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. 33
Help us raise awareness about the Western Ground Parrot As in previous years the Department of the Environment and Conservation (DEC) has invited the Friends of the Western Ground Parrot to take part in their display at the Albany Agricultural Show's “Mountains to Coast” marquee. This gives us an opportunity to introduce our elusive parrot to the general public who may not be aware of its existence. The Albany Show takes place on the 7th and 8th of November. Show time is from 9am to 9pm on Friday and 9am to 5pm on Saturday. We need volunteers to help man the display and answer questions from show visitors. It is expected that as in previous years a free show entry pass will be made available to volunteers. If you are able to help out for a few hours, please get in touch with Anne (PH: 9844 1793 or e-mail: email@example.com)
Successful capture, but the story has a sad ending by Abby Berryman
In mid-August we set off for Cape Arid with grand plans to capture and radio-track Western Ground Parrots and to hopefully locate the first nest in nearly 100 years. The first few days were spent listening at sites where we had heard lots of calls during our Poison Creek trip in May. One site in particular seemed very interesting –from the first night we were hearing scree calls. These are begging calls that the female makes during the breeding season when her mate feeds her. After a few nights we had narrowed down our target area and on the evening of the 18th August we set up nets for the first time. We sat quietly along the line of nets waiting for that moment when it is just about dark and the ground parrots take to flight. Right on cue, and just metres from where I was sitting, a ground parrot flew low and fast, straight into the net. With a minimum of fuss he was taken out of the net and so began the process of weighing, measuring and attaching a small radio-transmitter underneath his tail.
Abby Berryman with “Ramsey”
The following morning Ramsey (as he was named by Jeff) was released at the same site and after a few minutes of sitting in the box, contemplating the open door, he flew about 30m and disappeared from sight. From then on, we rarely saw him, even though we knew from the radio-tracking that we were often within about 50m of him. It is quite remarkable how ground parrots manage to blend in so well with their surroundings. We maintained a constant presence in that area during the day, following Ramsey’s movements from dawn until dusk. It rapidly became clear that he was quite set in his ways – he would roost overnight in the older, denser vegetation on the western side of the road, meet up with his mate at first light (as indicated by scree calls), then fly across the road to feed on the younger vegetation all day. Occasionally he would make a quick trip across the road, presumably to meet up with his mate to feed her. Studies of the Eastern Ground Parrot have shown that while a female is incubating eggs, the male provides her with food, and this seemed to be what we were observing with our pair. In the evening, Ramsey would remain out in the feeding area until it was nearly dark and then fly back across the road to meet his mate (a distance of up to 700m). Often the scree calls began a few minutes before Ramsey started his flight home and by the time he arrived they sounded very insistent! All continued smoothly for 2 weeks, then some changes in behaviour were noticed. Ramsey began spending more time on the western side of the road, not far from the roosting and nesting area, and did not seem to be meeting up with his mate in the morning and evening. Everything had indicated that our ground parrot pair were nesting but now it seemed that something had gone wrong with that nesting attempt.
We continued to radio-track Ramsey and a few days later became concerned that he wasn’t moving. On the 7th September we went in to investigate and came across the very sad sight of the remains of our beautiful bird – now just a scattering of feathers, a tail and one wing. It seems that he had been sitting on top of a Dryandra bush, feeding on seed – an easy target for a predator. Because there was so little remaining of Ramsey, it is difficult to identify the culprit. It is hoped that in true forensic science style we will be able to identify the predator using DNA analysis.
What was left of “Ramsey” after an attack by an unidentified predator
While Ramsey’s death was completely unexpected and quite devastating, it provides compelling evidence that predation may be a major factor driving the decline of this species. Hopefully the predator can be identified and if it is a cat or fox, then action can be taken to reduce the risk of this happening again. Over the weeks that we radio-tracked Ramsey, he taught us a lot about feeding and breeding behaviour of the Western Ground Parrot. We have since searched the area where we think the nest was located but failed to find a nest. It’s a little like looking for a needle in a hay stack and if, as we suspect, there are no longer any eggs or chicks in the nest, it would be very easy to overlook. Finally, a huge thank you to volunteers Arthur Ferguson, John Tucker, Saul Cowen, Luke Barrett and Jim Creighton for all their help with captures and radio-tracking.
The DEC’s Western Ground Parrot Recovery Project is funded through the South Coast Natural Resource Management Inc., the regional group for NRM on the South Coast of Western Australia. Funding provided by the Australian and Western Australian Governments through the joint National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality
Volunteer opportunities From August until October we will be based at Cape Arid attempting to capture and radio-track some Western Ground Parrots. All food is provided as well as assistance with travel expenses. Camping gear is also available. If you would like to assist with this work please contact Abby Berryman on 0429 842 451.
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 newsupdate is due in November 2008.
Contacts for Friends of the Western Ground Parrot Anne Bondin - Phone (08) 9844 1793 or E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Brenda Newbey - Phone (08) 9337 5673 or E-mail: email@example.com Address: c/- Birds Australia Western Australia, Peregrine House, 167 Perry Lakes Drive, Floreat. WA 6014