Saturday, August 10, 2013

Finding Western Ground Parrot nests

Whitlock, F. L. (1914). Notes on the Spotless Crake and Western Ground Parrot. Emu 13, 202-205.

This article is the original account of finding two Western Ground Parrot (WGP) nests in the wild back in 1912 and 1913, a feat not repeated since.

The location of these nests was in winter wet flats at Wilson’s Inlet near Denmark, Western Australia. Mr Whitlock found WGPs to be quite uncommon.

Only that part of the article that relates to WGPs is reproduced below.

Notes on the Spotless Crake and Western Ground Parrot.


Mr. A. J. North has separated the Western Ground-Parrot from
the Eastern form, under the name Pezoporus flaviventris. Inform-
ation as to the character of the nest and eggs of the Western
form became, therefore, desirable. I found it a very difficult
bird to study, and the task of finding its nest and eggs
trying in the extreme to one’s patience. 

It is absolutely the most silent and unobtrusive bird I have yet encountered
in Western Australia. Occasionally one may unexpectedly
flush an individual in some more or less frequented spot;
but as a rule to find these birds one must go to the un-
disturbed flats and systematically tramp through all the closely-
growing vegetation, and, if in luck, an odd bird, or at times even
a pair, may be flushed, with a startling suddenness, into a flight
of 40 or 50 yards, when they drop into the herbage again just
as suddenly as they rose. I have never seen this species fly at
a greater height than 8 or 9 feet. The flight is slightly undulatory,
but very different to that of ordinary Parrots, the wings being
very rapidly beaten at intervals, with periods of gliding flight
more like that of a Quail between, the tips of the wings being
pointed downwards like those of the latter bird. It never flies
any great distance, and when about to alight appears to fall
headlong to the ground. Usually it can be flushed again if
followed immediately, as it does not appear to run along after
alighting. Once or twice I have been able to watch a bird at
close quarters. Despite its long legs, it does not appear very
active on the ground, but it certainly moves with more grace and
greater ease than the average Parrot, the awkward, waddling gait
of the latter being quite absent.

The early settlers in this district tell me this species is not so
frequently seen as formerly. Common, in the true sense of the
term, I can hardly believe it ever Was, and, with the numbers of
large lizards haunting the flats, the wonder is it has not been
exterminated years ago. Mr. James Knapp, who was born in
this district over fifty years ago, states that as a boy he has more
than once marked a bird down, and by carefully crawling on
hands and knees has knocked it over with a stick. He attributes
the diminishing numbers of these beautiful Parrots to Quail-
shooters; but there are many square miles of flats as absolutely
undisturbed now as they were fifty years ago. Bush-fires are
probably more frequent now than formerly, and in dry seasons
there may be some destruction of young not yet strong enough on
the wing to escape.

In the spring of I912 I spent many tiring hours tramping the
flats on behalf of Mr. H. L. White, of Belltrees, N.S.W., in quest
of the eggs of this species. Though I not infrequently flushed the
birds, it was not until after weeks of plodding search that I dis-'
covered a nest containing two young birds a few days old. This
was on 20th October. The nesting-site was on a low but dry
ridge, thickly clothed with herbage, amongst which a few small,
rounded, prickly bushes were groWing—probably a species of
dwarf Hakea. A slight hollow had been scratched out by the
parents and scantily lined With dry grasses. The young birds
uttered feeble and querulous cries when handled. Their bodies
were clothed with a neutral-tinted down, with beak, legs, and
feet lead~coloured. I photographed them as they lay in the nest.
I saw absolutely nothing of the parents, nor could I flush them
near at hand.

The present season I found a nest of the previous year, with
remains of the hatched eggs, and was also fortunate, after a long
and weary search, in securing three fine and freshly-laid eggs
from a nest sheltered, as before, by a prickly ( (?) Hakea) bush.
This was on 20th November-just a month later than the previous
season. I flushed the female from this nest at a distance of about
IO feet away, and, though I made several attempts to see her
sitting on her eggs, I was unsuccessful in this respect. The eggs
were well sheltered by the overhanging bush, and the nest was
very neatly lined with fine dead grasses, the latter being arranged
in a true circular manner. When flushed the female flew a short
distance away, and uttered no sound. I saw nothing of the
male. As far as I can judge, he spends the day at some distance
from the nest, lying concealed in low, thick scrub, from which he
will not emerge until nearly trodden upon.

In searching for a nest of this species I may state that I
examined no less than nine nests of the Emu-Wren (Stipiturus
wessternensis)—all this season’s. It is a curious fact that such
a small and feeble-flying species as the Emu-Wren can hold its own
when larger species like the Noisy Scrub-Bird (Atrichia clamosa)
and the Western Bristle-Bird (Sphenura longirostris) are, in this
coastal district, verging upon, if not quite, extinct.

The eggs from this nest were described by Mr. H. L. White in
The Emu, ]anuary, 1914. They now form part of his fine

Nesting Site of Western Ground-Parrot (Pezoporus flaviventris)
From a photo by F.L. Whitlock

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