Sunday, October 27, 2013

Western Ground Parrots at Audley End House

A few years ago, Simon Nevill who is very knowledgeable about Australian birds, visited Audley End Museum and to his surprise saw three mounted Ground Parrots.

Audley End House, Essex, England, is a palace in all but name. The collections there include many birds from Australia.

Simon brought back a copy of some documentation about the consignment that included the Ground Parrots. It was sent from “Freemantle Swan River” on the Unicorn. The accompanying list and letter is dated 10 December 1845. (Note that the British Swan River colony was only established in 1829.) All of the specimens were from Western Australia, so the Ground Parrots are definitely Western Ground Parrots.

The recipient was Richard Cornwallis Neville, 4th Lord Braybrooke, an avid collector of natural history and archeology, whose home was Audley End House.

We have not been able to determine who the sender was, but he describes occupying himself during a period of sickness when he was unable to read, with making a large collection of fauna from different parts of Western Australia and skinning, preserving and stuffing them.

The collection sent to Lord Braybrooke was indeed large comprising at least 95 birds including an Emu, at least 19 quadrupeds including Rock Wallabies, a dingo and a pair of Dalgytes (Bilbies), and 6 reptiles.

A little of the handwritten text is reproduced below. The Ground Parrots are most likely numbers 8 and 9 although the native name there is that which appears in Serventy and Whittell (1967) Birds of Western Australia for the Elegant Parrot which is at number 12 on the list. Below the handwritten text is much of the accompanying letter, transcribed by the museum. The photo of Audley End House is from Wikipedia.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Nest with Ground Parrot feathers

The photo is by Ray Garstone. It was taken in Cape Arid National Park in the 1970s and was a confirmation that Western Ground Parrots were in the area. The nest belongs to a Tawny-crowned Honeyeater, a species that is common in most locations where Western Ground Parrots have been found. Tawny-crowned Honeyeaters nest close to the ground in a small shrub.

Subsequently, searching for evidence of Ground Parrot presence included examination of nests of these honeyeaters and also of the Rufous Fieldwren, another species common in parts of the Western Ground Parrot habitat.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Friday, October 4, 2013

Green Ground Parrot

The pages above are from the first book devoted exclusively to parrots in captivity.  

Greene, W.T. (1883). Parrots in Captivity. London: George Bell and Sons. The book has been digitized by the National Library of Australia.

At that time, Australia was a geographical rather than a political label and did not include the island of Tasmania. The New Zealand version is the Kakapo which has now been classified into a separate genus. Australian Ground Parrots are now known to be neither insectivorous nor eaters of tubers.

The illustrations are chromoxylographs - wood-engraved plates, colour printed and hand finished, by Benjamin Fawcett. The original drawings were by A.F. Lyndon.

The last paragraph (below) in the section on the Green Ground Parrot expresses a sentiment that seems a little strange nowadays or perhaps it is just the way it is put.