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Within weeks, tens of thousands of public lakes, creeks, rivers, streams, reservoirs and wetlands across Victoria, are permitted to become shooting zones for less than half of one percent of the population to fire shotguns at native ducks and quail.

Native Stubble Quail


The Victorian government only started counting native Stubble Quail in 2022 - it appears in response to RVOTDS' highlighting the fact the regulator lacked information on the little birds' numbers yet kept allowing a full quail shooting season regardless.


The first “count” in 2022, found just 101 birds. This was extrapolated up to an incredible 3.1 million with an error indicator so high (29% coefficient of variation (CV) against an acceptable 15%), it really should have been thrown out. But another full quail shoot of 20 birds a day per shooter was permitted.


In 2023, the second count (really the first, given the limitations of the previous year’s) found just 400 birds and this was extrapolated up to 6.7 million.


These survey results are based on two types of mathematical modelling estimates: “model-based” and “design- based”. For duck surveys and quail surveys, the regulator appears to like to quote the higher of the two estimates.


This year's (2024) estimate is 20% less than last year's despite record rains. The decrease would be a blow to shooters (and the regulator) who have loudly spruiked that rain brings population explosions. Strangely, there is no detail for how many birds were actually counted this year, nor any numbers for the design-based estimate. Apparently all this will be in the final report (which will be published long after the quail shoot season has started).

Above Table of results from the regulator's quail counts. For quail, the regulator quotes the model-based estimate, (it's higher.) For ducks, the regulator quotes the design-based estimate (it's higher).

It gets worse.


  • Government long-term harvest data – which the regulator says can be used as a proxy to monitor population trends - shows an alarming decline in the little bird’s numbers.  

  • There are no species ID tests required of quail shooters, but there is only one species of quail legally allowed to be hunted and it closely resembles about four other species, as well as the critically endangered Plains Wanderer. What could possibly go wrong?!  

  • Toxic lead ammunition is still legal in quail shooting. Consider that each shotgun cartridge holds hundreds of pellets and most don’t strike the target but fall into the landscape. Each cartridge holds 30-40g of lead according to a government report (Flora and Fauna Guarantee Action Statement #32which used to be available online but has been removed, so here it is on our website). Multiply 30g by the average number of quail shot each year in Victoria (175,000) and one gets a staggering 5 tonnes of lead pumped into our environment, including food producing fields, each quail shoot. This doesn’t even account for all the missed shots.   Toxic lead cruelly poisons protected species like swans and eagles, and can enter our own food chain. There is no safe limit in a person’s blood according to the World Health Organisation.


The "transparent" regulator has refused to conduct stakeholder consultation on quail shooting seasons and refused to even share its considerations.


We have requested an urgent meeting with Minister Dimopoulos to discuss all of this, but have not as yet heard back.  


Shooters’ push to remove Hardhead (Aythya australis) from the protections of the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988

The Hardhead was added to Victoria's threatened list in 2021. Shooters have campaigned to have this decision reversed. Surely the government won't capitulate to shooters yet again?

Pic Eleanor Dilley

Above: The stunning Hardhead, "is hard to kill. When wounded it swims and dives expertly and is hard to retrieve – perhaps more crippled Hardhead are lost than any other species.” - Waterfowl in Australia by H.J Frith  (first published 1967, revised edition 1982)– quote p 257 Frith goes on to say:

“Serious doubts are held for its survival as a common species”.

There is considerable doubt over the reliability of the government's highly theoretical survey estimates of the Hardhead’s abundance. However a gut-wrenching indicator comes from shooters reporting their harvest (before the species was protected in 2022 and 2023):  


  • 2019:  621 Hardhead in a total harvest of 238,666  (0.2% of harvest)

  • 2020: zero Hardhead in a Covid-affected harvest of 60,403  (0% of harvest)

  • 2021: 61 Hardhead in a Covid-affected harvest of 52,456. (0.1% of harvest)


Are there hoardes of Hardhead? No.


Concerningly, Victoria’s Priority Waterbird Count (PWC) shows Hardhead are mainly found on an artificial habitat - the Western Treatment Plant (WTP).  But according to the Port Phillip Bay Coastal Hazard Assessment, the WTP habitat is at risk due to rising sea level from global warming (impacts of erosion, inundation, groundwater salinity).


According to the East Australian Waterbird Survey (EAWS), the species has been below the long-term average for most of this century, and has remained so despite La Niña rains, as per BELOW:    

Or put another way, here is the trend line, LEFT.

And to Quote from NSW 2023-24 Riverina Survey which recommends that Hardhead not generally be shot:           


“… the population dynamics of the other species (such as ... Hardhead ... ) have not shown to respond predictably to changes in climate or only occur in low abundance throughout the Riverina.”


It is disappointing that shooters have fought to bring this bird back into the firing line. See our submission to keep it on the threatened species list here.


Currently the recommendation to remove the Hardhead from the threatened species list is awaiting Minister Steve Dimopoulos' decision.

You may like to respectfully ask him to please keep this bird protected!


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