The Swift Parrot (Lathamus discolor) is a migratory species which breeds mainly in the Blue Gum forests of South east Tasmania, and spends winter on mainland Australia.
Recentsurveys have shown that the total population of Swift Parrots in Australia may number less than 1000 pairs, the species is classified as endangered in Victoria and New South Wales, vulnerable in Tasmania and South Australia, and vulnerable in Australia.
Distribution and Movements
Swift Parrots breed in eastern Tasmania during October-January, before migrating between February-May to mainland
Australia to spend autumn aridwinter They occur mainly in southern, central and northeast Victoria, and are occasionally seen in New South Wales, southern Queensland and south-eastern South Australia. The birds return to their breeding grounds between August and October Identification
In appearance, habits and general behaviour; Swift Parrots resemble lorikeets (especially the Musk Lorikeet) and they sometimes form mixed flocks feeding in flowering eucalypts. They are small birds 25 cm in length with a generally green plumage. The ear covers and crown are blue, and they have a red facial mask with a yellow margin, pale green underparts, and blue-and-red patches on the shoulders. In flight, the red under-wing and under-tail feathers and the long fine-pointed tail, distinguish it from lorikeets.
The most reliable characteristic is its distinctive call, which differs markedly from the screeching notes given by lorikeets. The call consists of sharp, rapidly repeated clinking notes as the parrots depart from trees, and soft warbling notes while feeding or perching.
Swift Parrots usually occur in small parties, feeding on both nectar and lerps among the branches of flowering eucalypts.Survival Needs
In Victoria swift Parrots occur in areas where there is a continuous supply of winter flowering eucalypt blossom, feeding on the nectar of a few key species such as Red Ironbark, Mugga Ironbark, Yellow Gum, White Box and Grey Box.
Sites containing mature key eucalypts on fertile soils, where nectar production is more reliable and plentiful, provide winter food resources that are critical to the parrot's overall survival.
Swift Parrots also consume lerps (sugary shelters of small scale insects) found on the surfaces of eucalypt leaves, and occasionally' form large flocks where infestations occur; sometimes in River Red Gums and Blakeleys Red Gums. Occasionally they are attracted to blossoming non-indigenous eucalypts.
In their Tasmanian breeding grounds, Swift Parrots nest in tree hollows in large old eucalypts.
The major cause of the decline of swift parrots is the loss of Blue Gums in their Tasmanian breeding areas due to land clearance, and the loss in area and quality of Box Ironbark Forests and woodlands on the mainland.
Most of these winter flowering eucalypt forests and woodlands have been cleared in the past, but much of what remains is subject to a number of pressures, including subdivision, timber harvesting and mining.
Within the Ironbark Forests only a very small portion is suitable foraging habitat, as the forests comprise mainly of immature trees, which have less predictable nectar sources, in highly fragmented blocks.
Above are photos of a breeding pair of Swift Parrots, located near Chiltern.
Preserved Swift Parrot
A Swift Parrot shot in 1879 can be seen preserved at the Burke Museum, Beechworth.
Once common around Sydney, It is found in open forest, timbered rocky slopes and ridges, and along watercourses. It responds well to the little disturbed country of the National Parks at Chiltern and Warrambungle.
It feeds on the ground in pairs or in small flocks. Nomadic, breeds in August to December, and nests in dead or hollow trees.
Above are some of the breeding pairs at Buller's Bird Park.
This bird may be seen at the Bullers Bird Park, Rutherglen.
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