Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Survey for Western Ground Parrot at Waychinicup







The first systematic survey for the Western Ground Parrot in the Waychinicup Manypeaks area was in 1998. The work was funded by Worldwide Fund for Nature. The co-ordinator was Shapelle McNee and nearly all the other members of the survey team were volunteers. Logistic help was supplied by BirdLife Western Australia (then RAOU WA). This organisation also published the report: "Report on Western Ground Parrot Survey at Waychinicup and Manypeaks April to October 1998" by Shapelle McNee, as a supplement to Western Australian Birdnotes No. 90, June 1999.

Figure 2 from the report shows all the listening points, both positive and negative. The area called 'south-west of lake' is a sedgy swamp with four raised islands with different vegetation within it. The other positive sites were in low and diverse heathland.

A minimum of 29 calling birds was recorded in the Autumn of 1998.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Western Ground Parrots near Albany

Cheyne Beach is east of Albany on the south coast of Western Australia and adjacent to Waychinicup National Park. The map,from Wikipedia, shows the location of the park. Julian Ford was a West Autralian ornithologist and taxonomist. An account by Julian Ford of Western Ground Parrots in this area is below. It is taken from "Distribution and Taxonomic Notes on some parrots from Western Australia", published in the South Australian Ornithologist, Volume 25, 1965.


" --- On November 5, 1963, I led a party of R.A.O.U. members to Cheyne Beach, east of Albany. Two Ground Parrots were flushed from dense stunted heath and sedge association on the hills overlooking the ocean, several hundred yards south of the Cheyne Beach settlement. The occurrence of the Ground Parrot at Cheyne Beach was brought to my attention by Mr Charles Allen of Cuthbert (pers.comm.). Allen showed me a feather of the species which was one of a bundle he had obtained from fishermenin the 1940s when the species was quite common in the heath on the dunes and the higher wind-swept hill slops of the eastern-most extension of the Mount Manypeaks range system. The fishermen shot the birds as their dogs flushed them out of the heath scrub......."


Western Ground Parrot habitat in Waychinicup National Park.

Western Ground Parrots have not been recorded in this park since 2003. There have been some detailed surveys prior to their disappearance, which will be the subject of future postings.




Friday, July 22, 2016

Blue underwing plumage

The frame below is captured from a video taken 22 September 2006. It is of a wild male Western Ground Parrot, in Fitzgerald River National Park. The blue leading edge of the underwing is revealed. Most of the underwing is dove grey and the pale bar can just be seen. The video was filmed by Brent Barrett and is owned by the Department of Parks and Wildlife, Western Australia.


The following extract is taken from

Courtney, J. (1997). Age-related colour changes and behaviour in the Ground Parrot Pezoporus wallicus. Australian Bird Watcher 17, 185-191.

A courtship display of captive male Eastern Ground Parrots is described.


The epigamic (courtship) display was commonly observed during September and
October. The male stands upright and lifts the folded wings well away from the body
at the ‘shoulders’ (carpus) while the tips of the wings remain touching the back.
Presumably this is to display the soft sky-blue undersurface of the carpus, which in
bright sunlight contrasts with the green of the body. The long tail is pressed firmly
to the ground because of the upright body posture, and therefore cannot be fanned
in the manner of most platycercine parrots performing this ‘shoulder squaring’ display.
This posture is maintained for many seconds during which the bird may stand still,
or walk slowly around in small circles, calling frequently with a series of short whistles
usually described as ‘tee tee tee‘. Occasionally, a male perching on a branch vigorously
thrusts the body up and down several times by bending and straightening its legs,
while calling in a similar way.      


Sunday, July 17, 2016

Underwing plumage

The underwing plumage of two Western Ground Parrot specimens from the Western Australian Museum are shown below.

This is the adult female (roadkill), specimen no. 27142, shown in the previous blog entry. The blue-green marginal coverts are a colour not visible elsewhere on the bird's plumage.


This bird, specimen no. 27143, a male, found headless, lacks the blue-green marginal coverts, but this is perhaps an indication of a stage of moult. It is not a male/female differentiaton feature. However, the width of the pale underwing stripe may be.


The images were taken with permission from the WA Museum and are used here with permission.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

WA Museum specimens showing an external difference between male and female WGPs

 The photos were taken in December 2005, when the Western Australian Museum had only four Western Ground Parrot specimens.

The photos below were taken with permission from the WA Museum and are being published here with permission. No unauthorized use of the images is permitted.

Three of the specimens are shown here. The fourth lacks his head. All came from the south coast. From L to R: a juvenile female that was a casualty of a radio-tracking project in the Fitzgerald River National Park (well east of Albany) in 1988; a bird shot in Torbay (west of Albany) 1906 in mistake for a quail; an adult female killed by a vehicle on Springdale Road east of Fitzgerald River National Park in 1995. Although the central specimen was unsexed, a difference can be noted in the beaks. Further study of beaks of specimens from the Australian Museum and Museum of Victoria showed that the Torbay bird was a male.


Beaks of two of the specimens viewed from above showing the broad upper mandible ridge of the Torbay bird (top), and the sharper, narrower ridge of the Springhill bird. The Torbay specimen was used for display for many years.







Sunday, March 20, 2016

Another South Australian Ground Parrot specimen





Above is a South Australian Ground Parrot specimen from the Liverpool Museum collection. In 1911 North split the Eastern and Western Ground Parrots into two species: Pezoporus wallicus and Pezoporus flaviventris . One of the taxonomic differences was broken barring across the chest and abdomen, supposed to occur in the Western birds only. Later, Ford (1968), showed that this and other differences were not consistent and the earlier classification of the same species right across Australia was reinstated with the birds of east and west having only a varietal dilineation: Pezoporus wallicus wallicus and Pezoporus wallicus flaviventris. Now, the first genetic analysis appears to indicate a full split into separate species is appropriate. See previous posting.

Photo supplied by Liverpool Museum and used with permission.

A Western Ground Parrot captured in 1988 as part of a radio-tracking project to study habitat use, in what later became part of Fitzgerald River National Park. This bird was later deduced to be a female, by comparison with sexed skins.
The South Australian Ground Parrot specimen from Liverpool Museum collection. This bird's beak appears very similar to that of the Western Australian bird above.

It is not known when the South Australian bird was collected, but the collector was recorded as Peele, and the skin was purchased by the Liverpool Museum in 1896 from Henry Baker Tristram. Before that it had been in the Singapore Museum. Henry Tristram was a Canon, an explorer, and an avid ornithologist. He was an early developer of ornithology as a science, an avid collector, a supporter of Darwin's Theory of evolution, and a founding member of the British Ornithological Union.

Photo supplied by Liverpool Museum and used with permission.
Reference: Ford, Julian. (1968). 'Distribution and taxonomic notes on some parrots from Western Australia.' South Australian Ornithologist, Volume 25, pp99-105.





Thursday, March 10, 2016

South Australian Ground Parrot

South Australia no longer has Ground Parrots. At times, the South Australian birds have been considered closer to the Western Australian birds or perhaps part of a continuum across the continent. However the most recent study (Murphy et al. 2010) and the first using mitochondrial DNA analysis, places South Australian birds with the other Eastern States birds, and equally divergent from the Western Australian birds. It is likely that this separation of eastern and western populations occurred approximately 2 million years ago, probably caused by 'the onset of aridity in the median area'.

The actual specimen used in the genetic study was the specimen shown below which is held in the South Australian Museum. The photos were provided by the museum, and are used with permission.


Label: Swamp Parrot. snared with a loop snare  in the Reedy Field Reed beds S.A. by Tommy the Black Fellow in the lakes end of 1850 and preserved by Mr Wm White. 
to S.A. White (Different handwriting).

Reference: Murphy SA, Joseph L, Burbidge AH, Austin J (2010)A cryptic and critically endangered species revealed by mitochondrial DNA analyses: the Western Ground Parrot. Conservation Genetics. D01 10.1007/s10592-010-0161-1