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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. 16

October 2005

SEARCH FOR WESTERN GROUND PARROTS IN NUYTSLAND NATURE RESERVE More volunteers are needed for the spring trip to Nuytsland Nature Reserve to add to the work that was begun there in May and June this year. It is planned to extend the survey of the population that was discovered in June. It may be possible to establish whether breeding has occurred within this population this year. 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. For access, it is hoped that the reserve will be drier than it was in June The whole survey area is remote with no facilities and it will probably be necessary to change campsite at least three times. Four-wheel drive is essential. There will be some opportunity to get a lift from Perth, Albany or Esperance so you don’t necessarily need a vehicle. There will be some financial help towards volunteers’ fuel costs (at least 20c per km) and a camping allowance of $10 per day. The trip is planned for 8 to 17 November, a week later than originally planned. If you are interested or want more information, contact Brenda Newbey, the project co-ordinator (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.

Milestone for Western Ground Parrot recovery Ground parrots are now very much on the CALM, Esperance district, radar. In August, CALM Esperance hosted a meeting of the CALM south coast regional staff at which Esperance staff were presented with the results of recent surveys for the Western Ground Parrot (WGP) in Cape Arid National Park and Nuytsland Nature Reserve. The importance of the habitat in the Esperance district to the survival of the WGP is now clearly apparent and it is crucial that appropriate fire management strategies are set in place to protect this habitat from wildfire. In order to protect areas used by the WGP, CALM fire managers need not only details of habitat critical to the birds’ survival, but also up to date information on the distribution of birds. This will allow for fire management strategies to be designed so that the risk of losing these areas in a single wildfire event is minimised. In Cape Arid and Nuytsland, this presents a real challenge due to the frequent lightning strikes along this stretch of coast, and the largely inaccessible expanse of bush without tracks through it. Recent fires in this area have burnt areas as large as 220 000 ha. In the months to come, the CALM Esperance District Fire Co-ordinator will be working with the WGP project officer and members of the South coast Threatened Birds Recovery Team to address these issues and plan for fire management in the Esperance District so that the needs of the WGP are met.


Landscope Spring Volume 21 Number 1, 2005

* Now available in newsagencies ! *

Brent Barrett has an article in thie current issue of Landscope, CALM’s quarterly conservation, parks and wildlife magazine The five page article is entitled ‘The secret life of the Western Ground Parrot’. It is very encouraging to have new findings about the ecology of this bird and the extreme challenge of studying it, placed in the public domain. The most avid reader of our newsletters is still sure to learn something from the well written and well illustrated article. There is a good photo of artist Wendy Binks creating the drawing of the ground parrot which has now become the postcard. More about the postcard appears on page 4 below. One photo, of a ground parrot in the hand, has been inadverdently attributed to Allan Burbidge. It was taken during the radio-tracking program back in 1988 by volunteer Kaye Vaux. The hand may well be Allan’s. For more on the radio-tracking program see page 3 below.

Change of Project Officer Brent Barrett has been the inaugural Western Ground Parrot recovery project research officer, employed, initially for one year by the Department of Conservation and Land Management. He was persuaded to put in another year, but this is almost over and his position has been advertised. The ad. is reproduced below (too late to apply) but to let you see what is required. Brent has accomplished a great deal in his two years and it will be a challenge for his successor to fill his shoes.

Employment Opportunities: ------------------------------------------------------------

1. Research Scientist, Ground Parrot project (location: Albany) 2. The Department of Conservation and Land Management is seeking an experienced person to coordinate implementation of the Western Ground Parrot Recovery Plan. This position offers an opportunity to participate in an important threatened species project involving scientific research and community participation on the south coast of WA. This is a 12 month contract position, funded by SCRIPT, with the possibility of extension. Selection criteria: essential: 1. Degree in Zoology or Biological Science from a recognised university, or an approved equivalent qualification. 2. Demonstrated well-developed ability to plan and undertake a field-based research program. 3. Demonstrated substantial experience in threatened animal recovery management. 4. Demonstrated well-developed ability to liaise with and work collaboratively with regional operations staff, land managers and community groups. 5. Demonstrated capacity to communicate effectively, both verbally and in writing. 6. Experience with ornithological field techniques and an ability to distinguish high pitched bird calls. 7. Willingness to spend extended periods camping in the field and a good level of physical fitness. 8. Ability to demonstrate an understanding of Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) principles and practices. 9. Current 'C' Class Driver's Licence. Desirable: 1. Relevant post-graduate experience. 2. Field experience with cryptic bird species such as the Ground Parrot. 3. Current 'A' Class Bird Banding Authority. 4. Demonstrated experience in supervision and management of staff and volunteers. 5. Experience with wild fire suppression operations and/or ICS system. Further information: Please contact Dr Allan Burbidge on (08) 9405 5109 Closing date: 2005-09-02 5:00 PM ------------------------------------------------------------

Survey kit A comprehensive survey kit has been developed and prepared by Brent Barrett and his assistant, David Chemello. It comprises survey and record forms, an information sheet, a new CD of WGP calls recorded over the last 12 months by Abby Berryman, field sound recordist, and with helpful commentary by David; and a video on CD about the survey experience. The kit will be made available to anyone who has a need for it. Either of the CDs can also be supplied, on request, with no obligation. Contact Brent Barrett ( or Brenda Newbey; contact details page 4 below.


HISTORICAL STUDY Much can be learnt from radio-tracking. Only once has there been a project that involved radiotracking Western Ground Parrots. The following is extracted from the unpublished Final Report to the World Wildlife Fund (Australia). Project 118: Conservation of the Ground Parrot in Western Australia. May 1989. Project originator: Dr Allan H. Burbidge. Project Investigators: Dr Allan H. Burbidge, Doug Watkins, Shapelle McNee. The study area was the Short Road area which was being incorporated into Fitzgerald River National Park at the time. The time was spring 1988. References to tables and figures are omitted. Radio-tracking Ten young birds and three adults were fitted with transmitters. However, major problems were experienced with the transmitters falling off Ground Parrots. On eight occasions, data collection was terminated by the Ground Parrot dislodging the transmitter. On several occasions the position of the transmitter when it was recovered indicated that it had fallen from the bird nduring flight. Attachment failure did enable the transmitters to be re-used. With the remainder of the transmitters, two failures were attributed to transmitter failure, and the fate of the other three was not known. The tracking yielded 64 bird days of data (13% from adults and 87% from young birds) and 161 tracking points. Tracking data indicated that individual birds moved over an area of heath at least several hectares in extent. Bird number 210 used an area of approximately 40 ha in total extent. Several young birds moved up to three kilometers from their capture point. Ground parrots become active between 60 minutes and 45 minutes before sunrise. There may be some calling and a flight to the area where the bird will forage during the day. A flight was recorded on 77% of the mornings with a mean distance of approximately 750 metres. On some occasions, this flight was made in two sections. Early to late morning was apparently spent in active foraging. Data collected in the mornings showed that birds walked about 25 metres per hour during this period. From late morning until late afternoon the birds tended to seek the shade of dense shrubs where they were apparently resting. On four occasions Ground Parrots were flushed from these positions. Radio-tracking data collected between 1030 and 1600 hours showed movements of only 12 metres per hour. In the late afternoon activity increased and the birds walked an average of 27 metres per hour. Radio-tracking of young birds showed them to fly on 77% of evenings with an average distance of 420 meters. One young bird consistently roosted 200 metres from its foraging area, but the one adult for which sufficient information was collected did not fly on any of the four evenings it was tracked. Two birds roosted in a similar area each night but the data were too limited on other birds to assess whether this was a regular occurrence. There were several records of two birds roosting together, one record of three, and two records of at least four birds. No birds were recorded moving or calling between one hour after sunset to one hour before sunrise. Four Ground parrots were known to have moved away from the main study area during the course of the study. The maximum distance moved by each of these birds from the capture point was 2.9 km, 2.9 km, 2.3 km and 1.8 km. ‌................


The new postcard is now available!

The card, by Wendy Binks, measures 210 by 100 mm (a little larger than shown here) and fits easily into a standard long envelope. The back is attractive also with some text about the bird, a location map, an image of two tail feathers, as well as space for stamp, message and address. Also included is the following promise: ‘ All proceeds from the sale of this card will go to the Friends of the Western Ground Parrot, who are working in close association with Western Australia’s state government conservation agency, (CALM) on a recovery project.’ Wendy has made a very generous gift to help give the WGP a fighting chance of survival. The postcards are available at her shop ‘Stunned Emu Designs’ in the Fremantle Markets. They are 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. These are folded cards with an envelope, and cost $1 each. If they 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. To purchase cards, contact Anne or Brenda.

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 December. 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.


October 2005 #16