Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Wongan Hills - Ground Parrots were there

  Wongan Hills farmland.       Photo linked from the Wongan Hills tourist website.

Below is an extract from a paper by Julian Ford, which was published in the South Australian Ornithologist, 1968, Volume 25, pp. 99-105. It discusses the distribution of the Ground Parrot in Western Australia and makes particular mention of the specimens collected in Wongan Hills, which are now in the British Museum as part of the Gould collection.

Wongan Hills is 150 km NE of Perth and a similar distance from the west coast of Western Australia (WA). The Wongan Hills collection is easily the furthest Western Ground Parrot record from the coast in WA. Although most details about the collection are missing, it is feasible that the Ground Parrot population extended that far inland as the sandplain is continuous with the sandplain further west and closer to the coast that was surveyed in part in 2007 (see the three previous postings). The Wongan Hills area which comprised a mix of Salmon Gum woodland, York Gum woodland, mallee, and mallee heathland on the sandplain, was extensively cleared in the early 1900s, and only small patches of native vegetation were left intact, these mostly being around granite rocks and salt lakes. The more coastal country had less woodland and mallee and a higher proportion of heathland on sand. It was cleared for farms in the 1960s but extensive areas were left as bush. 

John Gilbert, a trained taxidermist, was  based in the Swan River colony (Perth, Western Australia)in 1839 and 1840 collecting fauna specimens for John Gould.(Wikepedia). He was in the colony again in 1842/43 and made a trip to the wongan Hills area in the spring of both those years. It is likely that the Ground Parrot chicks were collected by him or a member of his party. Though there is no record of them it is known that some communications from Gilbert to Gould were lost. Ground Parrots may have persisted in the Wongan area into the early 1900s but they would not have survived the intensive clearing.

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