The dreaded Swiss Parrot

To: "Messages Birding-aus" <>
Subject: The dreaded Swiss Parrot
From: Dr Richard Nowotny <>
Date: Wed, 09 Jul 2003 00:48:08 +1000
Jade Welch enquired about Swiss Parrot, and someone (I forget who - sorry) did a Google search (as I had recommended to Jade only moments before) and came up with a single reference to Swiss Parrot.  I couldn't resist having a look at this reference, apparently refering to a ? mythical psittacine.  What I found was unexpected and delightful. I have reproduced it in full below, with the key reference highlighted in bold.  I suspect you'll enjoy this droll little piece that the author (? who) seems to have managed to slip into what appears to be otherwise a reasonably sober little communication.

( May 1997 )
This section of the site is devoted to recent news on parrots around Australia and it is hoped will be updated each month. Some of the more interesting snippets will be expanded into articles in Eclectus.

In Tasmania the Swift Parrot Recovery Plan was among the first to receive funding from the National Heritage Trust - a benefit to Tasmania Senator Harradine may not have foreseen when he voted for the sale of Telstra. It is hoped work on the Swift Parrot will get under way in the near future. Watch this space for an advertisement for a parrot biologist.

Half way to Victoria, on King Island, Mark Holdsworth and Jon Starks had a successful time watching Orange-bellied Parrots with ten or so colour-banded birds being identified individually. Mark is going back in the near future to see if the same individuals stay there or whether there has been a change over.

In Western Australia Allan Burbidge recently visited the south coast to search areas west of Albany where Ground Parrots were seen in the early 1980s, though haven't been since. Eventually it is hoped to reintroduce the parrots to the best of this habitat.

In the same state Ron Johnstone is continuing to find nests of the various black-cockatoos that nest in the south-west forests as part of long-term work to look at long-term habitat requirements.
On Kangaroo Island the Glossy Black-Cockatoo season is progressing well with 25 nests currently active out of 41 found so far this season. The first chick of the year has fledged though others are not due to leave the nest until September. Research on the Glossies on King Island will wind down after this breeding season with Tamra Chapman starting the write up of her Ph.D. on the relationship between the birds and their food and Gabriel Crowley and Stephen Garnett completing their work on the birds' conservation biology. Lynn Pedler, however, will continue to work with the volunteer coordinator on nest monitoring and the annual census.

In New Zealand Mark Jarrett () reports on his work on Keas: Kea (Nestor notabilis) are a fully protected parrot that are endemic to mountainous areas of the South Island, New Zealand. They are attracted to rubbish dumps and villages where they scavenge for food. At these sites they investigate by manipulating and chewing anything novel in the environment. Because of this they may come into contact with a range of materials, some of which are toxic if ingested.

As part of a broad based study on the health and condition of Kea that forage at rubbish dumps I have found evidence that suggests that lead toxicity may be a significant cause of ill health in Kea. Further work on exposure to organochlorine pesticides and the effects of these and lead on the health and body condition is being carried out.

In New Guinea Greg Pryor and Stephen Garnett are hoping to visit the Crater Mountain Wildlife Management Area next month to start work on Pesquet's Parrot and Palm Cockatoos respectively. Palm Cockatoos are also under investigation at Iron Range, north Queensland where Daryn Storch is currently monitoring nesting in association with members of the Lockhart River community. Rob Heinsohn and Sarah Legge are also going to be in the vicinity in the near future to start work on the Eclectus Parrot as part of Rob's postdoc.

In May the Australian Prime Minister issued a press release announcing that a large grant had been given towards the recovery of the Swiss Parrot Lathamus helvetica. This caused great excitement in Switzerland as the existence of the species had been completely overlooked. Nevertheless the money was gratefully stashed away in a Swiss bank from which it cannot be retrieved for over 50 years, and then only by application to the international court in the Hague. However this is unlikely as 50 years hence it is unlikely any descendents of the aforementioned parrot will still survive. In the same press release money was provided for the Glossy Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo, presumably to be spread among two species and 8 subspecies.

Finally, at Lakeland in Queensland, some of the less threatened Red-tailed Black- Cockatoos hit the news when licenses were issued for 5 farmers to shoot 30 birds each. The 2000 or so red-tails in the area have learnt to uproot peanuts, working in from the edge of the crop with great efficiency. Fortunately the farmers, having received their permits, did not pursue them vigorously. It appears the farmers managed to shoot no more than three (and even that is not certain) during the peanut season just past. All the damage was to one farm where 13 out of 700 acres were destroyed. It seems likely that the department will recommend that no permits be given next season.

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