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FRIENDS OF THE WESTERN GROUND PARROT A community group dedicated to the recovery of an unusual WA bird which could soon become extinct.

Newsupdate no. 21

August 2006

High Tech Hopes Very little is known about the ecology of the Western Ground Parrot, including breeding ecology. It is ninety-three years since the last nest was found by a human though it is suspected that cats, foxes and various reptiles have more success. In 1988 some young birds were captured in the Fitzgerald River National Park (FRNP) which gave a clue as to when the breeding season in the FRNP may be. In 2004, a fledgling was photographed. In 2005, chick calls were recorded as were some adult calls which have only been heard in association with breeding. The WGP Recovery Project team plans to make finding a nest a priority this year and they have some high tech equipment to help both accomplish this and to get utmost value from doing so. Recording equipment The Western Ground Parrot is very difficult to observe and most often it is their calls that give the best access to locations and activities of the birds. The Recovery Project team has been using various types of recording equipment to record calls. The calls are then analyzed and classified into different call types. Understanding the “language” of ground parrots may reveal useful insights into their mysterious lives. Two types of recording equipment are currently in use, both digital. The first is the Marantz Professional Solid State Recorder Model PMD 660. This recorder has a number of useful features. It has an auto recording volume control which adjusts itself according to the strength of the incoming sound. It also has a time/date stamp feature which helps when transferring calls to a laptop computer for analysis. Calls are stored on a compact flash disc which can hold over 30 hours of recording time. The microphone used with the Marantz recorder is a Sennheiser professional model and is extremely good at picking up faint distant calls. The second recorder is a Sony Walkman mini disc recorder model MZ-N710. It is less expensive, very compact and is powered by a single AA battery. It stores data on a removeable mini disc and can only hold about 1 ½ hours of recording time per disk. It is simple to use and produces good quality recordings. A Sony model ECM-MS907 microphone is used with the mini disc recorder. This type of recorder is now being phased out and being replaced by the MP3 recorders which can do the same job and store data on an internal hard drive which has a much larger storage capacity.

A “buzz” call from the FRNP.

A duet with a Rising 4 (R4) answered by a Drawn or D3 call.


Recording calls is only the first step in the process. The next step is downloading the calls onto laptop computers for analysis. A software program called “Syrinx” is used to turn the call recordings into visual information called a spectrogram. This program was created specifically for bird call analysis. Once a call is transformed into a spectrogram, it can be visually compared to other calls and classified into one of many call types. It is likely that each population and perhaps subpopulation of Western Ground Parrots has call types specific to that group of birds. A study of Eastern Ground Parrots in southeast Queensland showed this to be true for that area. Mike Barth and Brenda Newbey …… be continued.

Franny Cunninghame and Brent Barrett on site in the Fitzgerald River National Park. Brent is holding the Marantz recorder and the Sennheiser microphone. August 2006. Photo: David Chemello

Quest for a nest Brent is back! He and Franny Cunninghame, also an ornithologist from New Zealand, have been invited by the WGP Recovery Project to assist with the breeding season research which is currently under way. As most readers of this newsletter know, Brent worked for two years as the inaugural WGP Recovery Project Research Scientist. During that time Franny was a volunteer with the Project for a few weeks. In other words they have a wealth of WGP experience between them and combined with David Chemello who now has well over two years WGP experience, and Michael Barth, the current project Research Scientist, some of the WGPs breeding secrets should soon be uncovered.


To date the quest for a nest has not been successful, in part due to caution on the part of the research team who want to find out what they can about the breeding process without causing disruption. This is in contrast to the last time a nest was found by F. Lawson Whitlock, back in 1913 when the goal was to collect the eggs. However, as each year goes by, his words ‘a very difficult bird to study, and the task of finding its nest and eggs trying in the extreme to one’s patience’ read as more and more of an understatement. Whitlock wrote up his experience in Emu Vol.X111, 1914, pages 202-205. Emu is the Birds Australia (then Royal Australsian Ornithogists’ Union) journal.

Shirts in September Late next month the Friends of the Western Ground Parrot will begin selling the first ever Western Ground Parrot shirt. The main objective is to create more awareness of the existence of the WGP, and also that there is a WGP Recovery Project. Artist Wendy Binks has volunteered her services to do the design and artwork as well as to assist with decisions resuppliers of shirts and screenprinting. It was decided to use 100% cotton polo shirts with a small design on the front on one side, and a larger design on the back. Colour is essential for such a colourful bird so colours that would contrast effectively with the WGP colours were selected, namely black and pale grey. Wendy prepared three design options for the back and three for the front and Wendy and Brenda presented a few suggestions for the wording. There was an opportunity at the time of the South Coast Threatened Birds Recovery Team meeting in Albany early in August, to find out what about 20 of the Friends, some in the Recovery team and others mostly around Albany, thought about the designs, shirt colours and the wording. Each filled out an anonymous voting form with plenty of space for suggestions. As a result of the voting and suggestions, the basic elements of the design have been worked out. As a few preferred shirts without a collar, some of those will be available. All shirts will have short sleeves. Funds for launching the shirt project are from card sales and donations. However we hope to recoup our outlay as the shirts are sold. There will be a very modest profit margin on the polo-style shirts, more on the T- shirts as all will be offered at the same price. Only 100 of these shirts are being printed so it is recommended that you get your order in early so as to secure the colour and style that is your first choice. Details of font and colour of the lettering have not been decided on. Below is an indication of what it will be like. Polo shirts Front: a fairly small design to one side. It will consist of either a profile head of a WGP taken from one of Brent Barret’s photos of a WGP in the wild OR a pair of WGP feathers (to be decided.) Words will be Western Ground Parrot Recovery Project. Back: a larger design with the words Western Ground Parrot above, and Elusive Enigmatic Endangered below the colour image which is the WGP painted by Wendy Binks before she added the vegetation which appears on the postcard. Collarless T-shirts will ONLY have the large design that is on the back of the poloshirt, on the front, and no design on the back.

Order All shirts are $25 plus $5 for each shirt that is to be posted. Sizes are XS, S, M, L, XL. They should be available from late September. Write the size in the appropriate box. Make out cheque or money order to Birds Australia WA. Post your order with the cheque to B.Newbey, 58 Annie St., Beaconsfield WA. Include address if it is to be posted.

Polo-style (collar)

T-shirt (no collar)

Black Pale Grey Either Name: Address:


Image that will be on the back of the polo-shirt and on the front of the T-shirt.

Report on the series of four trips to Nuytsland Nature Reserve in search of the Western Ground Parrot The report, in colour, is being prepared and will be available by the end of September. If you participated in the project you can be sent a copy free of charge. However you will need to let me know by email or phone (see below) before 11 September. If you did not participate but would like a copy, you will need to send $10 (made out to Birds Australia WA) towards costs. Send it to B. Newbey 58 Annie St., Beaconsfield. WA 6162. A copy will be available for BAWA members from their library. Brenda Newbey

Campout The Albany Bird Group is planning a campout for a few days at Cheyne Beach beginning on 13 November. It is only recently that WGPs seem to have disappeared from this area. There will an opportunity for searching for WGPs. Several other endemic WA birds are much more easily found there. For details contact Anne Bondin or see October issue of this newsupdate.

Cards for sale – contact Anne or Brenda We have two designs and two formats. The postcard, designed and donated by Wendy Binks, is available at her shop ‘Stunned Emu Designs’ in the Fremantle Markets. It is also available from us at $1 each or 80 cents each if you buy 20 or more. We will post them out at no extra charge. Our greetings card with design by Jenny Preston (see page 1, centre, for detail of the image), is still available. This is a folded card with an envelope, and costs $1 each. If the cards are to be posted, it will be $3 extra in Australia, regardless of the size of the order e.g. 10 cards are $13; 30 cards $33.

Web pages Birds Australia WA Inc. has a web page for the Western Ground Parrot. Go to their website at and then access Projects, and Western Ground Parrot. There is another web page maintained by the Albany Bird Group:

The next issue of the WGP Friends newsupdate is due in August 2006. Feedback is welcome. Contacts for Friends of the Western Ground Parrot Anne Bondin. Phone (08) 9844 1793; E-mail: Brenda Newbey. Phone (08) 9337 5673; E-mail: Address: Albany Environment Centre, PO Box 1780, Albany, WA. 6330. (Don’t use this address for orders.)


August 2006 #21  
August 2006 #21  

Friends of the Western Ground Parrot Newletter August 2006 #21