Scientists call on public to help save swift parrot

By AG Staff October 18, 2017
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The aim of the crowdfunding campaign, ‘Operation PKO’ is to build a hundred nesting boxes fitted with a mechanical door that will keep out the birds main predator, the sugar glider.

SCIENTISTS FROM the Australian National University, including Dejan Stojanovic—the fun-loving face behind the swift parrot Twitter account— have called on the public to help fund the construction of nesting boxes in locations across Tasmania, where several swift parrots are expected to flock after their annual migration to begin breeding.

The crowdfunding campaign is titled ‘Operation Possum Keeper Outter’ or ‘Operation’ PKO after the mechanical door feature of the nesting boxes which allows the critically endangered parrot (Lathamus discolour) to go about their business in the day, while keeping out sugar gliders, the birds main predator, at night.  

Those behind the crowdfunding campaign are positive that the PKO’s will make a big difference based on a preliminary roll out last year.

“We trialled PKOs on swift parrots last year to check if the birds are disturbed by the PKO, and we were thrilled to find they didn’t mind the machinery at all. Based on those results, we’re ready to mobilise PKOs across danger-zones for swift parrots on the Tasmanian mainland,” the crowdfunding page reads.

Since the campaigns launch this morning, the campaign has raised $1,475 but is hoping to raise enough to construct 100 nest boxes with a PKO. And the scientists behind the campaign say it’s a matter of urgency.

“We’re very concerned that parrots will be eaten by sugar gliders this year. Birds have already begun to arrive in nesting areas where sugar gliders occur, and are busily looking for nests – it’s a matter of a week or two before birds begin to nest.”

Dejan echoed this urgency. “If we don’t act immediately, the expected mortality rates in unprotected nest boxes could erase the gains we made last year when swift parrots nested on a predator free island,” he said.

The threat of sugar gliders

Dejan says gliders have been known to take out entire nesting populations of the parrot, eating eggs, hatchlings, and even adult mothers.

“Swifties and gliders actually share a lot of the same habitat requirements. They both nest in tree hollows, they both feed on nectar, and they both like old-growth habitat,” he explains.

Although sugar gliders are native to the Australian mainland, it’s believed they were introduced to Tasmania about 200 years ago. In terms of management, this presents a unique challenge

To donate to the crowdfunding campaign click HERE.