Swift Parrot discussion (birding-aus)

Subject: Swift Parrot discussion (birding-aus)
From: Chris Tzaros <>
Date: Fri, 09 Aug 2002 10:27:51 +1000
Greetings Clair, Paul and others interested in Swift Parrots,

(I guess I can answer some questions, and Debbie might like to add anything
when she's back from her fieldwork on the 19th).

Clair asked whether: "the most beautiful sound produced by the Swift Parrot
was in fact more like the sound of fine olde English bone china being
gently flicked by a delicate Englishwoman's fingernail, more so then the
rapid "pip .. pip .. pip".

Well Clair, I've yet to have the pleasure of being so graciously
entertained by any such delicate English ladies, so I can't liken your
description to any Swift Parrots call!  What I can say however is that what
I regard as the Swift Parrots song, a series of upward inflecting warbling
notes, most often uttered from perching birds and occasionally heard in
flight, is not too dissimiliar to the gritty swirling sounds of one who
cleans glass windows.

In my experience, the most commonly heard call, especially of birds in
flight, is a pit-pit.....pip, poor-pip.  As birds burst out of trees, they
give a very intense flurry of calls, pit-pit-pit-pit-pit-pit-pit-pit-pit
(about 9-10 times), faster at the start and tapering into a slower
whistling call of a somewhat cheeky nature (almost as if to say, I'm so
fast, you can't catch me!).  Perching birds give a repertoire of calls.  In
fact, I was listening to a single adult this morning in the eucalypt
outside our house, and it gave almost every call I've ever heard, including
a series of soft rapid notes, that I've learnt to be alarm notes given by
birds approached closely, that I most liken to the auto focus sound of my
Canon EOS5 camera!

For further written description of swift parrot calls, please consult
(Parrots to Dollarbird), p. 419.  Additionally, if anyone wants a free
cassette or CD, we are currently duplicating some for identification
purposes so send through your request with your postal details.

Paul, your question is certainly not a silly one.  For those who are colour
vision challenged, or even those who aren't (it's hard to pick the red
underwing colour from high flying birds, or on overcast days when light
contrast makes any detection of colour impossible), the best method of
identification is to listen for the call (much different to any chattering
notes of any lorikeet), or if they're flying silently, the characteristic
streamlined flight-silhouette.  The tail of a swift parrot is longer,
narrower and more sharply pointed than any lorikeet, and the wings are very
pointed and almost Hobby-like (there is a great illustration by Nic Day on
page 139 of the Simpson & Day field guide).

On a final note, let me just say that once you're familiar with a swift
parrots' flight, calls and jiz, it will never be forgotten.  Melbournians,
now is the time to make the most of your opportunities to catch a sighting
of a swift parrot, coming now to a gum tree near you!

And don't forget, please submit all reports to Debbie Saunders (Swift
Parrot Project Officer) or myself at Birds Australia, and I'll pass them on.

Happy swiftying!


Chris Tzaros
Co-ordinator, Threatened Bird Network
Birds Australia (Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union) 
National Office
415 Riversdale Rd
Hawthorn East, Vic., 3123
Ph: 03-9882-2622
Fax: 03-9882-2677
Website address:

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