wattlebirds and mystery parrot

To: "" <>, "" <>
Subject: wattlebirds and mystery parrot
From: Philip Veerman <>
Date: Thu, 21 Sep 2017 08:00:09 +0000

Way back in late 1980s that (Lia’s question) was already an issue. Although not built around THAT aviary. Arising out of that, I wrote up the article: (1991) ‘The changing status of the Rainbow Lorikeet Trichoglossus haematodus in South-east Australia: the role of wild and escaped birds’, Australian Bird Watcher 14: 3–9.


This was largely based around Melbourne where the increase was huge (it not occur there in the 1970s). It has amazed me really that my article was the first mention in print of the dramatic change around Melbourne to have ever mentioned it and it has continued since then, such that the bird is now very widespread and common. But it was also about the bird in Canberra and I believe the first mention in formal print, of our GBS, to a wider audience, outside of the narrow confines of COG. We did not know the answer at the time and still don’t. At the time of the GBS Report, it was still unclear, as shown from the below extract: On balance of probability I think it is mostly a range extension (or maybe return) of wild birds, assisted by the greater availability of longer flowering food sources. Almost certainly escape, or probably more likely release, of captive birds, has added to the trend. Against that conclusion is the evidence from Perth, where a similar population rise surely derived entirely initially from human assisted introductions. That is also well documented.


I reckon someone of note thought my article was good, because on the basis of that, I was assigned the task of proof reading the HANZAB text for the Rainbow Lorikeet (that was after writing several sections for the prior volume).


Rainbow Lorikeet Trichoglossus haematodus

The pattern shown by this conspicuous and easily identified species is not at all clear. This goes against the preliminary results of Veerman (1991a). The trend described therein for Melbourne has held up but the increase described for Canberra has not continued. There is a February to April peak in numbers but when combined with staying fairly similar from July till January, that does not suggest a natural seasonal pattern at this stage. The monthly pattern is far from consistent. In some years the birds may be passage migrants, nomads or randomly occurring from escaped or released birds. Group size is small, up to ten birds noted. The numbers rose dramatically from Years 5 to 8 but then declined. Most records are from the Belconnen area, the north-west suburbs of Canberra. One record of birds inspecting hollow in Year 16 at Site 241.
Graphs on page: 94, Rank: 101, Breeding Rank: 83, A = 0.01239, F = 6.57%, W = 14.0, R = 0.648%, G = 1.91.




From: Lia Battisson [ Sent: Thursday, 21 September, 2017 4:10 PM To: 'Philip Veerman'; 'Mark Clayton';
Subject: RE: [canberrabirds] wattlebirds and mystery parrot


I have long thought that the aviary may be the explanation for the influx of Lorikeets in Canberra.  No proof of anything, but it would be nice to have that source excluded!


From: Philip Veerman [ Sent: Thursday, 21 September 2017 11:24 AM    To: 'Mark Clayton' <>;
Subject: [canberrabirds] wattlebirds and mystery parrot


At last time (about 5 years ago) I looked at the tourist attraction Gold Creek aviary, there was a wide range of variants of lorikeet appearances. Most presumably are hybrids and quite likely with spontaneous occurring mutations also included in the historical mix. I think there are Rainbow Lorikeets, Scaly-breasted Lorikeet and Musk Lorikeets contributing to the hybrid gene pool although in what proportions I have no idea. Hybridisation is not uncommon even in wild lorikeets at edges of their range. Over time that can generate lots of variety. When I looked at zoo birds in Philippine zoos, I noted similar types of mixes of oddities in parrots there. Even stranger, though with no successful breeding, in the big aviary in Melbourne zoo, an Eclectus Parrot and Major Mitchell Cockatoo for years (so I am told) behaved as a pair and occupied a nest hollow. I watched that and got a photo of it and asked other people in Melbourne ..........




From: Mark Clayton
Sent: Thursday, 21 September, 2017 11:06 AM
Subject: [canberrabirds] wattlebirds and mystery parrot


Morning all,


Yesterday the Red Wattlebirds who had a nest in my front yard fledged two young.


Also yesterday morning at around 0800 as I stopped my car in my driveway I heard a distinctive lorikeet call coming from the top of a tree in my backyard. The bird was sitting at the top of the tree in the open and I very quickly realised that it wasn’t one of the usual local Rainbow Lorikeets. A quick dash inside for my binoculars and a notebook was grabbed from the car. The quick description that I took is as follows: -orange bill, crown and face reddish orange, breast and collar pale yellowish, back, upper tail and underparts dirty green, under tail yellow. There was a blackish (?) line just through the eye. As noted above the call was reminiscent of the local Rainbow Lorikeets but slightly higher in pitch. It was about two thirds the size of two Rainbow Lorikeets that conveniently landed beside the mystery bird before chasing it away. Unfortunately it flew away from me so I was not able to see any underwing colour.


I checked Joe Forshaw and Frank Knight’s  book Parrots of the World and the closest bird I can find to the mystery bird is the Iris Lorikeet, Psitteuteles iris, which is found in Timor and a few close islands. Personally I don’t think that it was this species and more likely a hybrid Scaly-breasted Lorikeet with something but I don’t know what. I don’t think there was any Rainbow Lorikeet in the bird. Any suggestions gratefully received. It is on my GBS chart as a “hybrid lorikeet”.



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