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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).


In the Hunter Valley, Swift Parrots are a regular(but rare) visitor to the Tomalpin Woodlands, Werakata National Park and nearby remnant bushland.  In 2018 a flock of 200 were found in the bushland in the Lower Hunter Valley, and in 2019 a flock of 150 were sighted in Chain Valley. In other seasons small flocks are also sighted regularly. They are also known to migrate to the coastal area, in search of Swamp Mahogany, including the Central Coast and Lake Macquarie areas, including a large flock of 100 in 2007 near Morriset. (See DPE publication below)


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 winter flowering blossom species for the Swift Parrot in NSW:

  • 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 

Swift Parrot Search- BirdLife Australia

Commencing each winter, volunteers and experts take part in the Biannual Swift Parrot search, across Victoria, ACT, NSW, and southern Queensland to monitor population numbers, movement, behaviour of the Swift Parrot during it's migration from Tasmania.

We encourage you to visit as many sites as feasible during biannual 6-week count periods: between the last week in April and the first week in June, and again between mid-July and late August.

In 2023, the Swift Parrot Search dates are: 22 April to 4 June and 15 July to 27 August

By participating in the Swift Parrot Search, you can make a positive difference.

  • The Swift Parrot Search collects data on this species, the availability of foraging resources and other threatened other woodland birds in the area, particularly including the critically endangered Regent Honeyeater

  • There are nearly two thousand permanent monitoring sites on public land throughout south-eastern mainland Australia

  • Birdwatchers are asked to undertake a 5-minute/50-metre radius search at each fixed site location

Key Swift Parrot Search sites  in the Lower Hunter and surrounds:

  •  Kitchener

  •  Lake Macquarie

  •  Merriwa SW - Hulk Rd

  •  Merriwa SW

  •  Neranie

  •  Pelaw Main

  •  Pelton

  •  Port Stephens

  •  Werakata National Park

Register to the Swift Parrot Search, and find a location on the web page below


Other Resources for Swift Parrot

National Recovery Plan:

Key resources

Information source: Department of Planning and Environment,

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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