Superb parrot (Polytelis swainsonii)

Also known as: Barraband parakeet, green leek parrot
Spanish: Perico Soberbio
GenusPolytelis (1)
SizeSize: 40 cm (2)
Weight133 – 157 g (2)

The superb parrot is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1) and listed on Appendix II of CITES (3).

The superb parrot (Polytelis swainsonii) is a brilliant green parrot with a distinctively long, slender, graduated tail (4) and a swift and graceful flight (5). One of the diagnostic features of the superb parrot is the bright yellow face of the male, sharply demarcated by a scarlet band across the upper breast (4). The female is a duller green than the male with a bluish-green face, red thighs and rose-pink edges to the tail feathers (2) (4) (5). Both have a red iris and bright pinkish-red bill, and the juvenile is similar to the adult female (4) (5). In flight, their sleek bodies, long pointed tails and backward swept wings give superb parrots a distinctive silhouette (6).

The superb parrot is native to eastern inland New South Wales, parts of the Australian Capital Territory, and north-central Victoria, Australia (7). Populations migrate northward during the non-breeding season in winter (5), although some birds remain in their breeding areas (7).

In Victoria and parts of New South Wales, populations of the superb parrot nest in riverine eucalypt woodland dominated by red gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis) and forage in box woodland, whilst those on the slopes of the Great Dividing Range in New South Wales forage and nest in box woodland (4) (5).

During winter, superb parrots live in pairs or small flocks of up to 30 birds (7). Nesting begins by September and continues through to November or December (2) (7). Nests are situated in the hollow limb or hole in a tree (2), and loose nesting colonies are often found around clusters of suitable nesting trees (7). Four to six eggs are laid per clutch and incubated by the female for about 20 days, with chicks fledging at around five weeks of age (2) (7). Flocks of males can be seen feeding together and collecting food for the nesting females, which they feed two to three times a day over a month or more while the eggs and new hatchlings are developing (6) (7).

The superb parrot is mostly active in the early morning and late afternoon, when it feeds on the seeds of grasses and plants, fruits, berries, nectar flowers and occasionally insects, foraging on the ground, in shrubs, the understorey and in trees (7). These social birds often feed in pairs or small parties (6).

The superb parrot’s population has been declining for over a century, largely as a result of habitat loss and deforestation, particularly of box woodlands, for farming and grazing purposes and urban development (4) (8) (9). Regeneration is often prevented due to high levels of grazing by livestock and rabbits or inappropriate fire regimes (4). It takes a gum tree about 100 years to develop tree hollows, which the parrots need to nest in (8). When the dead trees, which often provide the hollows needed for nesting, fall or are cleared for firewood, there may be no replacements (4) (6). Furthermore, the superb parrot must compete with feral bees and native and exotic hollow-nesting birds for what few tree hollows remain (10). Additional, but less significant, threats include illegal trapping, road mortality as the birds feed on grain spills, and possibly pesticide poisoning (4) (8).

Regular surveys are conducted in much of the superb parrot’s range (4), and an Action Plan has been developed for the species (7). Forestry operations in riparian breeding habitat have also been given guidelines to help conserve the species, but these have sometimes been ignored (4).

For more information on the superb parrot see:

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This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:

  1. IUCN Red List (August, 2012)
  2. del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J. (1997) Handbook of the Birds of the World – Sandgrouse To Cuckoos. Vol. 4. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  3. CITES (January, 2007)
  4. BirdLife International (February, 2007)
  5. Birds in Backyards (February, 2007)
  6. Murray-Darling basin Initiative (February, 2007)
  7. Environment ACT: Action Plan No. 17 (February, 2007)
  8. Foundation for National Parks and Wildlife (February, 2007)
  9. Australian Government: Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2005 (February, 2007)
  10. Department of Environment and Conservation (NSW): threatened species (February, 2007)