Sunday, July 02, 2006

New bird species for Australia

On the 19th of June a new bird species for Australia , the grey-headed lapwing, was observed and photographed at Burren Junction, NSW. It has since been seen by 20-30 observers - though this number may have dramatically escalated over the past weekend since many are travelling there to see it.

On Friday I got rung by a zoologist and asked if economists could put an economic value on this discovery. I have been thinking about this for the last couple of days. I am a bit uncertain about the question itself.

A willingness-to-pay or contingent valuation student would be hard to construct because the discovery presumably makes sense only to those people interested in bird-watching. The zoologist has kept data on those who have visited the bird, how far they travelled to get there, how long they stayed and how much they spent on their visit. Can this be used to construct a demand curve for the new species and hence the consumer surplus yielded to this group?

Does it make sense to seek such a valuation and how might it be used? Does our national net worth inclusive of conservation capital increase? In a sense it is analogous to a mineral or resource discovery though the benefits are non-marketable consumption benefits. The species is unlikely to stick around and may, indeed, migrate back to Asia never to return.

Comments or suggestions from readers are very welcome.

The bird itself breeds in north-east Asia and is migratory to India, the Andamans, China, Taiwan, the Philipines and Japan (the photo above is from a Japanese rice paddy). It has previously been reported as a vagrant in Malaysia but this is the first Australian discovery.


conrad said...

I hope they stick around -- it must be much more fun and less dangerous than living in Asia for them. They could have mid-night screeching matches with the more common masked lap-wings.

hc said...

The bird is residing with masked lapwing. If you are interested goggle 'birding-aus'.