Newsupdate no. 66 â€“ March 2015 State NRM Grant After achieving the target in our crowd-funding campaign, we learned on Christmas Eve that we had also been successful in our grant application to receive funds for camping equipment for volunteers taking part in Western Ground Parrot surveys. The grant also included funds to get a Western Ground Parrot mascot made. We are currently liaising with Perth Zoo to get a mascot designed which can also be used at the Zoo for awareness-raising efforts. It will be a few months before the mascot is ready to make its first public appearance, but it already has a name â€“ Kyloring. We decided the Noongar name for the Western Ground Parrot would be a perfect choice. A big thank-you to the good people at Macpac! They generously made available the equipment at commercial rates allowing us to buy much better-quality gear.
South Coast NRM Grant Thanks to a grant received from South Coast NRM last year we have also been able to update our brochure. Here is a sneak preview. Above updates by Anne Bondin.
Western Ground Parrot Zoo Visit
by Gasparo Marsala
I have to admit I was unaware of the ecologically unique and beautiful Western Ground Parrot until very recently. Frankly I can’t recall exactly how I stumbled upon FWGP however once becoming a “Friend”, I quickly became aware of the funding campaign to make a documentary to share the plight of the species with a broader audience. To that end (and to cut a long story short), in January, I was honoured to get a rather unique glimpse into the captive breeding program at Perth Zoo. My recollection of the day is still rather vivid thanks to the style and manner in which the staff (Arthur and Duncan) prepared and presented the collection. The first part of the tour was to the actual aviary complex, which is suitably isolated from the general zoo public. Prior to entering the enclosure we were required to wear (for want of a better name) a head to toe blue quarantine suit that really impressed upon me the level of sophistication and efforts taken to protect the species. The aviaries are parallel and the birds are kept in pairs or as individuals. The aviaries themselves spacious with landscape that can best be described as open grassland. The design is such that breeding section is well in the back with the feeding station at the front and accessible from outside enclosure. From what I understand, the zoo staff rarely enters the aviary and most monitoring of birds is done via a series of strategically placed videos cameras.
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Despite Arthur tempering our expectation about seeing the birds in the aviaries, fortunately, within a very short period of time, the group was rewarded with one of the birds making a dash from what appeared to be a sand patch to ground cover. I can only describe the experience as like seeing a celebrity in real life. There is a familiarity with the subject however once you realise that what you are seeing is real it simply heightens your senses. The bird (I only saw one bird multiple times) was larger than I expected, quick on its feet and like any good experiences leaving me wanting more. Once again the zoo staff satisfied my curiosity by sharing a series of captured videos displaying behaviour unique to the WGP. I expect that this footage will be shared in the forthcoming documentary and elaborated upon therein, however based on some rudimentary discussion while watching the video; it appears we witnessed some unique courting displays on video. We also witnessed feeding, more running and motion and I myself was able to get a great appreciation for the species. Finally, after bombarding the staff with questions ranging from how video was used as a tool to help breeding; how the zoo makes decisions about things like nutrition and pair bonding and the species outlook in the wild, it was time for the staff to get on with their job and this deeply rewarding tour ended.
Supporters of the Friends crowd-funding campaign visiting Perth Zoo: (Left to Right) Gasparo Marsala, Keith Lightbody, Ute Schierhorn with Perth Zoo staff member Duncan Halliburton.
Integrated Fauna Recovery Project update Since the last newsletter the Department of Parks and Wildlife’s IFRP (Integrated Fauna Recovery Project) team has again been implementing ground works for conservation of the Western Ground Parrot. The team has been busy with the feral cat program, collaring some thirty animals from Mt Manypeaks through to Cape Arid prior to the 2015 autumn baiting. Following the post of a cat being processed on the Friends Facebook page, and the difficulty some readers found in understanding why we were releasing cats when the threat of predation is so great, we thought it was worth explaining the logic behind this again. The funds for feral cat control were targeted by the South Coast Threatened Birds Recovery Team following the dramatic decline observed in ground parrots numbers in 2004/2005 in south coast reserves. This project started some ten years ago, when broad scale cat baiting in the south-west of WA had never been trialled, and a number of parameters relating to how effective baiting would be were largely unknown. These included the issues with non-target bait uptake and also understanding what sort of uptake by feral cats there would be. While non-target uptake issues were easily addressed with trials of non-toxic baits, determining baiting efficacy has been more challenging. By collaring cats and releasing them we are given a direct indication of how many ‘take the bait’. Additional information from the GPS collars is providing the research team with information that can be used to improve the delivery of baits. CONTINUED...
Above: Jim Creighton and his solar panel and stand for continuous ARU monitoring. Below:
Fitz survey team
CONTINUED FROM PREVIOUS PAGE For example, we are obtaining data on probabilities of cats encountering a bait drop, which will allow for delivery of baits in aerial programs to be altered. In addition the analysis of data from collars also provides insight into feral cat behaviour. Knowing how animals use different types of habitats and landforms will allow for improvements to baiting strategies. Give so little is known about the ecology of feral cats in the southern coast ecosystems, this information is essential for optimising baiting programs, and ultimately for protecting the Western Ground Parrot and other fauna that are vulnerable to the impact of this introduced predator. Once complete the five year research project will be summarised and the program will be refined to shift into an operational phase. The project team has also been busy conducting surveys and monitoring the remaining Western Ground Parrot populations. With the assistance of volunteers autumn surveys have been conducted in the Fitzgerald River National Park, and monitoring has been conducted in Cape Arid. ARUs were deployed in Nuytsland NR in December, and these will be retrieved later this month. While birds were calling in Cape Arid, none was heard in the traditional Fitz sites, and as a result the search in the Fitz has been expanded. Nineteen ARUs were deployed in the Fitz wilderness area using a helicopter, and these will be retrieved when the team collects the collars (and hopefully carcasses) of the cats collared in January. Autumn monitoring is still to be completed, with one more trip to Cape Arid planned. We’ll look forward to sharing the full results with you in the next issue.
Photo: A feral cat with a quenda in the core of WGP habitat Cape Arid National Park (IFRP team 2012 )
CHAIR’S CHIRPINGS – by Dave Taylor Well, a quarter of the way through the year already. Lots of activity is happening behind the scenes. Some of these are: 20-30 March – Third annual South Coast Festival of Birds being held in Albany. Lots happening with tours, talks, competitions and some notable people coming down, including Tim Low, author of Where Song Began. There is ‘Birds & Beaks’ for kids at Middleton Beach. I hope to see lots of you around Albany and at the Town Hall where displays are being held. Our brochure has been re-designed and should be ready for the Festival. We have also ordered more pull up banners and flags. Federal Government has allocated $40000 for CCTV at the Perth Zoo for the WGP State National Resource Management allocated a grant of $17000 plus for additional and replacement camping gear for surveys including $6500 to have a mascot of the WGP professionally made. This is being made by Isaac Lummis who made the Chuditch and Christmas Frog for the Perth Zoo. He also made the Tingle Spider for the Walpole Treetop Walk. They are fantastic works of art. The WGP, when finished will predominantly be used at the Zoo. $5640 was donated to the Perth Zoo by the friends to have custom designed holding boxes made to hold the parrots while improvements are done to their enclosure. Many thanks to those who made donations to make this possible. From all accounts, the last survey undertaken at Cape Arid was successful with lots of calls recorded, some in an area where calls had not been recorded for some time.
Eastern Ground Parrot breeding â€“a minus and a plus
by Brenda Newbey
Ground parrots may have an inbuilt breeding problem. Back in 1988 when Dr David McFarland was writing up his work on the ground parrot in South-eastern Queensland, he compared egg failure in several Australian parrot species. Desertion and predation were discounted. The eggs that failed were mostly infertile, in broods that otherwise hatched young successfully. In McFarlandâ€™s study, of 54 Eastern Ground Parrot eggs, 22.2% failed. Of 51 eggs in Tasmania, Victoria and New South Wales, in various reports and studies, 25.5% failed, and in one study (Meredith and Isles) in Victoria, 30.8% of 26 eggs failed. Of the overall total of 131 eggs, 25.2% failed. By comparison, for example, of 134 Budgerigar eggs, 20.2% failed and of 172 Red-rumped Parrot eggs 16.3% failed. These records were derived from the RAOU Nest Record Scheme. In a 1980s study by Graeme Smith and Denis Saunders, of 212 Galah eggs, 10.4% failed. Egg failure in parrots is normal, but Eastern Ground Parrots appear to be at the high end of the scale. It is not known where the Western Ground Parrot fits in as the number of eggs studied is very low. Once hatched however, ground parrots appear to have an advantage over many other parrots. When compared to the Budgerigar, and parrots from the genera Neophema and Psephotus, Eastern Ground Parrot chicks have a much faster rate of growth leading to fledging 4 to 11 days earlier than these other species. It is suggested that this is possible as the male parent bird often walks to the nest carrying a large load of food. There are three or four feeding sessions per day. A flying bird could carry less. The rapid development means that there is less time exposed and helpless in the nest, which is on the ground under dense vegetation. The other species nest in hollows, more protected from some predators and from rain and temperature extremes. There is no data on how long it takes for Western Ground Parrot chicks to fledge. Source, apart from comments on Western Ground Parrots: McFarland,D. (1989). The Ground Parrot Pezoporus wallicus wallicus (Kerr) in Queensland: Habitat, Biology and Conservation. Prepared for the Division of Conservation, Parks and Wildlife; Department of Environment and Conservation, Queensland.
Contacts: David Taylor (Chair). Phone 0458502836
Anne Bondin (Secretary). Phone (08) 9844 1793
Address: PO Box 5613, Albany, WA 6332
Website: http://www.western-ground-parrot.org.au Archive: Previous issues of our newsletter are available online at http://wgpnewsletters.blogspot.com/
Editor: Stephen Fryc Email: email@example.com
Next issue: June 2015