Emu Emu Society
Journal of BirdLife Australia
RESEARCH ARTICLE

How many of Australia’s ground-nesting birds are likely to be at risk from the invasive Cane Toad (Rhinella marina)?

Christa Beckmann A B and Richard Shine A

A School of Biological Sciences A08, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia.

B Corresponding author. Present address: Centre for Integrative Ecology, School of Life & Environmental Sciences, Deakin University, Waurn Ponds, Pigdons Road, Geelong, Vic. 3217, Australia. Email: c.beckmann@deakin.edu.au

Emu 112(2) 83-89 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/MU11028
Submitted: 7 April 2011  Accepted: 25 July 2011   Published: 23 April 2012

Abstract

Cane Toads (Rhinella marina; hereafter ‘toads’) are large, toxic American anurans that were introduced to Australia in 1935. Research on their ecological impact has focussed on the lethal ingestion of toxic toads by native frog-eating predators. Less attention has been paid to the potential impacts of Cane Toads as predators, although these large anurans sometimes eat vertebrates, such as nestling birds and bird eggs. We review published and unpublished data on interactions between Cane Toads and Australian ground-nesting birds, and collate distributional and breeding information to identify the avian taxa potentially at risk of having eggs or chicks eaten by Cane Toads. Cane Toads are currently sympatric with 80 ground-nesting bird species in Australia, and five additional species of bird occur within the predicted future range of the toad. Although many species of bird are potentially at risk, available data suggest there is minimal impact of Cane Toads on ground-nesting species. Future research could usefully address both direct and indirect impacts of the invasion by Cane Toads, ideally with detailed field observations of these impacts on nesting success and of changes in bird breeding success as a function of invasion by toads.

Additional keywords: alien species, Bufo marinus, chick, ecological impact, egg, invasive species.


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