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Newsupdate no. 58 – March 2013 Funding for the Recovery Project runs out – again! Most of you would be aware that the Western Ground Parrot Recovery Project is only funded until the end of the financial year. To date secure funding is only available for the current cat baiting trials. No funds have been set aside to commence a Captive Breeding Project! We have raised our concerns about the lack of secure funding with both the Premier and the Minister for Environment and Water. Following the election announcement, the government assumed a “caretaker role” and has yet to reply to our plea to continue to make available funds for the recovery project. However, we have received a letter from the Department of Environment and Conservation's Acting Director General assuring us that his department remains committed to the conservation of the Western Ground Parrot. We intend to find out from the Minister if this commitment to the conservation of the Western Ground Parrot will indeed result in a funding pledge which will allow a dedicated Captive Breeding Program to be set up. Our organisation is in the process of approaching Australia's largest companies for their support to get this project off the ground. We would like to think Australians are generous enough to make a commitment, so one of our country's rarest birds can be brought back from the brink of extinction.

Brutus, one of the captive birds. Photo by Alan Danks

In this Issue  Committee activities  Captive management update  Cat-baiting  Western Ground Parrot Crossword  Why captive breeding and why now  ……and more 1

Our committee has been busy....... Western Ground Parrot surveys Two survey trips are planned for this autumn, one to Cape Arid National Park from 7 - 12 April and one to Fitzgerald River National Park from 13 - 17 May. We are pleased to report that we have sufficient volunteers for both trips. Evening surveys in the Waychinicup area are still ongoing. As previously, the surveys are supported by the 2012 Environmental Community Grant we received from the Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC). DEC were kind enough to extend the grant deadline so it will be possible to carry out additional surveys in spring.

Publicity We received an invitation to talk about the Western Ground Parrot on the Saturday Breakfast Show on ABC Perth. Sarah Comer (DEC/FWGP) and Anne Bondin (FWGP) happily accepted and spoke to hosts Sabrina Hahn and James Lush on 2 February. ABC South Coast was also keen to talk about birds last month and presenter John Cecil invited Anne Bondin to speak about the local birdlife. Listeners in the Albany region should now be familiar with the call of the Western Ground Parrot. The West Australian travel section has agreed to publish an article containing information about the Western Ground Parrot, written by committee member Georgina Steytler. The travel article will focus on the Fitzgerald River and Cape Arid National Parks and highlight the plight of the WGP in these biodiversity hotspots. Ongerup's Yongergnow Community Resource Centre currently has a “FLIGHT!” exhibition which showcases birds in art, craft and photography. One entry is an image on canvas of a Western Ground Parrot. Alan Danks provided the fabulous photo of Brutus, one of the captive birds, which was printed free of charge by Nick Castle's “Canvas Photos Direct”. The print will sold by silent auction to be concluded at the end of the exhibition. Eighty percent of proceeds will go to FWGP (See page 6 for details about the Ongerup ‘FLIGHT!’ exhibition, how to enter the silent auction, and how to contact Canvas Photos Direct.) The use of social media has also been successful in getting the word out about the Western Ground Parrot. On our Facebook page more than five thousand people have looked at recent images of Brutus, which were kindly supplied to us by Alan Danks and Abby Berryman/DEC. People from as far north as Sweden to as far south as Argentina have taken an interest. What has been most surprising, however, is the fact that Venezuelans outnumber Australians as far as the “Likes” are concerned. So, if you're on Facebook, visit our page and like us. Surely, we can catch up with those Venezuelans! Chris Creighton of Condingup Vineyards has been very busy selling our products and promoting the cause at the Esperance markets. Thankyou Chris.

Lobbying As outlined on page 1, our Committee has been extremely busy in lobbying government and opposition in funding for a Captive Breeding and Release Program (CBRP). The preparation of letters, together with supporting data for financial assistance or donations of materials to “iconic” West Australian companies to assist in the program, has been very time consuming. We would like to thank everyone who has taken the time to write to the Minister to express their concerns about the lack of funding for the recovery project beyond the end of this financial year. Contributed by Dave Taylor (Chairman) and Anne Bondin (Secretary/Treasurer).

Image of the canvas print depicting Brutus that will be sold by silent auction at the end of April at the Ongerup “Flight !” exhibition. See how to enter a bid on page 6.


Why we need to start captive breeding now A recovery program involving breeding birds in captivity prior to releasing them into the wild can not be accomplished in a short time. This type of conservation work is never straightforward and procedures must be matched with the ecology of the species. The two examples below are oversimplified but do give an indication of just how long managed recovery can take. In each example there has been some form of captive breeding as only one of several measures combining to build up the numbers of birds in the wild. The Black Stilt, a New Zealand endemic wader, was estimated in 1950 to number about 50. It wasn’t until the 1970s that work began to save the species. Besides low numbers there were problems of predators, hybridization, habitat change by feral plants and each of these problems is being dealt with separately. A survey in 1981 located only 23 birds in the wild. Captive breeding began in 1979. Recovery is now, over thirty years later, slowly occurring. In 2010 there were 85 adult birds in the wild, and 13 in captivity. It became clear in the 1960s that the Puerto Rican Parrot, once a common endemic of the island of Puerto Rico in the Caribbean, was in sharp decline, attributed mostly to clearing, hurricanes, and predation. The recovery program in which captive breeding was a major strategy, began in 1972, over forty years ago. It was not until 1979 that the first chick was raised. A survey in 1975 had found only thirteen birds in the wild which was the all-time low point. Now there are two captive breeding centres and in 2011 each centre produced about 40 chicks. There are about 90 birds in the wild, in two populations, and there is a plan to start a third population. Some of the wild birds are captive bred, and some are offspring of captive bred birds that are now

wild. Release techniques have gradually become more sophisticated, so in recent years there has been more success with releasing captive bred juvenile Puerto Rican Parrots into the wild. In January this year three of these rare parrots were found flying with a flock of feral parrots, a surprise to the recovery team. At least one of them was a captive bred bird. . Some recovery programs use egg manipulation rather than captive breeding to achieve the goal of safely bringing more young birds into the wild population. This is possible when the nests can be found fairly easily, and the birds concerned can tolerate some human intervention. It involves actions such as removing eggs from a nest so as to encourage the bird to lay more and replacing infertile eggs with good ones. Some New Zealand species that are on the increase now, due in part to egg manipulation, are the Kakapo, the Chatham Islands Black Robin and the Okarito Brown Kiwi. The Western Ground Parrot wild population of little over 100 birds is very vulnerable to further losses by fire or predators. With or without further catastrophe, if recovery is to occur, there need to be more birds to build a population resilience; more than have been produced in the wild over the past several years, as the population has continued to decline. Recent efforts to decrease predation and better manage the fire threat should slow the decline, but this slow-down has not yet been detected. Western Ground Parrot nests can not be found and so captive breeding is the only way to manage breeding of the species with safety from predators and fire. Considerable time will be needed to learn to optimize captive breeding and to determine how to best succeed with release of captive bred birds. Brenda Newbey 2013

Captive management project update Abby Berryman – Conservation Officer (Captive Management) On 1 January 2013 one of the captive birds (Fly 10M01) was found dead in his aviary. An autopsy was conducted promptly to try to establish the cause of death, which is critical to make any changes that might be necessary for the welfare of the other captives. The initial finding of the autopsy was that death was most likely caused by head trauma, with wounds to both the front and rear of the head, and bleeding within the skull. The head trauma most probably occurred when Fly was startled and flushed, colliding with the side of the aviary. The exact time that the injury occurred, and the source of the disturbance were unable to be established . On a positive note the autopsy otherwise revealed the bird to be in good condition, with the only abnormality being a pale unidentified object in the right lung. Histopathology results identified the object as a collection of pus associated with the fungus Aspergillus, with similar material being found in other parts of the airways. It is unclear whether the head trauma or aspergillosis was the cause of death, as both were severe enough to have been fatal. Aspergillus is a fungus that naturally occurs in the environment. Usually a healthy bird should be able to tolerate a certain load of Aspergillus, but stress, injury or illmess may result in it being more prone to developing aspergillosis. The best way of limiting the incidence of aspergillosis is to keep stress to a minimum and to reduce the amount of Aspergillus spores present in the environment. As a result of these findings a more rigorous cleaning regime to remove droppings within the ground parrot aviaries will be established, however this will be carefully balanced against the risk of causing undue stress to the birds.


Above: A cat is fitted with a GPS collar Left: Dr Dave Elgar (centre) shows graduate recruit Deanna Rasmussen and PhD student Tim Doherty how to set a trap for cats. Photos supplied by Sarah Comer

Cat baiting Trials On the 14th January a team of 8 staff from the Department of Environment and Conservation (including 2 staff from Science Division) and a volunteer PhD student travelled to Cape Arid National Park to undertake monitoring associated with the the third year of ERADICAT bait trials. The team was assisted by Esperance staff . Six feral cats were caught and collared over a 2 week period. Global Positioning System (GPS) collars were placed on the cats prior to their release and these will give us vital information on the efficacy of baiting, and also on the movement of cats which can then assist us in the way baits are distributed throughout the park. We are also using remote cameras to support the baiting trials, and during this trip we put out 70 remote field cameras on a grid system in ground parrot habitat in the east of the Park. Images collected from these cameras will give us information on the number of trap points that have picked up feral cats and allow for some robust modeling of changes in occupancy pre and post baiting. In addition the images will also provide some insight into relative abundance of other introduced predators (eg foxes) and native species. The cameras are run for 2 weeks pre bait aerial drop and then run again for 2 weeks post bait aerial drop. Baiting has not yet been carried out in the park so we have only collected data from the pre bait drop. In this collection of images we found 14 cameras that had taken images of feral cats, but we need to conduct further analysis of the pictures to try to determine actual numbers of individuals. We also had significant numbers of native fauna detected on camera including quenda and brush-wallaby. While the cameras were being put out we also took the opportunity to place a number of ARUs in habitat that has previoulsy not been surveyed for Western Ground Parrots. These were situated through approximately 26,000 ha of habitat, and we hope that analysis may find a few more birds. This is a big job, and will be completed over the next few months. As soon as there is a window of good weather the ERADICAT baits will be dropped, and the team will head out to find the collars and reset cameras for the post-bait monitoring. We look forward to reporting on the outcomes in the next newsletter. Louisa Bell



6. 7. 9. 10. 11. 12. 15. 16.


Down 1. 2.

WGP habitat is remote …………. . Most campers are having … at the time WGPs begin to call in the evenings. 3. Name given to the WGP that allowed himself to be photographed in the wild. 4. External part of a WGParrot that differs between male and female. 5. Surname of the first scientist to study the WGP full time. 7. A word used to describe the WGP in its natural habitat. 8. Used for feeding and weighing a captive WGParrot. 13. It has been thought that the WGP is of the same … as the Night Parrot. 14. Direction of Esperance from Perth (abbreviated). 19. The spiny …. Bush has semi-succulent ‘leaves’ that WGPs sometimes feed on. 20. Amount of money needed to commence a captive breeding programme (two words). 21. Where the WGP lives, the plant diversity is rich but the …. is poor.

Special Anniversary (and some crossword help) Just a reminder that this year is the 100th since an active Western Ground Parrot (WGP) nest was found in the wild. I for one thought it was certain that another nest would be found by now, but with the diminishing number of birds and no current full time research on the wild birds in their natural habitat, this hasn’t happened. The nest finder all those years ago was ornithologist F. Lawson Whitlock who was seeking eggs to add to the collection of pastoralist Mr H. L. White whose comprehensive egg and skin collection was donated to the National Museum, Melbourne. Several naturalists and scientists have tried to find WGP nests over the years and especially in the 1980s, but with no success. The first scientist to work full time on the WGP was Brent Barrett, from late 2003. It was Brent who with his team captured images of Charlie the WGP that became accustomed to the researchers and allowed them to observe and film him. This footage added immensely to knowledge of how WGPs behave in their natural habitat. Many excellent images that can be

18. 23.

Surname of the man who was first and last to find a Western Ground Parrot (WGP) nest in WA – in 1912 and 1913. A period of time. An enemy of the WG P. Type of parrot often mistaken for a WGP. It is not possible to count … wild WGPs. FWGP members are required to … a membership fee annually. Often seen during a morning listening session. Used to catch wild birds. Its lifestyle and its camouflage make it difficult to … a WGP in the wild. It is essential to … some WGP habitat become old. An item of WGP survey equipment Favoured habitat of the WGP (two words).

You won’t need the crossword solution but it will be in our next issue. used for publicity were secured. Both Brent and Mike tried diligently but unsuccessfully to find an active WGP nest. However, Brent discovered one reason why it has been so difficult to find nests: when a pair has a nest and the female is sitting on eggs, the male does not feed her at the nest but they meet elsewhere, not always at the same location. One such meeting was eventually filmed. Abby Berryman succeeded Mike but when she became responsible for the captive management of WGPs, there was no appointment of a field scientist to continue research of WGPs in the wild, though other programmes that should help the WGP recovery such as cat control trials and improving fire management of WGP habitat, were continued . Each field scientist was always assisted by at least one technical officer and volunteers were frequently involved. Now, with the birds critically endangered, it is preferable not to undertake any activity which might disturb nesting and unless the numbers build up again, it appears that Mr Whitlock’s record of first (1912) and last nest (1913) will stand for many more years and perhaps forever. Brenda Newbey


Ongerup ‘FLIGHT!’ Exhibition (as mentioned on page 2) There is still time to see it. Dates: 1 March to April 30 Location: Yongergnow Mallee-fowl Centre, Jaekel Street, Ongerup. Opening hours: Mon, Wed, Thu 9am to 4pm, Sat, Sun 10am to 4pm Phone: 08 9828 2325 Email Web

More details about the exhibition including the catalogue may be found on this link.

To enter the silent auction for the Western Ground Parrot canvas print (see page 2): Phone Vicki Bilney during the opening hours of the exhibition (08 9828 2325). Vicki advises that the auction has reached close to $150 (at the time of publication). To order a canvas print: Contact Nick Castle of Canvas Photos Direct Mob. 412 644 557 Email:

Western Ground Parrot: Artwork by Simon Wilson who is a computer artist. He uses a computer mouse to produce his artworks.

Please donate to the Western Ground Parrot Rescue Fund: Online: Direct credit: Western Ground Parrot Rescue Fund BSB: 036-168 A/C: 317989 Cheque: Western Ground Parrot Rescue Fund Donations of $2 or more are tax deductible.

Contacts: David Taylor (Chair). Phone 0458502836

Anne Bondin (Secretary/Treasurer). Phone (08) 9844 1793

Address: PO Box 5613, Albany, WA 6332


Website: Archive: Previous issues of our newsletter are available online at

Editor: Stephen Fryc Email:

Next issue: June 2013


Friends of the Western Ground Parrot March 2013  

This is a quarterly newsletter for the Friends of the Western Ground Parrot. This is the March 2013 edition. The Western Ground Parrot is cr...

Friends of the Western Ground Parrot March 2013  

This is a quarterly newsletter for the Friends of the Western Ground Parrot. This is the March 2013 edition. The Western Ground Parrot is cr...