Swift parrot (Lathamus discolor)

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Swift parrot feeding on nectar from blossom
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Swift parrot fact file

Swift parrot description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderPsittaciformes
FamilyPsittacidae
GenusLathamus (1)

The swift parrot is a small, slim, fast-flying bird with pointed wings and a long pointed tail (2). Its Latin name discolour means ‘of many colours’, and indeed this parrot is brightly coloured. Overall it is a bright grass green shade, with a red beak. There are patches of red on the throat, chin and forehead, with yellow bordering these areas. It also has red on the shoulder and under the wings, and blue on the crown and wings (5). In flight this species is distinguished by its striking red underwings (6). Adult females are slightly duller in colour, most with a prominent cream under-wing marking, and juveniles have pale orange bills and dark brown irises (2). Another distinctive characteristic of this parrot is its call. It is fairly noisy, especially when flying, when it makes rapidly repeated clinking noises (6).

Spanish
Periquito Migrador.
Size
Size: 25 cm (2)
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Swift parrot biology

Swift parrots begin to return from the mainland to Tasmania in early August, with most of the population arriving by mid September. The breeding season coincides with the flowering of the Tasmanian blue gum Eucalyptus globules as it produces nectar during these months, which becomes the main food source for the swift parrots at this time.

Soon after they arrive in Tasmania, the searches for suitable nests begin (5). Both sexes are involved with the search, and preferred sites are hollows in old eucalypt trees (5). Gregarious by nature, pairs may nest in close proximity to other pairs, and even in the same tree. The female occupies the nest chamber prior to egg laying, and does not leave the nest until the chicks are hatched and sufficiently developed (5). During this time the male forages for food and returns to the nest every three to five hours to feed the female. Usually four eggs are produced, which are white, glossy and oval in shape. Juveniles fledge at about six weeks and can be seen outside the nests in late November and early December. They remain in the nesting area and gather in flocks before dispersing with the adults. They fly westwards to the Central plateau and western Tasmania as blue gum flowering declines and other eucalypts begin to flower elsewhere (5).

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Swift parrot range

The swift parrot breeds in Tasmania, along the southeastern coast, after which it disperses throughout the island (2). In autumn, the majority of these birds migrate to mainland Australia, where they overwinter on inland slopes of the Great Dividing Range (4)

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Swift parrot habitat

During the breeding season this species occurs predominantly in grassy blue gum Eucalyptus globules forest in eastern Tasmania. Post-breeding habitat is mainly in the wetter forests in west and northwest Tasmania, where summer and autumn flowering eucalypt species are abundant (5).

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Swift parrot status

Classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List (1), and listed on Appendix II of CITES (3). The Action Plan for Australian Birds 2000 also classifies this parrot as Endangered (4).

IUCN Red List species status – Endangered

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Swift parrot threats

In Tasmania, the swift parrot’s breeding pattern is determined by the flowering of various eucalypt trees (6). However, the clearing of these trees for agriculture, residential development, plantation timber, sawlog production and clear-felling for woodchips, has reduced this parrot’s breeding habitat by 44% (2) (5). Of the remaining forested habitat, only 5% contains potentially suitable foraging habitat for this species (5). In addition, swift parrots suffer high mortality through collision with windows, vehicles and fences. The total swift parrot population is estimated to be no more than 1000 pairs. At best it is stable but, given the current mortality rates and habitat destruction, it is more likely to be declining (5).

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Swift parrot conservation

As this species is such as specialist in both its winter habitat and foraging requirements, the survival of the swift parrot will depend on the protection of remaining areas of eucalypt species, and the protection of all breeding and foraging sites in Tasmania (6). The Swift Parrot Recovery Plan 2001 - 2005 is addressing these priorities and is planning to reduce this species’ conservation status from endangered to vulnerable within the next 10 years (5).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
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Find out more

To learn more about parrot conservation visit:

For more information on this and other bird species please see:

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Authentication

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: arkive@wildscreen.org.uk
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (September, 2009)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org
  2. Birdlife International. (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona and Birdlife International, Cambridge.
  3. CITES (March, 2004)
    http://www.cites.org
  4. BirdLife International (September, 2003)
    http://www.birdlife.org
  5. Swift Parrot Recovery Team. (2001) Swift Parrot Recovery Plan. Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment, Hobart. Available at:
    http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/publications/recovery/swift-parrot/pubs/swift-parrot.pdf
  6. WWF Australia (September, 2009)
    http://www.wwf.org.au/publications/swift_parrot.pdf
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Image credit

Swift parrot feeding on nectar from blossom  
Swift parrot feeding on nectar from blossom

© Roger Powell / naturepl.com

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