A bird species battling an onslaught of invasive rats just got a glimpse of hope. Researchers say that South Georgia Pipits have hatched chicks. (Image above by Brian Gratwicke/Wikimedia Commons)
While this is happy news for any parents, and wonderful news for any threatened species (these Pipits live only in South Georgia, near Antarctica, and number only 3,000-4,000 pairs), it’s tremendous news for those trying to eradicate rats from the island. That’s because these birds won’t breed when rats are around. (And let’s face it, would you go to all the effort of breeding if there was a hefty chance that your newborn would just go down some invader’s gullet?)
The discovery of five chicks in an area once overrun by rats suggest that the South Georgia Heritage Trust’s “Team Rat” project is producing tangible success. A final round of baiting just launched in what’s being called the world’s largest rat-eradication project.
If no signs of rats are found by 2017, the island will be determined rodent-free for the first time since humans set foot on it more than two centuries ago. Which would give the South Georgia Pipit—the most southerly songbird on the planet—something worth singing about.