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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. 18

February 2006

This issue has much to offer potential volunteers: Nuyts trip in March (p.1) and Mike Barth’s survey program March to May (p. 2). The success of all field trips is very dependent on volunteers.


Nine volunteers needed in March – chance to get away from it all!! When: This very interesting trip will begin on March 8 and continue until 18 or 19 March. Where: We will be in the general vicinity of Point Malcolm, Nuytsland Nature Reserve. Access: Tracks are poor. Four-wheel drive is essential. Arrangements are being made to leave 2WD vehicles somewhere safe at Condingup.

Goals: It is planned to extend the survey of the population that was discovered last June. More survey time will be spent in another area that seemed promising in May, and it is hoped to travel beyond to an area that has not previously been surveyed for ground parrots. The overall goal is to enable CALM to plan effective management of all ground parrot populations within its area of responsibility (as far as is known, all of them are in CALM-managed parks or reserves). Leaders: The trip will be led by the CALM team of Mike Barth and David Chemello. The surveys: Most surveys are done by listening to calls and determining the direction of the call by using a compass. Distance and type of call are also recorded. Usually, survey time is within the hour before the sun rises and the hour after it sets. Thus if there is a walk to the survey site, one way is always in the dark. There may also be some daytime surveys. Training: Every participant will be provided with a call training CD before the trip. The first part of the trip will be where it is anticipated that there will be ground parrots (no guarantees) and training on the detection of calls and the use of the GPS and compass will be given there. You need: To be reasonably fit. It will be necessary to be able to walk 2 km through low heath. Your ears also need to be in good working order. Food and shelter: Bring a sleeping tent if you can not sleep in your vehicle. Bring your own food and cooker or arrange to share. A community tent will be provided for shelter while cooking. Facilities: The whole survey area is remote with no facilities and it will probably be necessary to change campsite at least three times. A satellite phone will be hired for the trip so that contact with the outside world will be possible. Details about water and fuel, essential equipment that may be borrowed, assistance with expenses, coming for a part of the time, etc., will be supplied on request. If you are interested or want more information, contact Brenda Newbey, the project co-ordinator, a.s.a.p. (see page 4 for contact details). This project is managed by Birds Australia WA Group. It has been funded by Lotterywest, and is receiving much support from the Department of Conservation and Land Management.


From Mike Barth

Western Ground Parrot Recovery Project It’s 2006 and year three of the Western Ground Parrot Recovery Project (WGPRP). Over the past two years CALM staff, the Friends of the Western Ground Parrot and a vast network of volunteers have conducted over 20 survey trips in an effort to locate all remaining populations of Western Ground Parrots. Detailed maps of critical habitat and population boundaries are now available. A wealth of information was collected revealing important clues to the bird’s habitat requirements in its ever-changing fire prone ecosystem along with a better understanding of the timing of the breeding season. This was all made possible through the hard work of many volunteers contributing countless hours to the project. Over the next few years the project will continue to monitor the remaining populations of birds, refine survey techniques and work with land managers to reduce threats such as feral predators and uncontrolled wildfires. There is still much to learn and we’re always looking to discover any remnant populations. This year we will be joining Brenda and the Birds Australia WA crew on a return trip to Nuytsland Nature Reserve in mid-March. We’re hoping to follow this with a targeted survey in Cape Arid NP. The remainder of the autumn surveys will be in the Fitzgerald River NP. There is currently a proposal for a three year cat control program in the Fitz and if it’s approved, we’ll be monitoring ground parrot numbers for any changes associated with this effort. Starting in July, we’ll be conducting nest search surveys and monitoring breeding activity again. Volunteer help is needed for all surveys. We will be requiring at least three volunteers per trip. Assistance will be provided in the form of: • • • • • •

all logistical support and training in the field shared bush-camp facilities some essential camping items (if you don’t have a personal tent or head-torch) all survey equipment (clipboard, compass, GPS) all food for the survey duration some assistance with travel to the survey site (or Albany departure point)

Following are the dates for Autumn 2006 CALM Survey Trips: Trip Trip Trip Trip

1: 2: 3: 4:

March 20th to 26th April 4th to 13th April 26th to May 5th May 17th to 26th

If you’d like to assist, please contact:

Cape Arid Fitzgerald Fitzgerald Fitzgerald

Mike Barth or e-mail:

NP (following the NNR trip) River NP River NP River NP

ph. (08) 9842 4519 m. (04) 2984 2451

The CALM Western Ground Parrot Recovery Project is funded by the Natural Heritage Trust through a partnership between the Department of Conservation and Land Management (CALM) and the South Coast Regional Initiative Planning Team (SCRIPT).


Sexing Western Ground Parrots

B J Newbey

The plumage of male and female ground parrots is similar. Are there other ways of differentiating the sexes? Jean Barber, a ground parrot enthusiast from Queensland, suggested that in many parrot species the beaks of males and females were often shaped differently, with male bills also being larger, though this is often overlooked because the plumage is different too. I decided to visit the Western Australian Museum (WAM), to check out the collection of Western Ground Parrot skins. There were three sexed birds there, two females and a male, unfortunately lacking a head. There was also another complete, but unsexed, skin. From HANZAB I learnt that there were five more sexed Western Ground Parrots in other museums, the Australian Museum (AM) and the H.L. White Collection, (HLW), housed in the Museum of Victoria.. Below, in Table 1, are the bill length measurements of these birds, and the bill width measurements of the WAM birds. Table 1: Bill measurements of Western Ground Parrot skins Location WAM WAM WAM WAM AM AM AM AM HLW

Sex F F M ? F F M M M

Bill length (mm) 13.7 13.8 15.38 12.2 13.4 14.8 15.4 14.0

Bill width (mm) 8.0 8.38 8.77

The bill length for the four females ranges from 12.2 to 13.8 mm and for the three males from 14.0 to 15.4. The gap is small, but at 15.38 mm, the unsexed bird fits into the male range. Its beak is wider than the female birds in the WAM, (width measurement for the other skins has not been obtained). A toe measurement (outer front toe on right foot) was taken for each of the WAM birds. The females were 17.23 and 18.87 mm, the male was 21.87. The unsexed bird was 20.43. Sample size is very small, and the differences clearer in the photos than by measurement, but this evidence does suggest that the unsexed bird in the WAM is a male.

Western Ground Parrot skins, WAM. The unsexed bird is flanked by the two females. Alignment of the bills has been affected by the preservation process, but the shape and size has not. The unsexed bird has been prepared for display which is why it is looks larger. The beak, however, is larger than that of the females. In life, bills of both sexes are tucked more closely to the head as in Brent’s photo below. The female upper mandibles have a finer, more curved tip than that of the unsexed bird. Photo: Stephen Fryc.


Comparison of this bird, with the bird photographed by Brent Barrett last October, suggest that this bird too was a male. Reference HANZAB: Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds, Volume 4: parrots to dollarbirds. Senior editors, P J Higgins and J M Peter. Oxford University Press. 2002. Thanks to Claire Stevenson of WAM who showed us the collection, and took the measurements of the WAM specimens. The photo by Stephen Fryc was taken and published with permission from the WAM for publication is this newsletter. No reproduction of the image is permitted unless authorized by the WAM.

Head of Western Ground Parrot, Fitzgerald River National Park, October 2004. Photo: Brent Barrett.

If you have a copy of the ‘Help find me’ WGP brochure, see if you can determine the sex of the bird in the photo by Allan Burbidge. Alternatively, the photo may be downloaded then viewed at

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.

Cards help the ground parrot in two ways: spreading awareness of the existence of the bird and its plight, and by adding to the funds of our Friends group to be used where needed to help the recovery. This will happen only if the cards are bought. So buy some and find outlets for others if you can.

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 April 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.


February 2006 #18  

Friends of the Western Ground Parrot Newsletter February 2006 #18

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