Western Ground Parrot (Kyloring)
This elusive parrot is struggling for survival, as disastrous wildfires threaten its already limited habitat.
THE WESTERN GROUND PARROT is medium-sized and grows between 135-145mm in length. Rich green in colour with a red band above the beak, the species has spots of black and yellow and a long, narrow tail. The western ground parrot is one of three subspecies of ground parrot, although the discovery of significant morphological and behavioural differences has sparked discussion as to whether the western ground parrot should indeed be classed as a separate species.
Originally occupying coastal areas from Cape Arid to Dongara, the species is now limited to the Fitzgerald and Cape Arid National parks. Exact population numbers are unknown; numbers were estimated at around 140 wild individuals last year, however recent fires in the area are likely to have caused devastation to population numbers.
There is still much to be discovered about the lifecycle and breeding habits of the species. The bird spends the majority of its life on the ground, and eats flowers, fruits and seeds. Breeding seems to occur between July and October. Capable of flying long distances, the bird flies to foraging areas either after sunset or before sunrise. Its call can also be heard around this time.
Threats to the western ground parrot
Habitat destruction is thought to be a major cause for the species’ decline. Land clearing for agriculture has rendered much of the birds’ original range uninhabitable, and the species’ fragmented distribution leaves it at a particular risk of predation by introduced animals and wildfires.
Frequent wildfires have a long-lasting impact on the species. Although the immediate effects of fires are severe enough, the species’ preference for vegetation that is at least five years old means that changing fire regimes can be detrimental to the species’ already limited habitat. The catastrophic Esperance fires in November 2015 were thought to have affected 90% of the species’ area.
Recovery plans for the western ground parrot
The Western Australian Department of Environment and Conservation has developed a recovery bird for the species, which is managed by the South Coast Birds Recovery Team. A ten year initiative, the South Coast Threatened Birds Recovery Plan 2009- 2018 has identified numerous actions that will assist in the species survival. Some of the steps outlined in the plan include: seeking necessary funding, regularly surveying relevant areas for potentially undiscovered sub-populations, continuing to involve the community in recovery activities, developing a translocation project, and increasing knowledge on the habitat and dietary requirements of the species.
Captive breeding programs for the species have been introduced through Perth Zoo, with five birds currently in care. Two additional birds were brought in just days before the 2015 Esperance fires, however both developed respiratory illnesses and unfortunately did not survive. Additionally, local non-profit organisation, Friends of the Western Ground Profit, is also dedicated to ensuring the survival of the species. The organisation promotes community awareness for the bird and also lobbies for government support.
Australian Conservation Status (EPBC Act)
The western ground parrot is limited to only two sites; Fitzgerald National Park and Cape Arid National Park on the South Coast of Western Australia.
Western ground parrot, Kyloring, ground parrot (western), swamp parrot
The species dwells in thick vegetation which is usually between 0.5-1m in height and receives between 400-600mm of rainfall. Its typical habitat consists of a range of dry, near-coastal flora, and vegetation which hasn’t been burnt for at least five years.
Species wallicus flaviventris