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Rainbow Bee-eaters return to Wallum

The incredibly striking, brightly rainbow coloured birds, Merops ornatus, the Rainbow Bee-eaters, have treturned to the controversial ‘Wallum’ development site in Brunswick Heads, NSW. 

Rainbow bee-eaters, March 2024. Image credit Mac Maderski

Wildlife photographer Mac Maderski captured incredible images of the Rainbow Bee-eater at Wallum last week, an important stop on their migratory journey thousands of kilometres north to Asia and, yet another species threatened by the approved ‘Wallum’ housing development.

Intriguingly, Rainbow Bee-eaters are a ground nesting species, laying their eggs each year in tunnels excavated in sandy soils and substrates up to 90cm long, soils such as are found at the Wallum site.

Environmental Scientist and Save Wallum spokesperson Svea Pitman commented, “The Rainbow Bee-eaters are actually the only species of bee-eaters found in Australia. These incredibly beautiful birds only eat flying insects and as a ground nesting species makes them highly vulnerable - their ecology is quite unique. Rainbow Bee-eaters are sadly at great risk from domestic cats and dogs, to the disturbance of their fragile ground tunnels, and of course from predation in the wild from foxes and other feral animals.”

A number of pairs of the ornate birds were spotted this week at the approved development site in Brunswick Heads and location of the Save Wallum 24 hour community Vigil established by community protectors determined to defend this rare coastal heathland - the Wallum. 

“The approved development is in our last little bit of “Wallum” in the Byron Shire, and if it proceeds will see the decimation of many acres of habitat for these precious birds. On the 3rd November 2023, Clarence Property brought bulldozers to the site. The community responded rapidly in a peaceful non-violent direct action to that destruction, and the machinery was removed, but tragically nearly a dozen active ground nests were destroyed.”

Eight weeks into the peaceful protest on site, the community is standing strong to say ‘No’ more, no to Clarence Property, and no to this senseless destruction,” Ms Pitman concluded. 

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