Parrot distributions

Subject: Parrot distributions
Date: Fri, 9 Oct 1998 10:17:04 +1000
Just back from a break, and interested in the recent discussions about
changing lorikeet and cockatoo ranges.  Living in Glen Waverley, we have
frequent fly-pasts of rowdy Rainbow Lorikeets, which I never saw while
growing up in Glen Iris during 1960s and 70s.  We also get Muskies (less
often than the Rainbows), and sometimes Littles.  I remember being
surprised by seeing a pair of Rainbow Lorikeets flying over a Hawthorn park
in about 1980, but when I moved to East Burwood in 1985 Rainbow Lorikeets
were part of the scenery.  However, I do remember Musk Lorikeets being
around Glen Iris from time to time while I was at primary school during the
mid 1960s.

In the course of a history assignment round about 1980 I went through a
range of primary documents from the 19th century in Victoria, extracting
casual references to birds to try to get an idea of distributions from
around the time of settlement.  Unfortunately, I don't still have the
assignment, but as I recall it seemed that the common cockatoos around very
early Melbourne were probably Long-billed Corellas and one of the
red-tailed species of Black-cockatoo, probably Glossy Black-cockatoos.
There were hardly any references to Galahs or Sulphur-crested Cockatoos,
except from the north of the State.  I can't remember much about lorikeets
or other parrots, except that I think there were Turquoise Parrots in
south-central Victoria last century.

It's clear that the ranges of lots of species are not static, and that
human-induced changes to habitats will influence changes to bird
distributions, as well as more direct causes such as escaping captive birds
and deliberate introductions.  What is not so clear is how fluid those
distributions are, were or would be in the absence of human interference.
However, given the highly variable climate across much of Australia (in the
longer term as well as seasonally), the high proportion of nomadic species
in our overall bird population and the fragmented ranges of many species/
"superspecies", "natural" range fluctuations might have been an important
part of the ecological picture.  Maybe we sometimes take for granted a
greater degree of ecological stability in pre-European times than was
really the case?


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