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Welcome to the Friends of the Western Ground Parrot Newsletter No. 73 Get up-to-date information about the latest efforts to save this critically endangered parrot unique to Western Australia


Mate feeding: Joy and Fifi

UPDATE FROM PERTH ZOO by Arthur Ferguson

Now that the Western Ground Parrot breeding season has come to an end for 2016 we have the opportunity to catch our breath and report on the events that unfolded over the last four months. Staff worked tirelessly to prepare the aviaries and the birds for the breeding season and this resulted in significant breeding behaviours being observed in all of the birds. Firstly the level of excitement, calling and displaying increased and this was soon followed by mate feeding, mating and nest building. This provided an opportunity to accelerate our learning and understanding of Western Ground Parrot behaviour, and two never before recorded Ground Parrot behaviours were identified. A remarkable display sequence was captured by the CCTV cameras of male Joy bobbing, launching approximately 1 meter up into the air and then dropping back to the ground after which he would run back to his primary calling perch to give a rising call. This display was repeated often during the breeding season. The second behaviour observed was an audible wing clap similar to that given by pigeons. We believe this was another attempt by male Joy to impress the female.

Joy’s displays and interest towards female Dawn progressed to a strong pair bond developing and on the 5th of August we observed Joy mate feeding Dawn for the first time. Nine days later, Joy mated with Dawn for the first time and things progressed rapidly to selecting a nest site. On the 19th August Dawns weight started to increase indicating egg development was beginning and on the 25th August we expected that egg laying was getting near. We were incredibly excited by these developments and were prepared for egg laying with the prospect of chicks when on the morning of the 26th August Dawn was observed to be uncomfortable. We monitored her closely with the CCTV cameras and consulted vets and the team to decide on the best course of action. We suspected egg binding due to the timing of her condition and prepared to offer supportive treatment. We continued to monitor her condition and just after 11am she entered the nest and we were all crossing our fingers and toes that she would be successful in passing the egg. Unfortunately this wasn’t the case and it became obvious that we would need to provide Dawn with veterinary treatment to give her a chance to pass the egg. Devastatingly she was not able to pass the egg and she died, despite the best care and treatment from all of our staff. The ‘egg bound’ egg was recovered from Dawn and set for artificial incubation in the Grumbach incubator which was funded by the Friends of the Western Ground Parrots. The egg showed promising signs of fertility and development, however, unfortunately the embryo did not continue to develop beyond seven days into incubation. Despite this significant setback we soldiered on and wasted no time in reviewing breeding opportunities for the remaining four birds and on 30th August we caught up female Fifi and placed her into male Joy’s aviary. Joy showed curious interest in his new aviary mate and set out to impress by displaying and calling frequently. Fifi’s behaviour also changed significantly and she became much more adventurous in her new aviary showing increased levels of excitement and activity. Two weeks after introduction, Joy began mate feeding Fifi and on the 23rd of September the first successful mating was observed. Mate feeding and mating frequency continued to progress and in early October, Fifi was observed entering one of the Lomandra tussocks for nest preparations. Her time in the Lomandra increased significantly over a period of approximately seven days and her breeding condition and behaviour progressed. Her weight increased significantly, indicating egg laying was imminent and we believe egg/s were laid sometime from the afternoon of the 10th to the morning of the 17th October. The nest was very well concealed and out of view of cameras so we were unable to confirm the number of eggs laid. On the afternoon of the 17th Fifi was off the nest and she was looking a little fluffed. On the morning of the 18th Fifi’s weight had dropped significantly. This behaviour led to some concerns but fortunately her weight stabilised in the subsequent days. Over the course of the

incubation period, Fifi’s incubation behaviour was a little odd in terms of the number of times she would come off the nest. Fifi’s body weight dropped lower than expected after egg laying and it’s possible the egg laying event was taxing on Fifi and this led to the irregular incubation behaviour. Joy displayed excellent commitment to Fifi during the incubation period, making regular visits to the nest to provide the majority of her food requirements. As Fifi’s incubation behaviour progressed, her brood patch became obvious and we believe this is further evidence that she was incubating egg/s.

Joy visiting Fifi on the nest for mate feeding

By mid-November we calculated that eggs should have hatched and chicks should be in the nest. A small microphone located near the nest was used to listen for the sound of chicks begging for food but unfortunately the calls of nestlings were not heard. A small spy camera was positioned on the Lomandra tussock to provide better insight into nesting behaviour but to our disappointment it became clear that Fifi was not tending to nestlings. A brief check of the nest was later undertaken during the routine afternoon feed whereby Fifi stood up briefly enabling a clear view of the well maintained nest which confirmed no signs of eggs or nestlings. Towards the end of November, Joy started moulting and Fifi was off the nest for extended periods, so a more thorough nest inspection was done to check for any remnants of egg fragments or desiccated nestlings, but nothing was found. This is somewhat surprising as we are certain that Fifi laid at least one or two eggs.

Fifi's nest after breeding behaviour ended

The events that unfolded this breeding season are a stark reminder of how few birds we are working with. The challenges of managing and breeding a species as unique as the Western Ground Parrot relies heavily on customising husbandry and breeding management strategies. To do this effectively requires highly dedicated and skilled staff, and with limited birds to work with these challenges are compounded significantly. Despite these challenges, we have made considerable inroads into understanding Western Ground Parrot behaviour and subsequent refinement of husbandry strategies. Our knowledge and understanding of Western Ground Parrot breeding behaviours is now well advanced and with this we are now closer than ever in being able to breed the Western Ground Parrot. We will continue to do all we can with the remaining birds (three males and one female) to advance husbandry and breeding prospects for these birds in 2017, however with so few birds the odds are stacked against us. The staff at Perth Zoo will continue to do all we can to help save the Western Ground Parrot from extinction. Note from the editor: This is the first ever image of a Western Ground Parrot nest

DEPARTMENT OF PARKS AND WILDLIFE UPDATE South Coast Fauna Recovery Team by Sarah Comer

Winter was a quiet time for ground parrot field work, but the Parks and Wildlife team were kept busy collating and reviewing data from the last field season, and planning for spring cat baiting work. Parks and Wildlife staff have also been supporting the Perth Zoo program, providing regular deliveries of native food plans from the south coast. In contrast spring has been busy for the Parks and Wildlife staff , with access to both Cape Arid and the Fitz limited by the long wet winter. A second 2016 EradicatŽ cat baiting was completed in October through Parks and Wildlife’s Western Shield Program, which provided important introduced predator control around the unburnt patches of ground parrot habitat. This is being complimented with funds been made available by the Threatened Species Commissioner for the South West Fauna Recovery Project (SWFRP) which includes continuing to implement feral cat control on the south coast to protect western ground parrot habitat. The SWFRP team (formerly IRFP) headed out in November, with Jennene Riggs tagging along to finish filming work. The objective of the trip was to target any cats that remained following the baiting, and to complete some opportunistic surveys for ground parrots. Birds were heard in two core areas, and even a few young birds heard. Following the baiting the team spent two weeks trapping for feral cats that survived the baiting, and removed nine large males (all over 4.2kg). This targeted removal is likely to be important for removing the larger and older animals that are less likely to take a bait, and is a key part of the feral cat control strategy which complements the aerial baiting program. The low trap success, and minimal sign highlights the importance of this work and we hope has provided some extra protection for ground parrots in the breeding season. The SWFRP team are still working on determining the optimum season for baiting , and are testing this with remote cameras in the Fitzgerald River National Park. While working in the Fitz ARUs were deployed, as we are still optimistic we might find ground parrots, especially following the good start to the spring months. A special thanks goes out to the Friends of the Western Ground Parrot for donating carry cases for the ARUs. Plans for monitoring populations next year are taking shape, and we plan to run several trips between March and May 2017. We will put out a call for expressions of interest for volunteers to assist with surveys when 2017 dates are finalised. Editing of the Western Ground Parrot workshop report is now complete and the report is available from This document is the culmination of a workshop held early this year that saw experts in threatened bird conservation from across Australia and New Zealand come together to apply their intellectual power to the recovery of the Western Ground Parrot.

Jennene Riggs and assistant Mark Zollweg joined the Parks and Wildlife team in October to finish off some of the field shots for ‘Secrets at Sunrise’ in Cape Arid National Park (Photo: Sarah Comer, Parks and Wildlife)

Alan Danks setting up SM2s and SM4s to test the new units against the old (Photo Lucy Clausen, Parks and Wildlife)

The Cape Arid Weather Station up and running again following the fire (Photo Lucy Clausen, Parks and Wildlife)

Photo – Parks and Wildlife staff and volunteers – L-R Abby Thomas, Jim Creighton, Sarah Comer, Emma Massenbauer, Lucy Clausen, Steve Butler, Saul Cowen (Photo: Jennene Riggs, Riggs Australia)

Species Distribution Modelling the Western Ground Parrot by Sarah Comer

Dr Shaun Molloy from Edith Cowan University (ECU) is working with the South Coast Threatened Birds recovery team to look at historic and predicted climate change impacts and its effects on the Western Ground Parrot. This work, funded by South Coast NRM, will be invaluable to guide selection of future translocation sites. In November Shaun, Allan Burbidge, Sarah Comer and volunteer Michael Burbidge visited historic and currently occupied ground parrot habitat between Windy Harbour and Cape Arid National Park where he was lucky enough to hear and see a ground parrot in Cape Arid. Shaun found visiting these sites, and benefiting from Allan and Sarah’s extensive knowledge, was a fantastic opportunity which has enabled him to apply a more comprehensive understanding of the Ground Parrot’s habitat requirements to his work. The habitat for most species is defined by predictive variables. For example, if we understand things such as the rainfall, temperature, and soil requirements of a given species we can predict where that species may occur and how changes to any of these variables might affect the range and population of that species. To do this ecologists use Species Distribution Models (SDMs). Ecologists have used SDMs to inform the management and conservation of flora and fauna around the world for more than 20 years now with new and improved packages being constantly developed, thousands of examples of their use documented in the scientific literature. SDMs are computer software packages which apply complex algorithms to compare presence records with variable data sets to determine the distribution of a species or ecological community. They then present their results in the form of a distribution map which shows the probability of presence for the target species. They can determine the importance of each variable to the SDM and can show how changes in each of these variables might alter future distributions. Consequently, SDMs are effective in determining current and potential distributions when using climate data. They allow historical presences to be modelled against climate records to form high quality baseline models, which can then be overlaid with predicted climate scenarios to demonstrate how predicted changes in climate change may affect species distributions. Dr Shaun Molloy, from ECU’s Fauna Lab, completed his PhD on SDMs in 2014 and has since undertaken work modelling western ringtail and brushtail possums, northern quoll and cane toads in Western Australia and has now published multiple papers on this subject. Shaun has been funded by South Coast NRM to work with the South Coast Threatened Birds recovery team to: 1.Investigate the links between historic and predicted climate change impacts and its effects on the Western Ground Parrot. 2. Demonstrate how predicted changes in these independent variables may influence the potential distribution of the Western Ground Parrot in the future. 3. Commence the identification of associated indicator species, ecological assemblages and conservation priorities to which the tools, data and methodologies developed through this project can be applied. 4. Identify ongoing research requirements and priorities ( it is intended that the tools and data sets developed through this project can be applied to other conservation priority species in South Coast NRM region). However, SDMs do have their limitations, especially where there are large knowledge gaps on the habitat requirements and physiology of a target species, such as the case with the Western Ground Parrot. With this in mind we note that the purpose of this exercise is to inform expert opinion, not replace it and that SDMs are best applied and refined through an ongoing adaptive management framework

Secrets at Sunrise update At the end of November Jennene Riggs came to Albany to film the activities of our organisation for the documentary. We were able to set up a display at the town square, kindly made available free-of-charge by the City of Albany. The weather was kind to us and all went well with the filming. We would like to thank Mrs Quain’s Year 3 and Year 4 art students from Parklands Primary School in Albany for creating this display for our awarenessraising event at the Albany Town Square on 28 November. Also, a huge thank-you goes to arts teacher Karen Quain who inspired her students to create Western Ground Parrot art on very short notice. Some of the students were allowed to visit the film shoot and had great fun meeting the mascot Kyloring. We also set up 150 paper Western Ground Parrot cut-outs to show how tiny the world population of this species actually is.

Photo credit: Liz Tanner The Western Ground Parrot mascot Kyloring, which we were able to get made thanks to a grant from the State NRM program last year, was also on hand to meet locals on Albany’s main street. Kyloring certainly drew some attention from passing motorists. The event was supported by the Bushcarers Group, Department of Parks and Wildlife and South Coast NRM. The filming was supported by the grant we received from the State NRM and Royalties for Regions programs. Western Ground Parrot artwork, created by local artist Tony Hough and donated to us recently, was used as the first prize in our raffle.

Photo credit: Dan Paris

ABC Great Southern interviewed Jennene about the documentary on Christine Layton’s morning program in November. You can listen to the interview with a backdrop of previously unseen film footage on the Secrets at Sunrise Facebook page: Filming has now been completed and editing is well under way. We suspect that there will be a slight delay with the completion of the documentary owing to circumstances beyond our control, but it should be ready by mid April.

Unique fund-raising opportunity We have joined the Community Program. If you use the site to book your accommodation when you travel you can support us by using our linked page:

The Community Program is a new program where is working together with community groups and associations around the world to help them gain additional funding. For every hotel or accommodation booking made through our link, we will earn 7.5% of the value of the booking for the first 6 months.

Gift membership Need an idea for a Christmas or birthday present? For $10 you can buy a gift membership for a friend or member of the family.

Get in touch with us and we will provide you with the payment details. Following payment, you will be emailed a confirmation of the membership purchase and a gift membership e-card to print or email to the recipient. The recipient will then need to activate their membership to receive our quarterly newsletter with the latest news about the Western Ground Parrot.

Friends at the 2017 Porongurup Wine Festival

Wendy Diletti from Castle Rock Estate Wines has kindly sponsored a stall space at the 2017 Porongurup Wine Festival for the Friends of the Western Ground Parrot. The festival is being held at Karrivale Wines at 153 Woodlands Road, Porongurups on the 5th of March 2017 (Labour Day Long Weekend). The Friends will use the opportunity to raise awareness of the plight of the Western Ground Parrot and encourage people to help with the recovery effort through membership and donations that help implement on-ground recovery actions in collaboration with the Department of Parks and Wildlife and Perth Zoo. Drop in and say hello if you are at the festival and would like to meet some of the committee members. If you would like to help out, drop us an email. Further information on the festival can be found on the Porongurup Wine Festival Facebook Page:

Chirpings from the Chair Anne Bondin

As flagged in our previous newsletter, Dave Taylor has stepped down as chairman. I want to take this opportunity and thank Dave for all his efforts over the three years he was at the helm of our organisation. At our AGM held in October members decided it was time I stepped up to the role of chairperson having been one of the founding members of the Friends of the Western Ground Parrot. Back in 2003 when Brenda Newbey and I started a community group to raise awareness about the Western Ground Parrot we did not even have a photo of the bird we were trying to save. Thirteen years on the species is still critically endangered, but in spite of all the ups and downs in recent years I am now a bit more confident that it can be brought back from the brink of extinction. The latest estimate is that the entire population of Western Ground Parrots is less than 150. This is good news as we feared most of the Cape Arid population had been wiped out in last year’s bushfires. However, to put this into perspective, after a successful year of captive breeding Kakapo numbers now stand at 154, the Orange-bellied Parrot numbers according to the latest figures are 16 birds in the wild and around 300 birds in captivity and with more Night Parrot populations discovered in recent months, the bird we are trying to save may well be the rarest of the lot. There are many passionate people involved in the recovery effort some of whom you will get to know when you watch the documentary “Secrets at Sunrise” next year. Funding for some staff on the South Coast Fauna Recovery Team will run out at the end of the financial year. We believe it is essential to retain skilled staff and intend to lobby government if no further funding is made available. I also want to introduce you to our new committee, seen here at an awareness-raising event in Albany: Phil Bailey (Treasurer), Liz Tanner, Anna Steenhuizen, Paul Wettin (Vice-chair), myself, Peter Stewart and Dave Taylor. Deon Utber, absent when the photo was taken, also continues to serve on the committee. We are committed to giving the Western Ground Parrot a brighter future and hope you will join our efforts.

Photo credit: Liz Tanner

Contacts: Chairperson: Anne Bondin

Phone: (08) 9844 1793

Email: Mailing address: PO Box 5613, Albany, WA 6332 A printable copy of the newsletter can be downloaded from our website Previous issues of our newsletter are available online at Western Ground Parrot history blog:

Please donate

Donate online: Donate by direct deposit: Friends of the Western Ground Parrot Westpac/ Albany BSB: 036-168 A/C: 317989 Donate by cheque: Please mail a cheque in the name of our organisation

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Fotwgp newsletter december 2016  

Friends of the Western Ground Parrot Newsletter December 2016.

Fotwgp newsletter december 2016  

Friends of the Western Ground Parrot Newsletter December 2016.