Golden-shouldered parrot (Psephotus chrysopterygius)

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Pair of golden-shouldered parrots (male on the left)
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Golden-shouldered parrot fact file

Golden-shouldered parrot description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderPsittaciformes
FamilyPsittacidae
GenusPsephotus (1)

Like most parrots, the golden-shouldered parrot is brilliantly coloured (5). The male is especially striking in its primarily turquoise plumage with salmon-pink lower abdomen, black cap, yellow forehead band and bronze wings, boasting a diagnostic bright yellow shoulder band (2) (5). The bronze extends to some of the tail feathers, with the rest being black like the crown (5). In full feather, the mature male often gives the appearance of possessing a disproportionably large tail for its relatively small, slender body, and the crown and forehead feathers are frequently held in a semi-raised erect state (6). Females and immature birds are mostly various shades of a dull greenish-yellow, with a turquoise rump (5) and a broad cream bar on the underwing, which is prominent in flight (2). Immature males, however, have a turquoise cheek whereas females always have grey-green cheeks (7). Juveniles can best be distinguished at fledging by their orange bill and cere, which are grey in the adult female (2).

Also known as
ant-bed parrot, golden-winged parrot.
Spanish
Loro Hombroamarillo, Perico Aligualdo, Periquito de Espalda Dorada.
Size
Length: 20 – 28 cm (2)
Weight
54 – 56 g (3)
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Golden-shouldered parrot biology

Golden-shouldered parrots are typically found in pairs or family groups of three to eight birds (5). Much of their time is spent on the ground feeding on seeds of grasses, principally those of fire grass (Schizachyrium spp). However, a shortage of food occurs annually in the wet season, forcing the parrots to change their diet to include a variety of other grasses (2) (5) and flowers (7).

A borrow and nesting chamber are dug from a termite mound, normally by the female, between March and June (8). Mounds are usually only sufficiently large enough for nesting when they are 30 to 50+ years old, and are rarely occupied more than once, possibly due to the persistence of nest parasites, such as lice, or because mounds repaired by termites are difficult to excavate (5) (8). Thus, there are problems in some areas where most mounds of a suitable size have already been used (5). Females lay four to six eggs, which are incubated for approximately 20 days, and the young are fully fledged by five weeks (3) (5).

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Golden-shouldered parrot range

Restricted to southern and central Cape York Peninsula, far north Queensland, Australia (2) (8). The population is estimated at approximately 2,000 individuals and is continuing to decline (2).

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Golden-shouldered parrot habitat

Nesting occurs in termite mounds in grassy areas with savannah woodland. Otherwise, found in open woodland (2), with a preference for open habitat created by dry season fires, where seeds are most accessible (8).

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Golden-shouldered parrot status

Classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List 2006 (1) and listed under Appendix I of CITES (4).

IUCN Red List species status – Endangered

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Golden-shouldered parrot threats

The golden-shouldered parrot has a small, restricted, and decreasing range (2), suffering principally from predation, possibly in combination with a shortage of food in the early wet season. (8). Both threats have come about as a result of a change in fire regime, in combination with cattle grazing (8). Fire is a feature of their natural environment, and the parrots are a fire-dependent species, with fire maintaining their habitat and the availability of essential foods (9). A lack of burning or burning at the wrong time of year in association with cattle grazing, which has reduced fuel loads, has resulted in the invasion of woodland throughout the species’ former range. The increase in woody vegetation is thought to have favoured predators such as the pied butcherbird (Cracticus nigrogularis). Predation of adults is a major cause of nest failure, with almost one third of nests losing one or more adults (2). The shortage of food that occurs annually during the wet season may be made worse by the lack of early wet season burning and selective grazing by introduced cattle of early-seeding perennial grasses (7) (5). In addition, feral pigs preferentially eat the same important grass species and reduce recruitment of the termite mounds used for nesting (7). Intensive conservation efforts have stemmed the long-term decline of the golden-shouldered parrot in closely monitored sites but in less well-monitored sites the population is probably still declining (1) (7).

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Golden-shouldered parrot conservation

Golden-shouldered parrots have been studied in detail for over 16 years, and during this time, land and fire management have been adjusted across much of its range to suit the parrot’s ecological requirements (9). Over these years, completed or current management actions include analysis of threats, changing fire regimes, vegetation change, annual monitoring and supplementary feeding of the Artemis Station population, and surveys of populations and nests in the remainder of the bird’s range. Other actions include fencing and implementation of favourable fire regimes on leasehold land and National Parks, signing of a conservation agreement with land-holders, and inclusion of conservation requirements for the species in property planning in central Cape York Peninsula (2). As a result of these measures, the bird’s range, which contracted greatly between 1992 and 1998, may now have stabilized (9). A small proportion of the parrot’s range occurs inside the Staaten River National Park, and reintroductions into Mungkan Kandju National Park are also planned (9). It has been advocated that future conservation efforts focus on providing supplementary food during the wet-season, developing and refining a pastoral management strategy, and securing land under conservation agreements (2). It has been estimated that around 1,500 golden-shouldered parrots are held in captivity in Australia (3), with considerable numbers bred in captivity each season (6). A sustainable future for this bird in captivity is therefore safeguarded, ensuring that this beautiful parrot is with us for a long time to come (6). The bird’s prospects in the wild, however, currently appear somewhat bleaker, despite considerable conservation efforts and successes, and far more needs to be done if this enchanting bird is to be saved in its natural habitat where it belongs.

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
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Authentication

Authenticated (20/06/2006) by Stephen Garnett, Professor of Tropical Knowledge, Charles Darwin University.

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Glossary

Cere
Soft skin at the base of a bird's bill.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (June, 2006)
    http://www.redlist.org
  2. BirdLife International (January, 2006)
    http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/species
  3. del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J. (1997) Handbook of the birds of the world, Volume 4 - Sandgrouse to cuckoos. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  4. CITES (November, 2005)
    http://www.cites.org
  5. Environmental Protection Agency/Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (January, 2006)
    http://www.epa.qld.gov.au/nature_conservation/wildlife/threatened_plants_and_animals/endangered/goldenshouldered_parrot
  6. The Parrot Society of Australia (January, 2006)
    http://www.parrotsociety.org.au/articles/art_003.htm
  7. Garnett, S. (2006) Pers. comm.
  8. Recovery Plan for the Golden-shouldered Parrot (Psephotus chrysopterygius) 2003-2007 – Australian Government: Department of the Environment and Heritage (January, 2006)
    http://www.deh.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/publications/recovery/p-chrysopterygius/information.html
  9. Crowley, G., Garnett, S. and Shephard, S. (2004) Management guidelines for golden-shouldered parrot conservation. Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, Brisbane. Available at:
    http://www.epa.qld.gov.au/publications/p01272aa.pdf/Management_guidelines_for_goldenshouldered_parrot_conservation.pdf
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Image credit

Pair of golden-shouldered parrots (male on the left)  
Pair of golden-shouldered parrots (male on the left)

© Hans & Judy Beste / www.ardea.com

Ardea wildlife pets environment
59 Tranquil Vale
London
SE3 0BS
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0) 208 318 1401
ardea@ardea.co.uk
http://www.ardea.com

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