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North Queensland Naturalist 52: 4-18


In 1917, James Franklin Illingworth (1870-1949) moved from Hawaii to work as Chief Entomologist for the Queensland Bureau of Sugar Experiment Stations. Stationed until 1921 near Cairns in Far North Queensland, he led research into pests of sugar cane and investigated potential natural controls, including birds. His commitment to protection of ‘useful birds’ helped position Queensland Government entomology research as part of a first wave of Australian bird conservation. His records included an overlooked, significant early observation of insectivory by the Australasian Figbird (Sphecotheres vieilloti), preying on adult Greyback Cane Beetles (Dermolepida albohirtum) swarming on native trees near cane fields. This, and other incidental records covering nearly 150 years, suggest that insects may be an important breeding season resource for the largely frugivorous Figbird. Illingworth also recorded flocks of up to 500 Straw-necked Ibis (Threskiornis spinicollis) preying on beetle larvae in ploughed cane fields, but ten years later few ibis remained, possibly due to hunting and the clearing of roost trees. He contributed a significant number of Australian insect specimens to collections, primarily to the Bishop Museum, Hawaii.

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