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Bird photographer and conservationist Ben Pearce of Parkerville says most people will be surprised egg collecting is still allowed in WA. Pictures: BEN PEARCE

Collecting bird eggs

HOW many residents are aware in this day and age that some people are still legally allowed to collect bird eggs?

Bird photographer and conservationist Ben Pearce of Parkerville said when most people realise the practice still goes on they are generally dumbfounded.

What concerns Mr Pearce is the lack of any guidelines or penalties if a collector destroys a hollow belonging to birds, such as striated pardalotes and finds young birds inside.

Mr Pearce said egg collecting or oology used to be a favourite pastime when white settlers first came to Australia but people’s expectations had changed.

Traditionally, egg collectors took eggs from a nest and then removed the embryo from the eggs before storing them in their collection.

The embryo was removed by drilling a hole in the egg and blowing the contents out but if the incubation of the eggs was advanced the embryo could only be removed by using a hook and scissors.

Collectors need to have an oological licence from the Department of Parks and Wildlife.

A department spokeswoman said five historical licences remain, however only three people with the licences collect eggs.

She said the licences were issued for the purpose of promoting the knowledge around bird eggs and that no new licenses would be issued.

“Eggs cannot be taken from any species of bird that is rare or in need of special protection,’’ she said.

“Pelican eggs also cannot be taken except from a colony where nesting has been abandoned and all birds have left.

“No more than two clutches of eggs can be taken from any protected species of bird in a two-year period without written approval from the department.’’

She said a licence holder must record the place, date of collection, details of incubation of the clutch and the sizes of clutches sampled together with details of the nest.

“On expiry of the licence, they must provide the department with a form showing the number of eggs of each species taken during the licence period and any other relevant details.

“There are no restrictions on when eggs can be collected, as breeding seasons can be variable.

She said the department did not provide any guidelines for collectors about hollow nesting birds such as striated pardalotes.

“Oological licences do not authorise the holder to take protected native plants on Crown land in the process of collecting eggs.

“The destruction of plants on private land is illegal without the land owner’s permission.’’

Oological licence holders are prohibited from taking eggs on department-managed land such as national parks.

White fronted honeyeater eggs.

“The preferred collection method of oologists is to take eggs during the laying period or shortly after incubation has commenced, as the fluid content of the eggs collected at this stage is more easily removed and there is a good chance the bird will re-lay to replace any missing eggs.

“This also reduces the chance of nestlings being abandoned as a result of egg collecting activities.

“Parks and Wildlife is unaware of any egg collecting black market in Australia.’’

She said the department considered endangered bird poaching a bigger problem than people collecting eggs.

“Wildlife traffickers regularly target endangered species, whereas oological collectors are few in number and are prohibited from doing so by their licence conditions.

“Most destruction of nest hollows is as a result of nest robbing by wildlife traffickers and people who keep birds in captivity.’’

Opposition Environment spokesman Chris Tallentire said he was very concerned that eggs of threatened species could be being taken.

“Both poaching and illegal egg collecting are serious dangers for endangered species,’’ he said.

“But the biggest problem is the destruction of habitat (either foraging grounds and/or breeding areas).’’

In a letter to Mr Pearce Environment Minister  Albert Jacob said oology licences were being phased out over time.

By Anita McInnes

About Anita

Anita Mcinnes received a highly commended in the 2009 WA Media Awards suburban section for her reporting. Two of her sons were born at Swan District Hospital and for many years she was a partner in a small business, which operated in the Gingin-Muchea-Bullsbrook area. As a mature age student Anita studied journalism at Curtin University before working in Busselton, Dunsborough and Rockingham with West Regionals. She says the best part of her job is meeting eastern suburb residents and visiting the many attractions in the area.

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