Reef Aid

Restoring habitat for the Capricorn Yellow Chat

Greening Australia is working with partners to restore habitat for the critically endangered Capricorn Yellow Chat by repairing and maintaining marine salt plains on Darumbul country in the Fitzroy River Delta, south of Rockhampton in central Queensland.

Works will involve repairing the hydrology of the salt plains, protecting the area with fencing, and feral pig and weed control management.

To help increase numbers of Australia’s rare Capricorn Yellow Chat (Epthianura crocea macgregori), it’s vital to protect and restore its habitat, which are wetlands and grasslands on seasonally inundated marine salt plains (read more in the national recovery plan).

The insectivorous Capricorn Yellow Chats tend to prefer wetlands that have shallow braided channels and depressions with a mosaic of dense sedge-beds, grasslands, tall samphire and areas of mud or shallow water. Yellow chats aren’t the only birds that thrive in such environments, so restoring areas like these will contribute to the conservation of other fauna as well, including migratory species and Australian waders.

The Challenge

Critical breeding habitat for the Capricorn Yellow Chat includes marine salt plains in the Fitzroy River Delta, which have changed over the past ten years due to the spread of invasive weeds – the Rubber Vine (Cryptostegia grandiflora) and Harissa Cactus (Harissa martini).

These weed species have spread across the Capricorn Yellow Chats’ ideal habitat, overtaking areas of marine salt plains and resulting in sediment build up that impacts water flows and therefore changes the hydrology of the area.

It is believed that wetland inundation, leading to plant growth and increased insect abundance, may be a breeding trigger for the Capricorn Yellow Chats, so fixing water flows is a priority to protect the population.

Overgrazing by livestock and high densities of feral pigs are also a concern as their grazing, trampling and (in the case of the pigs) digging can damage the sedges or grasses that provide shelter, foraging and nesting habitat for Yellow Chats.

The Solution

With funding from the Australian Government’s Reef Trust, Greening Australia is collaborating with the Queensland Government’s Department of Environment and Science, Birdlife Capricornia, and Capricornia Catchments to work on Capricorn Yellow Chat conservation in the Fitzroy River Delta.

Two landholders have been engaged and are very keen to work on the conservation of habitat for this critically endangered species across their properties.

A major component of the project is controlling Rubber Vine and Harissa Cactus (to be led by Greening Australia). Harissa Cactus is being controlled through biological means, a mealybug that infects the cactus and prevents it from fruiting, while the Rubber Vine populations are being controlled with direct cut-and-paint chemical application.

Rockhampton Regional Council, who have supported the restoration of Capricorn Yellow Chat habitat through their Environment and Sustainability Grant category under the Community Assistance Program, are continuing their involvement through the management of feral animals in the area.

The project also involves installing fences, developing landholder management plans (to be led by Capricornia Catchments), reviewing the Technical Report focused on the conservation of Capricorn Yellow Chat populations, researching mitigation strategies for populations to adapt to sea level rise, creating educational resources, and developing a landholder’s habitat management guide (to be led by Birdlife Capricornia).

Read More


The project commenced in August 2020 with site surveying. On-ground works have now begun and will be ongoing until December 2021, with the potential to extend across the region depending on future funding. There is also scope and discussion within the working group on expanding the project to additional sites north of Yeppoon.

We will be closely monitoring as works continue to measure how on-ground actions are making an impact for the Capricorn Yellow Chat.

This project is funded by the Australian Government’s Reef Trust, and delivered as part of our Reef Aid program in partnership with the Queensland Government’s Department of Environment and Science, Birdlife Capricornia, and Capricornia Catchments.

If you would like more information, please feel free to send us an online query.