32 Norfolk Island Green Parrot chicks have successfully fledged from seven purpose built nest sites which were established in 2013. ‘This is such a promising result considering the population in October 2013 was estimated at 46-92 individual birds’, highlighted the Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife Australia (FNPW).
The Norfolk Island Green Parrot is one the most endangered parrots in the world. Therefore, a project was established by Parks Australia in response to the devastating news of such critically low populations in 2013. ‘We jumped into gear and focused all of our attention on saving this endemic bird, which is so special to the people of Norfolk Island’, stated project mangers from Norfolk Island National Park.
Green Parrots breed all year, but have a notable increase in breeding during late summer/early autumn. However, according to the Norfolk Island rangers, chicks have around a 65% chance of survival once they hatch. This low chance of survival is also hindered due to the fact that the Norfolk Island Green Parrot’s nests are often low to the ground and easily accessible to predators, such as feral cats and rats, which have decimated the native parrot populations.
The Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife, which was established in 1970, responded to the dangerously low levels of Green Parrots by helping the Norfolk Island National Park predator-proof nests and increase predator control measures in early 2013.
‘After receiving funding from FNPW, cat trapping was increased across the park, rat control resumed around all nest sites, many nest sites were repaired and new ones constructed to ensure they are predator proof’, reported project mangers from Norfolk Island National Park.
The recovery program also monitors the progress of the mothers, eggs and chicks; and chicks struggling to put on weight are carefully hand fed. Some chicks are put into fostering programs with maternal parrots. ‘We are now seeing all this hard work pay off with such a successful peak breeding season’, concluded Norfolk Island National Park.
The Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife exists to protect and conserve Australia’s cultural heritage. It does this by acquiring high conservation value land to give back to Australia’s reserve system, and by funding threatened species conservation programs and research, such as this Norfolk Island Green Parrot assisted breeding program.
Thanks to FNPW the Green Parrot project has been moving along very quickly and making great progress. Norfolk Island Park have said that there are now 78 predator resistant nest sites in the National Park, including the 30 that were constructed with the funds from the Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife.
‘These nests are vital to the species survival as predation from cats and rats. The predator proof nests use metal pieces to reduce the size of the nest opening and make it very difficult for predators to climb into the nests’, highlighted Norfolk Island National Park.
The Foundation’s funds were also used to monitor the results of these new nests with remote sensing cameras and to support community engagement in the program. In August 2014, Researcher Dr Luis Ortiz Cathedral and Park Rangers David Evens and Ross Quintal have since witnessed a very special and rare event - two Green Parrots copulating! In fact, ‘in the last 6 months 30 chicks have successfully fledged their nest – 13 of which were female. As a result, the female population has effectively been doubled’, stated project mangers from Norfolk Island National Park.
‘Without ongoing work, we will certainly lose this species. As it is, a handful of rangers have plucked the species from the very brink of extinction and their restoration work on Philip Island promises to give it a secure long-term future. Few conservation projects are as essential as this’, said Professor Tim Flannery.
Now that the parrots have safe nesting sites and appear to be doing much better, Norfolk Island National Parks will be moving into the next stage of their Green Parrot project. They will involve more effective predator control across the National Park and are planning for the proposed translocation of Green Parrots to nearby Phillip Island in 2015. As part of the translocation planning, Parks Australia in collaboration with Massey University will be screening parrot chicks for any sign of disease as well as DNA sexing them.
There are also plans to undertake a tracking project on Green Parrots with tracking devices being placed on chicks just before they fledge their nest so they can look at their survival rates and how far they disperse across the island once they are no longer reliant on their parents. This information will help inform the translocation planning.
Professor Flannery told FNPW that, ‘the Norfolk Green Parrot is an island endemic with the potential to teach us a lot about evolution. Far too many island species are already extinct, so to see such a fantastic program working to save this critically endangered species was wonderful.’
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