A critically endangered Plains-wanderer (Pedionomus torquatus) has been found more than 130 kilometres from its usual habitat at Campbells Creek, near Castlemaine.

Campbells Creek resident Tayler Walsh said his children got a surprise while mowing the lawn when a Plains-wanderer appeared from behind their shed.

“When the kids called me over, I was quite surprised to see such a unique looking bird in our backyard, so I called a local wildlife carer who came and collected the bird that evening,” Mr Walsh said.

Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) Natural Environment Program Officer, Dr Aaron Grinter, said he and a colleague recognised the bird as a critically endangered Plains-wanderer after seeing a photo shared on a Facebook page, so set off on a bit of a “wild-wanderer chase” and eventually tracked the bird to a Daylesford animal shelter.

“We immediately contacted Werribee Open Range Zoo, who picked up the bird the next morning and transferred it to the Zoo for treatment,” Dr Grinter said.

Following an assessment, the Zoo found the bird had sustained an injury under its left wing and was in poor health. For the past three weeks, it has been undergoing rehabilitation, supervised by the Zoo’s veterinarians and threatened species experts.

Werribee Open Range Zoo Natives Life Sciences Manager, Yvette Pauligk, said the Plains-wanderer’s health continues to improve and he’s now fluttering and displaying positive natural behaviours in his pen.

“The wing injury had impacted the bird’s ability to fly and fend for itself in the wild, so it will require ongoing support at the Zoo and will join our captive breeding program.” Ms Pauligk said.

The program is an integral part of a cross-agency National Recovery Plan for the Plains-wanderer, established by the Commonwealth Government in 2016, which aims to save the species from extinction, following significant number declines in the wild.

Plains-wanderers are usually found in northern Victorian grasslands in the Patho Plains or Avoca Plains north of Bendigo. This is the second Plains-wanderer that’s been recorded in Central Victoria, with another bird found in Bendigo in 2017, which was the first to become part of the Zoo’s captive breeding program.

Ms Pauligk said it’s not known exactly why these birds have been discovered outside their nature range, however it is possible this bird was blown off-course during high winds while it searched for a suitable paddock to inhabit.

The Plains-wanderer is listed as Critically Endangered under both the Victorian Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 and the Commonwealth Government’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

DELWP is working with partner agencies including Zoos Victoria, Parks Victoria, Trust for Nature, North Central CMA, and local landholders to protect, monitor and improve habitat for these rare birds. Wild Plains-wanderer are monitored through both in-person surveys and using song meters to listen for the birds’ calls, a project supported by the Victorian Government.