The Richmond Birdwing Conservation Network (RBCN) is an affiliation of individuals, groups and organisations dedicated to the conservation of the Richmond birdwing butterfly (Ornithoptera richmondia) and its host plants, the Richmond birdwing vine (Pararistolochia praevenosa) and mountain aristolochia (P. laheyana).
The RBCN strives to achieve this by establishing vine refuges, as well as creating awareness and support for conservation in the broader community.
The Network partners with other like-minded organisations and provides members with science-based information to cultivate and care for birdwing vines.
Richmond birdwing butterfly videos
- Richmond birdwing butterfly captive breeding and release program
- Back from the Brink ‒ Richmond birdwing (featuring RBCN committee member Dr Ian Gynther)
There are lots of different ways you can get involved and help the Richmond birdwing butterfly.
- Join the RBCN
- Subscribe to the RBCN’s “Birdwing News” ‒ A free e-bulletin from the RBCN
- Join the RBCN Facebook group
- Symbolically ‘adopt’ a Richmond birdwing butterfly
- Purchase our Richmond birdwing merchandise. Proceeds go to support the work of the RBCN
- Plant vines in identified SEQ habitat corridor (refer to map below)
Recovering the Richmond Birdwing Butterfly – Coordinated Corridors Project
The RBCN has completed work on a detailed desktop map of targeted Richmond birdwing habitat corridors locations across South East Queensland. Key locations and properties within the defined area can now be ground-truthed for mapping accuracy and suitability as vine planting locations. The RBCN has funds for over 1000 vines to be planted within the corridor where suitability is determined; this is the next phase of the corridor project.
Support for this critical project has been provided by the Norman Wettenhall Foundation. The Norman Wettenhall Foundation supports biodiversity conservation projects Australia-wide and the RBCN are indebted for the Foundation’s support with this project.
Would you plant a birdwing butterfly vine to help save the Richmond birdwing butterfly?
The Richmond birdwing regional habitat corridor map (Fig 1.) identifies a corridor in South East Queensland that needs vines to save the species.
Please email email@example.com if your property falls within the orange or green areas on the map and you would like to plant a vine to help build a birdwing corridor.
Click on the map image to the left to enlarge. Or download the map (pdf)
Ongoing projects & activities
Captive Rearing and Release Project
In 2008, the Department of Environment and Science, along with the RBCN and David Fleay Wildlife Park, began a joint project to help conserve the Richmond birdwing butterfly using a captive breeding and release strategy. Under the breeding program, Richmond birdwings from geographically separate sources have been mated with the aim of producing more genetically diverse offspring. These captive-reared progenies have been reintroduced at selected sites to help restore wild populations. Following the first releases in 2010, evidence of natural breeding by the butterfly and more than a dozen flying adults were seen in the Kin Kin and Cootharaba areas of the Sunshine Coast for the first time in almost two decades.
Since the program was initiated, more than 350 Richmond birdwing individuals, mostly larvae and pupae, have been reintroduced across nine sites in south-east Queensland.
In May 2018, the Swallowtail and Birdwing Butterfly Trust generally donated £500 to the RBCN to put towards the acquisition of vines to support the Richmond birdwing captive breeding and release project. Read the full report here (pdf).
In 2019 the Swallowtail and Birdwing Butterfly Trust further provided a small grant to Wildlife Queensland to assist in the captive breeding and release of the Richmond birdwing in eastern Australia, complementing the support being given by local communities and government.
Critical breeding work as part of this project is currently being carried out at David Fleay Wildlife Park.
Several sites and wildlife corridors have been identified in South East Queensland that are vitally important to the survival of the Richmond birdwing vine and butterfly. These sites are in the Sunshine Coast hinterland, western suburbs of Brisbane and Currumbin area of the Gold Coast. Sites in northern NSW have yet to be determined.
Areas will be cleared of weeds, sometimes with the assistance of Conservation Volunteers Australia (CVA), and groups of up to 30 vines will be planted and maintained at each site.
Community workshops and field days
- Restoring Richmond birdwing habitats
- Supporting scientific research
- Hands-on school projects
- Creating flagship corridors by planting vines
- Educational publications
- Removing Dutchman’s pipevines
The WPSQ ‘ 500 Vines Project’
In 2017, Wildlife Queensland launched its Bring Back the Birdwing: 500 Vines appeal to raise funds to plant 500 vines essential to the survival of this vulnerable native species. The project involved propagating and growing the vines in selected nurseries, planting them in strategically chosen locations and then maintaining them to ensure they have the best opportunity to survive.
The WPSQ ‘1000 Vines Project’: starting corridors for restoring birdwing populations
In 2014, Wildlife Queensland raised funds for, and organised the planting of, 1000 host vines for the Richmond birdwing across carefully selected sites in Queensland’s south-east.
Dr Don Sands (27 February 2015)
Inbreeding depression in the Richmond birdwing and several other Australian butterflies was first demonstrated by Albert Orr using captive-rearing experiments (Orr 1994). Albert’s experiments helped explain why isolated populations disappeared after several years of apparently healthy breeding by birdwings, in places where extirpations could not be attributed to the shortage or quality of food plant vines. Recently, evidence has been obtained that this inbreeding problem may be overcome by releasing stocks of outcrossed (‘genetically invigorated’) immature birdwing stages into habitat fragments (Gynther, Seal & Sands, pers. obs.). While this approach may be successful at the selected locations in the shorter term, over the longer-term habitat corridors to link breeding colonies will be needed to encourage the natural movement of birdwings, to enable healthy genetic mixing between colonies and so prevent inbreeding depression.
A ‘corridor concept’ to overcome inbreeding in the Richmond birdwing began in August 2005 when Brisbane Koala Bushland’s Community Group, in partnership with what was then the Richmond Birdwing Recovery Network, planted 30 birdwing butterfly vines (Pararistolochia praevenosa) along Tingalpa and Buhot Creeks. The concept included plans for a corridor to link Neville Lawrie Reserve, Daisy Hill State Forest and Venman’s Bushland National Park across boundaries of Brisbane and Redland City Councils (see The Regenerator, Brisbane City Council, Summer 2005-6, p. 14). A basic network of corridors proposed by Sands and New (2013) was based on the historic distribution of the birdwing from Maryborough, Queensland to Grafton in New South Wales and west to the Great Dividing Range at Toowoomba. By adding the coastline, this distribution is enclosed by a sub-rectangular area ‘framing’ patches of habitat near the coast and on the lower ranges. The design of a ‘Coordinated Corridors’ plan, aims to connect existing lowland birdwing breeding habitats and excludes temporary mountain birdwing habitats with the food plant P. laheyana, localities where this vine fails to sustain breeding populations.
In November 2013, Simon Baltais, then President of WPSQ, sent out a letter of appeal for donations to purchase 1000 high-quality birdwing butterfly vines for planting at specially chosen locations in corridors where they could be carefully maintained and the food plant numbers would be sufficient to contribute to the recovery of birdwing populations. The response exceeded all expectations and the funds donated provided an opportunity to initiate the Coordinated Corridors plan via WPSQs ‘1000 Vines Project’. Sites initially chosen included Burleigh-Tallebudgera Creek as the southern corridor, Foam Bark Gully, Fig Tree Pocket as the central corridor for Brisbane, Witta Nature Reserve at Maleny, and Pomona-Boreen Point as the northern corridor. Prolonged drought delayed plans for completing the timetable for planting in 2014 but approval was obtained from WPSQ to extend the project and complete planting in early 2015. The planting of 200 vines at Witta has been held over until easier access is available and plant surveys can be undertaken. Detailed site profiles are being prepared as valuable records and use in planning further supplementary corridors, as well as the future preparation of a revised recovery plan.
Vines were planted in each Corridor, while Supplementary sites were added to the original plan as opportunities and available vines allowed. By March 2015, 1180 vines were planted at selected sites as follows:
Pomona-Boreen Point Corridor
- Cootharaba. Nof-Dangerbridge Nature Refuge. 30 vines planted.
- Wahpunga Park, Kin Kin. Noosa Council Reserve. 25 vines planted.
- Keys Creek-Overton Way, Kin Kin. Noosa Council Reserve: (a) 12 vines planted, (b) 13 vines planted.
- Cooroora Creek Park, Hill St, Pomona. Noosa Council Reserve. 10 vines planted.
- Peregian College, Old Emu Mountain Rd, Weyba Downs, school grounds. 10 vines planted.
- Lower Mill, Marara St, Cooroy. Noosa Council Reserve. 35 vines planted.
- Cudgerie Estate Cooroy, Blueberry Court. Two private properties, 200 m. apart. 25 vines planted.
- Boreen Point. 40 vines planted.
David Fleay Wildlife Park, West Burleigh. Queensland Parks & Wildlife Service
- 150 vines planted.
- 50 additional vines planted March 2015.
Foambark Gully Richmond Birdwing Corridor, Fig Tree Pocket
Three private properties, south of Fig Tree Pocket Rd. Partnerships & collaboration: Fflur Collyer, Land for Wildlife (BCC).
- 250 vines planted.
- 30 additional vines planted by Conservation Volunteers Australia.
Burleigh Heads National Park, Flagship Site. Queensland Parks & Wildlife Service
- 115 vines planted.
- 85 additional vines planted in March 2015.
- Crohamhurst Corridor. Department of Environment & Heritage Protection Conservation Reserve – 100 vines planted.
- Indooroopilly Mine, Flagship Site. University of Queensland. (75 vines previously planted) – 50 vines planted.
- Obi Obi Creek Corridor, Maleny. Green Hills Inc. (a) ‘Cag’ site – 20 vines planted, (b) ‘Jardum’ site – 30 vines planted.
- 610 Mt Cotton Road & Avalon Road, Mt Cotton. Department of Environment & Heritage Protection properties – 75 vines planted and an additional 25 vines planted March 2015.
- Orr AG (1994) Inbreeding depression in Australian butterflies: Some implications for conservation. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 36: 179-184
- Sands DPA and New TR (2013). Conservation of the Richmond Birdwing Butterfly in Australia. Springer Dondrecht
For the range of activities including fundraising and assistance with planting, I thank Sam Morris, Des Boyland, Niki & Vernon Hill, Sylvia Alexander & Ian Yeo, Cherrell Hirst, Fflur Collyer, Phillip Moran and members of Noosa & District Landcare, Mark Pattenaude, Jacqui Seal, Paul Grimshaw, Cat Shaw, Peter Maddering, Paul Scott, Josh Hansen, Gary Einam, Kathleen Doody, Brent Smith, Dave Harper, Julia Blumhardt and anonymous donors.
March 2020 – RBCN visits David Fleay Wildlife Park
The RBCN recently visited David Fleay Wildlife Park on Queensland’s Gold Coast where a Richmond birdwing captive breeding program is currently underway.
June 2019 – RBCN launches new habitat corridor to save the Richmond birdwing butterfly
Members of the RBCN and Samford Eco-Corridor joined forces on Sunday, 9 June to launch a new habitat corridor project aimed at helping save the Richmond birdwing butterfly.
June 2018 – Three thumbs up for projects
In early 2018, Logan City Council contributed funds and labour to help the RBCN plant over 230 birdwing butterfly vines in five locations south-east of Brisbane.
July 2018 – Banking on the birdwing
Wildlife Queensland’s Richmond Birdwing Conservation Network is proud to have been selected as one of 12 recipients of a Bank Australia 2018 Customer Grant to help plant a corridor of birdwing butterfly vines between Samford and Woodford in South East Queensland.
March 2018 – Birdwing really taking off
The Richmond Birdwing Conservation Network (RBCN) has noticed a groundswell of activity across South East Queensland aiding the recovery of this remarkable vulnerable species.
Resources & information
Factsheets and brochures:
- Richmond birdwing butterfly (Ornithoptera richmondia)
- Richmond birdwing vine (Pararistolochia praevenosa) and mountain aristolochia (P. laheyana)
- Cultivate and care for birdwing vines
- Dutchman’s pipevine (Aristolochia elegant)
- RBCN recommended nurseries where you can purchase birdwing vines
Price includes FREE shipping within Australia. Proceeds go to help the recovery of the Richmond birdwing butterfly through the work of Wildlife Queensland’s RBCN.
- ‘Birdwings’ New Home’ – Children’s book by Lynette Reilly and Lois Hughes
- Wind-up Butterfly toy – Take to the skies with this brightly coloured wind-up birdwing butterfly toy
- Wildlife t-shirts – Order your own Richmond birdwing butterfly design
Reports & publications:
- Host vines for use in the captive breeding and release program – project report (Oct 2019)
- Pyper, W. (2001). Changing habitat. Ecos 106: 22-25
- Pyper, W. (2002). Butterfly effect: rethinking butterfly conservation. Wildlife Australia Magazine 39(4): 14-17.
- Sands, D. (1996). Birdwing blues. Wildlife Australia Magazine 33(1): 7-9.
- Sands, D.P.A. and Scott, S. (eds) (2002). Conservation of Birdwing Butterflies. SciComEd Pty Ltd, Marsden, Qld.
- Sands, D. (2008). Conserving the Richmond Birdwing Butterfly over two decades: Where to next? Ecological Management & Restoration 9(1): 4-16
For more information on WPSQ’s other projects, email or phone +61 (7) 3844 0129.