Quest for the breeding K Parrot

To: Geoffrey Dabb <>
Subject: Quest for the breeding K Parrot
From: martin butterfield <>
Date: Fri, 4 Feb 2011 15:38:18 +1100
Geoffrey's post raises a number of interesting thoughts.

I have compiled a chart (see attached) showing the number of Garden Bird Survey observations of Dependent Young (DY) or - in the earlier years of the GBS - Fledgling (F) Australian King Parrots by GBS Year.  (The general shape of the chart remains the same if adjusted for number of sites operating in each year, so i decided to say with the simpler format.)

My first thought is that if we ended up with no DY records for this species in the GBS it would be a cause for concern.  To my mind that would indicate that wherever they breed -whether in the Brindies in Canberra Nature park, or in hollows in old street trees - the breeding season had been a major failure.

The graph shows a  Leap Upward (LU1) in year 13 which may reflect the introduction of the DY category in that year.  But if so, why did it drop(LD1) for the next three years before a major, and sustained Leap Upward (LU2) in Year 17?  I can offer no hypothesis about the cause for LU2.  The graph then shows a second Leap Downward (LD2) in year 22.  This coincides with the loss due to bushfires  - in December 2001 - of the pine forests alongside the Tuggeranong Parkway.  Perhaps they formed a staging area for some of the birds moving down from the mountains?  Perhaps the old remnant eucalypts in those forests were the site of the breeding hollows?  The number of observations has - given operational constraints - stayed more or less constant since year 22.

I have tried to get a handle on how far the King-parrots (forgive me C&B) move.  I have had little success with this.  HANZAB indicates there have only 15 recoveries of banded birds in the period 1953 - 96 which is a rather small sample.   However 73% of those recoveries were within 10kms of the original banding site, suggesting that the birds don't move far.  As an example of distances that could be involved involved, according to GOOGLE Earth  from the Cotter dam to the centre of Duffy is close to 9kms which would suggest that is close to normal operating range for the King-parrots in the banding studies.  Perhaps he ACT bird are more adventurous or perhaps the sort distances travelled is an artefact of the research objectives of the banding studies.

As is often the case looking more closely would seem to raise more questions than it solves!


On Fri, Feb 4, 2011 at 1:07 PM, Geoffrey Dabb <> wrote:

So far as I know, there is still no rock-solid certified record of a completed A King Parrot breeding event in Canberra.  The birds tend to head off to the ranges in summer, with only the occasional pair seen hanging around hollows, sometimes entering them, in suburban reserves.  This year there was such a pair around a hollow in the old zoo area excised from the Callum Brae lease, and still outside the nature reserve of that name.  It does seem that the birds are quite shy around their nests, if that is what these suburban hollows are.


This morning I was attracted to begging noises rather akin to young galahs coming from one of the leafy birches.  It was a pair of king parrots with 2 noisy young.  The young were doing their insistent begging followed by the curious neck-twisting regurgitation by the adults.  The party then moved to near the feeder in the giant spreading Irish Strawberry where they continued the performance at close range.  The adult pair have been back around the feeder for the last two weeks, calling for a top-up with their distinctive whistle.


Whether all ‘DYs’ should go into the books as a breeding record is an issue aired from time to time in this forum  -  and others.  The point, of course, is that the nest might be some distance away from the relevant study area.  Begging Superb Parrots in Belconnen are unlikely to have come from Belconnen hollows.  The ‘CF’ notation raises a similar issue.  Dependant King Parrots like those of this morning could certainly have flown some distance.  It is possible they came from a hollow in one of the suburban reserves.  It is also possible that they did not.





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