Princess Parrots and flowering plants

To: "" <>
Subject: Princess Parrots and flowering plants
From: Mark Carter <>
Date: Sat, 26 May 2012 05:15:00 +0100 (BST)
Hi all,
Its been fantastic to hear about the adventures of all who have made the 
pilgrimage to Newhaven in search of Princess Parrots. As virtually the NT's 
only significant piece of desert land managed solely for conservation, Newhaven 
is certainly proving its worth to the world right now.    
I have followed the speculation on Princess Parrots and 'Upsidedown' plants 
with interest. I've seen captive managed Princess Parrots at the Alice Springs 
Desert Park eat a huge range for foods including flowers (they especially enjoy 
mealworms!). In the wild I have observed Princess Parrots appearing to drink 
from or nibble Desert Bloodwood (Corymbia opaca) flowers but I didn't put too 
much weight on it. I have seen every parrot species in the centre drink or 
nibble flowers of some description at some point over the years, and as I 
understand it Upsidedown Plants are not especially uncommon across the region 
(I am no botanist though!). The majority of desert birds (in the dry sand 
country particularly) become very opportunistic when it comes to sources of 
Something to bear in mind about desert birds is that unlike birds in mare 
stable environments, their behaviour and habitat-use can change dramatically 
with the strange climate which has shaped our deserts. Some deal with this by 
becoming total nomads in the hope they will find good conditions somewhere 
(i.e. Black Honeyeater will vanish from a site for years then reappear on mass 
as soon as things green up). Some species stick it out if the habitat allows, 
falling back on trusty refugia to survive (Dusky Grasswren would be a good 
example of that- they are very loyal to their patch in hard years). Princess 
Parrots tactics appear to me to be somewhere in the middle, retreating to 
obscure refugia in the western deserts when times are tough (i.e. 9/10ths of 
their lives!) but exploding out, travelling large distances when conditions 
allow but on the whole still visiting sites which they have been known to use 
in the past. My suspicion is that in boom years
 their reliance on mature Marble Gum Eucalyptus gongylocarpa for breeding 
hollows and an associated suite of productive desert grasses is probably the 
best measure of what makes good PP habitats in wet years. Neither these gums or 
the native grasses are thriving under the current dysfunctional fire regime in 
the Centre. The dominance of weed grasses at sites where Princess Parrot were 
known from in the past such as Alice's Simpsons Gap probably doesn't help 
either, but despite all this it seems the birds are indeed having a good couple 
of years. And as a result, so are birders!
What I would find of enormous interest would be more information on the birds 
lives during the dry years when we can go almost years at a time between 
sightings. Where are their most important refugias? Are they secure? What are 
they eating?  

Mark Carter

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