Farmers on the Far South Coast have been urged to keep in mind the endangered swift parrot if clearing trees after the area was listed as a Key Biodiversity Area of world significance.
Only 1000 to 2500 swift parrots are thought to remain in the wild, and the migrating birds often use the South Coast as a feeding ground. The birds sea migrate from Tasmania, and although sometimes seen in southern Victoria, often fly as far as the NSW South Coast. A large group of them was seen only recently near Ulladulla. A large flock was spotted in 2012 at Moruya.
Birdlife Australia’s Dr Golo Maurer said farmers should not be worried by the declaration of a KBA - it was a voluntary code with no penalties. There are 50 KBAs declared in NSW, mostly triggered by an endangered species.
Dr Maurer said the swift parrot’s threatened status triggered the Far South Coast KBA which runs down from Ulladulla to the other side of the Victorian border, including Mallacoota, home to the endangered eastern bristlebird. Pastureland is included in the declaration as often single trees can be significant feeding spots for the parrots.
Dr Maurer said the swift parrot feasted on flowering spotted gums and red bloodwood, and knowing the parrot’s whereabouts was important to ensuring their survival. He urged farmers to keep an eye and ear out for the rare parrots. “If you find parrots on your property it might not be good to clear spotted gums or even consider planting some trees, looking ahead into the future. The scattered trees can be a real magnet, I would urge farmers to leave these trees (spotted gums) there.’’
He said Ulladulla had seen good numbers of swift parrots in the past. The Far South Coast KBA has a “KBA guardian” who helps monitor swift parrot habitats.
The swift parrot is under pressure in its breeding ground of Tasmania - ironically from another native animal - the sugar glider - introduced to Tasmania last century, and strangely the nectar-eating possum has become a parrot predator.
Steve Sass, who runs the bird sanctuary On The Perch, near Tathra, said he had seen an extraordinary event near Narooma where he saw 1000 swift parrots feeding in two trees – confirming the importance of single trees.
“There they were, half the world’s population of swift parrots in two trees,” Mr Sass said.
Mr Sass wondered if the parrots, because of the habitat pressures on them, might actually start breeding on the mainland.
Swift parrots are one of only two migrating parrots in the world.
They were due to appear in the South Coast in may, but if the eucalypts were not flowering, they could head inland. They had been seen about the Yass and Cootamundra areas in some years. Some birds had stayed on the South Coast until December before heading back to Tasmania - which was unusual.
He said it was incredible that sugar gliders had been found to be predators of the birds after researchers from the Australian National University saw video footage of the gliders invading the birds’ nesting hollows in Tasmania..