Eagle-eyes needed to spot rare regent parrots

By Sylvia Varnham O’Regan 21 April 2012
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The call is out for bird spotters to ID the habitats of endangered regent parrots in Australia’s southern and eastern states.

THE REGENT PARROT – sometimes called the ‘rock pebbler,’ ‘black-tailed parakeet’ or ‘smoker’ – is well-known for being a bit of a chatterbox. But the bright-yellow and olive-green birds, local to Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia, are becoming known for something far more concerning – their declining population.

Help is on the way, though, in the form of a national recovery plan recently launched by the Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE).

Victor Hurley, DSE biodiversity officer and co-author of the plan, estimates there are 1500 breeding pairs in the wild, but says one of their first priorities is to find out just how many regent parrots are out there. “We are interested in knowing of any new breeding colonies,” he says.

One of only 1500 breeding pairs of regent parrot flash with bird-watcher’s gold. (Credit: Chris Field)

The call is out for bird spotters

Victorians are being called on to report sightings of the parrots’ breeding locations, commonly found inside deep hollows in river red gum trees along the Murray, Wakool and Wimmera Rivers.

The recovery plan also addresses threats to the regent parrot’s habitat and encourages people to take precautions if they are near breeding sites.

Steps include limiting boat and 4WD activity near where the birds are breeding, reporting any illegal trapping or shooting and containing camp-fires.

“Fires along the river bends can cause huge problems when people are inattentive to their camp fires, which can and end up taking out sections of the forest with hollow bearing trees,” Victor says.

Parrots hole-up away from danger

In springtime, regent parrots nest inside hollows up to 2m long with small entrances roughly 9cm wide. The unusual shape of these hollows is perfect for guarding against goannas and parasites that live around the water.

Males are often spotted flying into their hollows after long journeys to collect seed, but it’s the parrots’ excitable calls that will let you know they’re around, Victor says. “Most often you can hear them before they fly into view.”

The DSE hopes the recovery plan will ultimately reverse the parrot’s population decline.

The plan has been adopted by the parrots three home states and is registered under the federal Environment Protection of Biodiversity Act.

If you’ve spotted one of the regent parrot’s breeding sites, call the DSE Mildura office on 03 5051 4500.