The Swift Parrot (Lathamus discolor) is extremely close to extinction with an estimated 2,000 left in the wild, the Australian parrot is registered on the critically endangered list. Its decline in population has been due to loss of habitat and predation.
This nectar feeding parrot lives most of its life in Victoria and New South Wales, however it travels across Bass Straight each year to breed along the east coast of Tasmania in search of suitable old hollows and plentiful blooms of flowering Blue Gums. Both of which are an essential requirement for a successful breeding season.
Timber harvesting and clearing of forests for agricultural purposes has reduced the amount of old growth Blue Gums forests in Tasmania and their capability to form hollows. In addition, the older the blue gum, the more flowers (food source) they produce resulting in ideal breeding conditions for the Swift Parrot.
However an unexpected predator responsible for the parrots decline in numbers was discovered during research conducted over the past 3 years. Observations captured with high tech night vision cameras revealed Sugar Gliders preying on Swift Parrots, by sneaking into nests where they consume the adult bird and her eggs. One article reported that the Sugar Gliders were responsible for decreasing half of the nesting females each year. Although Sugar Gliders are primarily nectar/insect feeders, they are in fact opportunistic omnivores; a competitor and a predator of the Swift Parrot.
During the winter months, the Swift Parrots are semi-nomadic, meaning they spend their time in different areas in search of food, following the patterns/flowering events of suitable gums and lerp (sap sucking insects) availability.
The Swift Parrot made ABC headlines over the last three months of 2016 in relation to a couple of activist groups who were attempting to have a positive impact on the Swift Parrot population by installing 300 nest boxes and carving over 50 ‘hollow’s in live Blue Gum species to encourage breeding in forests north of Bruny, Tasmania.
Resulting in 20 nest boxes and seven carved hollows being inhabited by the Swift Parrot. A great achievement!
In support of the work being done by these groups that care for the future of the Swift Parrot and endangered species, our 2017 badge features this critically endangered bird and we hope to increase awareness of the importance in assisting the prevention of extinction of our precious flora and fauna species.