Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Iris colour and age determination

Left is a Western Ground Parrot, a breeding adult male, photographed by Brent Barrett. The iris is a golden colour with a slightly paler inner ring.

Right is an adult Eastern Ground Parrot photographed by Rohan Clarke showing a white iris as described below in (3).

The full series of age-related changes in the iris colour of the Eastern Ground Parrot is shown in Table 4  below. The full series of age-related changes of the iris colour of the Western Ground Parrot has not yet been described. Certainly the adult bird's iris colour differs from that of the Eastern Ground Parrot. 

McFarland was able to make the table as he retrapped birds on many occasions.

The text is copied from McFarland, D.C. (1991). Flush behaviour, catchability and morphometrics of the Ground Parrot in south-eastern Queensland. Corella 15, 143-149.

The photo (centre) by A. and R. Smart, is a Western Ground Parrot (WGP) fatally injured by a vehicle. It is a mature female and has a pale iris. From these and other photos of WGPs it seems likely that the iris of the WGP pales over time, but not as rapidly as that of the Cooloola Queensland Ground Parrots. This bird is now part of the Western Australian Museum collection, no. 27142.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Breeding problem for Ground Parrots

Long-billed Corella      Photo: Wikipedia

David McFarland in his 1989 report (see previous posting) put together a table (below) which compares egg failure in several species of Australian parrot. All the Ground Parrot data refers to Eastern Ground Parrots. There is almost no data available on Western Ground Parrot egg failure.

Note that the egg failure excludes predation and desertion. Although the number of Ground Parrot eggs is separated into three studies, each of the failure percentages is higher than any of the other species listed.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Nests and Nesting

Top photo shows adult bird (male) on a feeding visit to its nest. The domed cavity can faintly be seen.

The lower image is a view of the floor of the nest with three nestlings.

Photos are Eastern Ground Parrots: Norman Chaffer estate copyright Australian Museum.

(These images were not taken as part of the McFarland study.)

The text below is taken from "The Ground Parrot Pezoporus wallicus wallicus (Kerr) in Queensland: Habitat, Biology and Conservation", by Dr David McFarland, April 1989. This report was prepared for the Division of Conservation, Parks and Wildlife; Department of Environment and Conservation, Queensland.

......juveniles were ever heard calling  ('teek' call) in sites burnt within the previous three years."

Note: It is probable that the general pattern of nest-building and nesting is fairly similar for Eastern and Western Ground Parrots. However there will be some differences. For example, work done on Western Ground Parrots (WGPs) in 2006 showed that male birds feed brooding females away from the nest. This has been one of the difficulties which has prevented researchers finding the nests of WGPs.

The plant species listed incompletely in (c) Empodisma minor, Xanthorrhoea fulva, Banksia oblongifolia.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Home Ranges of Eastern Ground Parrots

David McFarland's radio-tracking work on Ground Parrots in Cooloola National Park, South-Eastern Queensland yielded some information about their home range.

Home ranges are very likely to overlap to some extent. Each of the figures below shows the same place. 

At the time of  radio-tracking in each season, between three and five parrots, including the tagged bird were flushed in area A (Figure 2, a). (McFarland, 1991)

There was little overlap in foraging ranges among tracked individuals, and no two tagged birds foraged in the same area on the same day (Figure 2, a-c) (McFarland, 1991)

Figure 19 is taken from McFarland, David, 1989. The Ground Parrot Pezoporus wallicus wallicus (Kerr) in Queensland: Habitat, Biology and Conservation. For Division of Conservation, Parks and Wildlife; Department of Environmet and Conservation, Queensland.

Figure 2 and Table 4 are from McFarland, David. 1991. The biology of the Ground Parrot, Pezoporus wallicus, in Queensland. 1. Microhabitat Use, Activity Cycle and Diet. Wildlife Research, 1991, Volume 18. (p.176 and p.174).

Saturday, October 18, 2014

An Eastern Ground Parrot of Cooloola

There will be at least two more postings on the 1980s work of David McFarland on the Eastern Ground Parrots of Cooloola National Park.  Below is a drawing by David. He donated the use of the drawing to the Friends of the Western Ground Parrot, when the group first formed, in 2003. At that time there was very little illustrative material available.  

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Calling behaviour of Ground Parrots in Queensland

Much new information was discovered during David McFarland's field study of Eastern Ground Parrots at Cooloola, Queensland. The main points regarding calling behaviour:

# Calling rate increased when bird density increased  

# Dusk and dawn calling activity continued throughout the year

# The timing of dusk and dawn calling was significantly tied to specific light intensities

# Duration of calling peaked in winter with a co-incidence of full or almost full moon

# Four different calls were in common use: level, rising, double rising, stutter rising

# Frequency of level calls varied between dawn (less frequent) and dusk (more frequent): other calls did not vary in frequency 

# Frequency of level calls (frequently used while flying) decreased as the fire-free interval increased (more vegetation and presumably less need to fly)

Below is the section on calling behaviour, copied from the April 1989 report to the Division of Conservation, Parks and Wildlife; Department of Environment and Conservation, Queensland. The report is entitled

The Ground Parrot: Pezoporus wallicus wallicus (Kerr) in Queensland: Habitat, Biology and Conservation.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Queensland Ground Parrot study 1989

The extract below is from the summary of a report on three years' work on the Eastern Ground Parrot in subtropical Queensland. The report was 'The Ground Parrot Pezoporus wallicus wallicus (Kerr) in Queensland: habitat, Biology and Conservation'. It was written by Dr David McFarland, dated April 1989, and was prepared for: Division of Conservation, Parks and Wildlife, Department of Environment and Conservation, Queensland. Later, much of this report appeared in the journal, Wildlife Research. 

In South-East Queensland,Eastern Ground Parrots used to occur from Fraser Island to the New South Wales border. By the time this work was under way, they were to be found in only three isolated locations in that State.

As well as his scientific study of the Ground Parrot, David McFarland made a pen and ink drawing of a bird in the wild (see below). It has been coloured by a different hand more recently.

Those familiar with Western Ground Parrots will  note that the relation of fire age and the Ground Parrot is very different in Queensland from in WA where birds prefer long unburnt heathland for nesting. The Queensland heathlands are both wetter and warmer than those in Western Australia so plant growth is faster in Queensland, accelerating the cycle. Both the Eastern Ground Parrots of Queensland and Western Ground Parrots, need high plant diversity in their habitat so Ground Parrot populations in both States suffer if the fires are so frequent as to deplete plant diversity. In the 1980s, when study of the Western Ground Parrot began, numbers were much lower than those at the same time in Queensland.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Food, Eastern Ground Parrot, Victoria

This posting, like the previous two postings, is derived from the 1980 Andrew and Isles report entitled "A study of the ground parrot (Pezoporus wallicus) in Victoria."

These days there would be more stringent controls on the study methods with much more care taken to avoid death of the subjects.

The illustration was taken from "The Atlas of Living Australia". The map shows the distribution of the sedge Leptocarpus tenax, and on the right are some specimens of the species. This plant often grows as a dense almost pure stand. It occurs over most of the range of the Ground Parrot and both in this study and from other observations, has been recorded as a food for Ground Parrots.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Breeding observations Eastern Ground Parrot, Victoria

During the study by Meredith and Isles that was written up in 1980 (full reference in previous posting), 7 nests were found in Croajingalong National Park, Victoria.

Below are extracts from the Meredith and Isles report. The photos were not, as far as we are aware, part of the report and were labelled as EGP Juvenile and EGP Chicks with no acknowledgement so apologies to the photographer/s. They are used here to illustrate the first part of the text.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Looking back and eastwards

Ecological studies of the Ground Parrot have been on a state by state basis as each state in Australia has responsibility for its own wildlife.

Victoria was the first state to undertake a detailed study of the Ground Parrot, well ahead of such work in other states. At that time (1980) the Western Ground Parrot was considered to be a subspecies of the more widespread 'Eastern' Ground Parrot. The Victorian study was of the 'Eastern' Ground Parrot, but of interest to all who wanted to know more about these intriguing parrots.

"A study of the Ground Parrot (Pezoporus wallicus) in Victoria" by C.W. Meredith and A.C. Isles 1980

Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research, Fisheries and Wildlife Division

Publication No. 304 of the Environmental Studies Division of the Ministry of Conservation, Victoria

Several interesting findings were made. This posting is an extract from the report (pages 35 to 37) on Movements (in the geographical sense).

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Vegetation study and survey further afield 1989

Supplementary to the 1988/89 study 'Conservation of the Ground Parrot in Western Australia' was an additional report focussing on vegetation in known and possible Western Ground Parrot (WGP) habitat.

Surveys for the presence of WGPs as well as for vegetation structure and species were undertaken in Cape Arid National Park, other parts of Fitzgerald River National Park (FRNP), and in the south-west corner of Western Australia.

At that time, WGPs were only found in the site, also within the FRNP, that was most floristically similar to the Short Road site where the radiotracking had been done.

Possible WGP habitat in FRNP. Jim, Brenda and Shapelle. Photo: Allan Burbidge.

Studying the vegetation, east of Hamersley Drive near known WGP habitat. Jim Rolfe (foreground); Shapelle McNee and Brenda Newbey (background). Photo: Allan Burbidge.

Setting out a vegetation plot in Leeuwin - Naturaliste National Park. Neil Gibson and Mike Lyons. Photo: Allan Burbidge

Vegetation plot number one in Scott River National Park. Neil Gibson and Mike Lyons. Photo: Allan Burbidge.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Awareness raising

In winter 1990, the virtually unknown Western Ground Parrot made its first appearance in a glossy magazine. The magazine was "Landscope", a quarterly publication of the Western Australian Department of Conservation and Land Management as it was then known (now Department of Parks and Wildlife).

Monday, July 21, 2014

Plant families recorded in 1988/89 study site

The photos are frames from a video taken near the study site for the project "Conservation of the Ground Parrot in Western Australia" but much later - in 2006- by Brent Barrett and his small team who were employed by the then Department of Environment and Conservation, now Department of Parks and Wildlife. The Ground Parrot, 'Charlie', is pausing in typical low and diverse heath. Several of the plants are known food plants. The close-up is in the same spot. Note that Charlie was a wild bird, filmed in his natural habitat. In 1989, the study site and the site where Charlie was filmed were added to the  Fitzgerald River National Park.

The plant species list for the Ground Parrot study site for the project "Conservation of the Ground Parrot in Western Australia" contains 265 species. (There is more about this study in the previous six postings.)

Below is a list of all the plant families that were recorded during the 1988/89 survey of known Ground Parrot habitat. The number refers to how many different species within that family were found in the study site.

Poaceae (grasses)      8
Cyperaceae (sedges)   24
Restionaceae (twine rushes)         12
Centrolepidaceae       1
Dasypogonaceae         5
Anthericaceae          6
Haemodoraceae (paws)   6
Iridaceae              2
Orchidaceae (orchids)  1
Casuarinicaceae        4
Proteaceae (banksias etc)           40
Santalaceae            4
Olacaceae              1
Lorantaceae            1
Droseraceae (sundews)  3
Pittosporaceae         3
Mimosaceae (wattles)   6
Papilionaceae (peas)  19
Rutaceae               2
Polygalaceae           1
Euphorbiaceae          3
Sapindaceae            2
Rhamnaceae             4
Dillenaceae (guinea flowers)           1
Thymeleaceae           3
Myrtaceae (eucalypts, melaleucas etc) 46
Haloragaceae           2
Apiaceae               3
Epacridaceae (heaths) 17
Loganiaceae            3
Boraginaceae           1
Rubiaceae              1
Lobeliaceae            1
Goodeniaceae           5
Stylidiaceae (trigger plants)          8
Asteraceae (daisies)   3
Unknowns (not assigned to a family)   12

By a large margin, the Proteaceae and Myrtaceae are the most well represented, followed by sedges, peas and heaths. Each of these families appears in a more recent study that examines the filmed records from spring 2006(not yet complete) to offer a significant part of the Western Ground Parrot diet, and combined they would comprise at least 95% of the diet of that wild bird at that stage.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Food choices and possible explanation

Like the last few blogs, this blog uses information from the unpublished 1989 report "Conservation of the Ground Parrot in Western Australia".  Below are extracts from the 'Discussion' section. The low rainfall in the study area, to the north of the then Fitzgerald River National Park boundary, is a possible reason why the western Ground Parrot's diet contains much more green fruits and flowers than that of the eastern states birds.

High plant species richness could be a key to the survival of the Ground Parrot where rainfall is both low and variable.

The photos below are frames from videos taken in spring 2006, by Dr Brent Barrett and his team. The totally wild bird, nick-named Charlie, was in the FRNP not far from the study site of the 1988/89 project.

Charlie eating a Grevillea tripartita flower (from video by Brent Barrett)

Charlie eating the green pod of a shrub in the pea family Daviesia incrassata subsp. reversifolia (from video by Brent Barrett)

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Radiotracking Part 3, flushing, and feeding

Below is another extract from the 1989 report 'Conservation of the Ground Parrot' - a project designed to identify habitat preferences of the Ground Parrot in the Fitzgerald area, Western Australia.

Table 4 shows variations in activity levels deduced from radiotracking points. Rate of movement is in metres per hour as the birds walk as they seek their food.

The moving away from the study area was by flight.

One of the food items listed above in Table 5 is shown here.The photo is used with the permission of the Western Australian Herbarium, Department of Parks and Wildlife,(http: // Accessed on Thursday 3 July, 2014.  Birds were feeding on the succulent leaf bases and leaving the spines. Until this study, this was the only food selection that had previously been observed - back in 1983. (See blog entry Friday January 17, 2014)

Table 5 shows how common the food plants were in the study area. The total number of plant quadrats was 133 so Daviesia pachyphylla was recorded in just under 1/3 of them.