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Swift Parrot

Scientific name: Lathamus discolor
Conservation status in NSW: Endangered
Commonwealth status: Critically Endangered

The Swift Parrot breeds in Tasmania during the austral summer and the entire population migrates north to mainland Australia for the austral winter (Figure 1). They occupy habitats across all tenures, with the majority of habitats occurring outside formal conservation reserves. The breeding range of the Swift Parrot is largely restricted to the east and south-east coast of Tasmania where it occupies an area of less than 500 km2

 

Whilst on the mainland the Swift Parrot disperses widely, foraging on flowers and lerps in Eucalyptus spp. mainly in Victoria and New South Wales. In Victoria, Swift Parrots are predominantly found in the dry forests and woodlands of the box-ironbark region on the inland slopes of the Great Dividing Range. There are a few records each year from the Melbourne and Geelong districts and they are occasionally recorded south of the divide in the Gippsland region. During periods of drought in central Victoria, Swift Parrots may concentrate in coastal drought refuge habitats in New South Wales, as observed in 2002 and 2009 (Tzaros et al. 2009)..  

 

The breeding range closely mirrors the distribution of Blue Gum Eucalyptus globulus in Tasmania. The species breeds in the north-west of the state between Launceston and Smithton, however, the number of birds involved and frequency of these breeding events is not well understood. Potential breeding habitat remaining in the north-west is scarce and highly fragmented.

 

In New South Wales, Swift Parrots forage in forests and woodlands throughout the coastal and western slopes regions each year. Coastal regions tend to support larger numbers of birds when inland habitats are subjected to drought.

Description: The Swift Parrot is small parrot about 25 cm long. It is bright green with red around the bill, throat and forehead. The red on its throat is edged with yellow. Its crown is blue-purple. There are bright red patches under the wings. One of most distinctive features from a distance is its long (12 cm), thin tail, which is dark red. This distinguishes it from the similar lorikeets, with which it often flies and feeds. Can also be recognised by its flute-like chirruping or metallic "kik-kik-kik" call.

Key Habitats: 

  • Migrates to the Australian south-east mainland between February and October.

  • On the mainland they occur in areas where eucalypts are flowering profusely or where there are abundant lerp (from sap-sucking bugs) infestations.

  • Favoured feed trees include winter flowering species such as Swamp Mahogany Eucalyptus robusta, Spotted Gum Corymbia maculata, Red Bloodwood C. gummifera, Forest Red Gum E. tereticornis, Mugga Ironbark E. sideroxylon, and White Box E. albens.

  • Commonly used lerp infested trees include Inland Grey Box E. microcarpa, Grey Box E. moluccana, Blackbutt E. pilularis, and Yellow Box E. melliodora.

  • Return to some foraging sites on a cyclic basis depending on food availability.

  • Following winter they return to Tasmania where they breed from September to January, nesting in old trees with hollows and feeding in forests dominated by Tasmanian Blue Gum Eucalyptus globulus

Key tree and mistletoe species for the Regent Honeyeater include:

  • Swamp Mahogany Eucalyptus robusta*

  • Spotted Gum Corymbia maculata*

  • Red Bloodwood C. gummifera*

  • Forest Red Gum E. tereticornis*

  • Mugga Ironbark E. sideroxylon#

  • White Box E. albens#

* present in the Lower Hunter​

# present in the Central and Upper Hunter 

National Recovery Plan: 

www.dcceew.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/lathamus-discolor-swift-parrot.pdf

Key resources

-Swift Parrot (Hunter Fact Sheet)

-ID Swift Parrot and related species, and how to report a sighting

-Saving The Swift Parrot 2022- Conservation Guide

-SE Australia Woodland Bird Conservation Action Plan

-Woodlands Habitat Assessment Sheet

Information source: Department of Planning and Environment,

www.environment.nsw.gov.au/threatenedspeciesapp/profile.aspx?id=10455

Top to bottom:

  1. Swift Parrot gleaning lerp scale/sugar scale (Mick Roderick)

  2. Adult Swift Parrot (Mick Roderick)

  3. Spot a Swiftie fridge magnet

  4. Swift Parrot feeding in Swamp Mahogany, Chain Valley (Rick Gatenby)

All photos taken in the Hunter Valley.

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