends. Habitat loss and degradation were cited as key factors in the decline. Study co-author Professor James Watson said the dramatic loss of the species means governments and communities need to be proactive in conserving remaining habitats.
"An increase in agricultural, mining and gas projects across northern Australia pose a real risk to a species like this, given what we've observed throughout its eastern range," Professor Watson said.
"Northern Australia supports the largest intact tropical savanna ecosystem in the world and hosts an abundance of biodiversity. Conservation efforts aimed at securing an emblematic species like Red Goshawk in these areas will benefit many other species given the goshawk is a top predator."
The study authors back calls for the Commonwealth Government to amend Red Goshawk's national conservation status from Vulnerable to Endangered, so it can be afforded greater conservation priority.
MacColl, C, Leseberg, N P, Seaton, R, Murphy, S A & Watson, J E M. 2023. Rapid and recent range collapse of Australia’s Red Goshawk Erythrotriorchis radiatus. Emu - Austral Ornithology. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/01584197.2023.2172735