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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. 24

February 2007

This issue offers valuable new information about WGPs as well as opportunities for volunteers in March, April, May and June. Jurien-based search for Western Ground Parrots Survey time 20 to 29 April There have been many searches for the elusive and critically endangered Western Ground Parrot. In 2007, thanks to an anonymous donor, a different locality will be the focus of a search. Although all known Western Ground Parrot locations are on the south coast, east of Albany, this search will be to the north of Perth. The base will be Jurien Bay. Why search there? Old records show that the Western Ground Parrot did extend along the coastal plain northwards from Perth. A collection was made at Wongan Hills and there are old records from Perth, Badgingarra to Jurien Bay, Dongara and Watheroo. Although any population that was in these places was severely depleted as early as 1890, there has never been a thorough search in suitable remnant bushland within this part of the historic range. Although development is occurring in the Hill River area, there is a lot of reserve land bounded by Jurien, Cervantes and Badgingarra. Is there any hope of a positive result? Western Ground Parrots are extremely cryptic and it is possible to overlook them. This difficulty is exacerbated when the population is very small. A record from the Hill River mouth in 2001 was very interesting in that the bird seen seemed more likely to have been a ground parrot than any other species. Although the habitat at that site is not ideal for a Western Ground Parrot to live full time, it is very like places that Eastern Ground Parrots have been known to visit short- term. The project. This search is what could be a last ditch effort to attempt to determine whether ground parrots have persisted in the northern part of their range. Volunteers will be sought and training will be provided. This will include a survey pack which will be sent before the survey. The project will be run in very close co- operation with DEC, Jurien Office. The survey. The first survey period is set for 20 to 29 April, inclusive. It covers two weekends. It is hoped to attract some short- term volunteers who won't be able to come for the full period, as well as some who can stay longer. A second and final (for this project) survey period is yet to be arranged. Evaluation of success. V olunteers are essential for the success of the project. The project will be deemed successful if a significant area of potential habitat for Western Ground Parrots has been identified and mapped in the northern sandplain heathland and a significant subset between Cervantes, Jurien and Badgingarra has been surveyed in good conditions by people adequately trained to detect Western Ground Parrots. (It is hoped to extend the survey beyond this boundary.) Contact: Brenda Newbey, project co-ordinator. 9 337 5673; email: wgparrot@westnet.com.au

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The Western Ground Parrot: Recent Feeding Observations by Mike Barth (from observations, photos, video and notes from Brent Barrett, Francesca Cunninghame & David Chemello) Until recently, very few observations of Western Ground Parrots feeding in the wild have been documented. (see Friends of the Western Ground Parrot Newsupdate – April 2004- Ground Parrots and Food by B. Newbey) We know that ground parrots are primarily seed eaters and may take green vegetation as well. During the recent 2007 breeding season in the Fitzgerald River National Park, we were able to observe one particular bird and its feeding habits on nine separate occasions from 20 September to 28 October for a total of over 16 hours. This bird seemed to become accustomed to our presence in its territory and allowed us to follow along behind while it carried on with normal behaviours such as feeding, preening, resting and sunning. This provided a wealth of information and an insight into the daily life of a Western Ground Parrot. Observations of this bird were recorded with notes, photos and digital video. In addition, plant specimens on which the bird was seen feeding were collected after it finished. All of this has been useful to compile a list of plants which were fed upon during the observations. The bird used a variety of strategies when feeding. The majority of the time it fed from the ground, picking at seed heads and fruits within easy reach. Sometimes the bird would clamber up into small plants to get at food items out of reach from the ground. Often this would bend a stem over until the bird could get at the seed head, flower or fruit. It was also seen to snip stems at beak level then grasp and hold the fallen stem to get at flowers or seeds on the end of the stem. The bird climbed to a maximum height of 45cm but more often was seen 10-20cm above the ground. This allowed access to a larger quantity and diversity of food items. Documented food plants included: Andersonia parvifolia Caustis dioica Cryptandra sp. Daviesia decurrens Daviesia teretifolia Dryandra tenuifolia Goodenia caerulea

Grevillea oligantha Grevillea tripartita Hakea trifurcata Hibbertia lineata Hibbertia recurvifolia Jacksonia intricata Lepidosperma angustatum

Lepidosperma brunonianum Lysinema ciliatum Mesomelaena stygia Neurachne alopecuroidea Pultenaea sp. Restio sphacelatus Synaphea polymorpha

* Plant ID’s by Sarah Barrett

Photos by Brent Barrett

Feeding on Grevillea sp.

Feeding on Mesomelaena sp.

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Attention Volunteers!!! Upcoming Survey Trips: March 3 – 9 South Stirling Ranges NP April 12 – 20 D’Entrecasteaux NP May 22 – 31 Fitzgerald River NP

March 20 – 28 D’Entrecasteaux NP May 1 – 10 Fitzgerald River NP June 12 – 21 Cape Arid NP

We are also conducting Thursday evening listening surveys to Waychinicup NP/Cheyne’s Beach on a routine basis from the DEC Albany office. For information or if you’d like to assist,please contact: Mike Barth – Project Officer ph. (08) 9842 4519, mobile 0429 842 451 or e-mail: michael.barth@dec.wa.gov.au The Western Ground Parrot Recovery Project is funded by SCRIPT (South Coast Regional Initiative Planning Team) through Australian and State Government support of the Natural Heritage Trust.

Sexing Western Ground Parrots on sight

by B. Newbey

Now that more photos have been taken of Western Ground Parrots it has become clear that it would be useful to be able to determine the sex of a bird by examining the photo. An item in the Friends of the Western Ground Parrot newsupdate no.18 indicated that it was likely that the sex of a WGP could be determined by looking at it. This was based on viewing the four WGP skins in the Western Australian Museum as well as measurements of toe-length and beak width of these birds as well as the toe length of the five other specimens in Australian museums. There is a very scant selection of skins available. WA Museum: 2 females, 1 male (headless), 1 unsexed bird Australian Museum (AM): 1 female, 2 males Museum Victoria (MV): 1 female, 1 male (immature). Photos of the AM and MV birds have been provided by the respective curators, Walter Boles and Wayne Longmore. Beak shape It was clear when viewing the WA Museum specimens that there were two distinctly different upper mandible shapes. The two females (and an unsexed bird from Tasmania) having one shape and the unsexed bird the other. By viewing the images of the sexed WGP specimens from the other museums it was possible to confirm that the upper mandibles were consistently of these two shapes and in accordance with the sex of the bird. The unsexed WA bird had the male configuration. o

Males have a broad bridge to the beak. The female's beak has a more narrow and angular bridge to the beak.

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Taking the measurement along the biting edge of the mandible, from the head: in a male the d o w n w a r d c u r v e b e g i n s 2 / 3 o r m o r e of the way along; in a female the d o w n w a r d curve b e g i n s ½ or less o f t h e w a y a l o n g .

S e t t i n g o f e y e s (from photos of live birds) This characteristic can also be determined from most skins. 3


There is a difference in head shape between males and females. Take a profile shot. A straight line passing through both outer and inner corners of the eye (where upper and lower lids meet) will pass above the nostril if the WGP is a male; and below the nostril if it is a female. From the available evidence, these are the most reliable means of determining sex of a WGP by sight. Unlike the subtle plumage differences, these characteristics appear to be discernable at an early stage.

Live birds. These profiles show the two versions of eye-setting. The two beak shapes can also be seen. The bird in Brent Barrett’s photo (a) has very slight, almost imperceptible, shaft streaking on the throat which is another characteristic of a mature male. The bird in the Allan Burbidge photo (b) has the female beak shape and eye-setting.

(a) Photo: Brent Barrett

(b) Photo: Allan Burbidge

WGP Shirts featuring Wendy Binks painting Why not get yourself a perfect Autumn shirt AND promote the little-known WGP!! Colours are pale grey and black.. All shirts are $25 with an extra $5 per shirt to pay if the shirt is to be posted. Polo and Tee style, 100% cotton. Contact Brenda Newbey.

Web pages Birds Australia WA Inc. has a web page for the Western Ground Parrot. Go to their website at www.birdswa.com.au and then access Projects, and Western Ground Parrot. There is another web page maintained by the Albany Bird Group: www.albanygateway.com.au/Topic/Environment/Albany_Bird_Watching_Group/Endangered_Birds/ The next issue of the WGP Friends newsupdate is due in April 2007. Feedback is welcome. Contacts for Friends of the Western Ground Parrot

Anne Bondin. Phone (08) 9844 1793; E-mail: albanybirds@hotmail.com Brenda Newbey. Phone (08) 9337 5673; E-mail: wgparrot@westnet.com.au Address: Albany Environment Centre, PO Box 1780, Albany, WA. 6330. (Don’t use this address forshirt orders.)

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