Coxen's Fig Parrot

To: Lloyd Nielsen <>
Subject: Coxen's Fig Parrot
From: Lawrie Conole <>
Date: Tue, 14 Dec 2004 09:23:58 +1100
Lloyd Nielsen wrote:

Stinging Tree when suddenly a Fig-Parrot flew out above us, unfortunately above a mid-layer of foliage where we could not see it. The bird performed the distinctive "circle" flight so typical of Macleay's, returning to the spot it flew from, and uttered the typical "zit-zit" Fig-Parrot call. There is no mistaking this for anything else - nothing else does it.. Had that happened to me while I was working there, I would not have known what it was and passed it over as a small rainforest species, simply because I had had no experience with Fig-Parrots. I immediately drew everyone's atttention to it and all agreed that it was different from anthing they had heard previously. Later that night, tapes of Macleay's were played and all 8 people agreed that the calls were identical.

Lloyd's account reminds me of my own brief encounter with Coxen's Fig-Parrot - on 29 January 1994, at Cambridge Plateau Flora Reserve in the Border Ranges of NSW.

I had not long before spent about a month in the Wet Tropics, and had become very familiar with the calls and behaviour of Macleay's Fig-Parrot. I was walking along the road through the ecotone between rainforest and wet eucalypt forest with two American birders, when I heard the fig-parrots approaching from behind. As I turned around they flew straight overhead, two of them, calling, and disappeared into the forest up ahead. We had no luck in relocating them.

Neither of the American birders was familiar with fig-parrots or lorikeets, but I had absolutely no doubt. The combination of calls and the dumpy tailed in flight silhouette were diagnostic as far as I was concerned - I knew what they were as soon as I heard the call. At that time I was living in Geelong, and had regular contact with both Little and Purple-crowned Lorikeets, and know their calls and flight characteristics off by heart. The NSW rarities committee did not accept the record - though saying it had some credibility!

I found out later that Glenn Holmes had a sighting from some years earlier (in the 1980s I guess) in a fruiting fig tree very close to where I saw my birds!

So - Lloyd says Coxen's Fig-Parrots were still around in November 2001 - and I'm sure they were still around in 1994. The continued searches are warranted - but from Lloyd's experience and mine, a few weeks chasing Macleay's Fig-Parrots in the Wet Tropics would be the ideal pre-survey preparation.


Lawrie Conole
Senior Ecologist
Ornithology & Terrestrial Ecology

Ecology Australia Pty. Ltd.
Flora and Fauna Consultants
88B Station Street
FAIRFIELD VIC 3078 Australia
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