Third translocation of Western Ground Parrots

Wednesday, 14 June 2023

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Third translocation of Western Ground Parrots

Five more birds moved to safe haven

Numbers of the Critically Endangered Western Ground Parrot have declined in recent years, particularly after key sites were blackened by bushfires in the Cape Arid National Park and Nuytsland Nature Reserve. Fewer than 150 of the birds survive in the wild. As an urgent response to this situation, a number of the birds have been captured and moved to another suitable location east of Albany, on Western Australia’s south coast, to establish an ‘insurance population’ to ensure the species’ survival in case of another catastrophe. As part of this plan, a third translocation of parrots to a remote site was successfully completed recently, bolstering the number of birds at the release site after two previous translocations of the species established a new wild population.

In the lead-up to the most recent translocation, more than a hundred remote listening devices were deployed to monitor for the presence of Western Ground Parrots in Cape Arid NP and Nuytsland NR, while a predator trapping and baiting program was undertaken at both Cape Arid NP and the translocation site to reduce the risks predators pose.

Despite the capture period being punctuated by unfavourable, inclement conditions, the relocation team was able to erect more than 10 kilometres of mistnets, and with parrots calling regularly in the dense scrub, there were 18 attempts to capture some of the elusive birds.

By the end of the period, five Western Ground Parrots had been caught in the nets, comprising three males, a female and a bird whose sex could not be determined. Several of them were fitted with tiny transmitters, which will allow researchers to track their movements after they were moved and let go at the release site. This brings the number of birds captured and then released at the site east of Albany to 19.

Regardless of the new arrivals, based on calling detected by the remote listening devices at the release site, translocated Western Ground Parrots are regularly recorded inhabiting the dense scrub there, their ongoing survival after two years indicating the success of the translocation project. Importantly, at least one of the calls is thought to have been given by a juvenile, providing the researchers with early but promising signs of breeding activity among the translocated Western Ground Parrots — an exciting development. It is hoped that juvenile calls will be detected and confirmed at the relocation site in the near future.

The Western Ground Parrot translocation project is a collaboration between the Western Australian Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA), the Friends of the Western Ground Parrot, BirdLife Australia, South Coast NRM, the Wright Burt Foundation and the State and Commonwealth Governments.