Re: birding-aus Mystery Bird - Help!

Subject: Re: birding-aus Mystery Bird - Help!
From: Mike Owen <>
Date: Fri, 19 Mar 1999 22:03:21 +1000

Hi Russell,

I have had a look at the video and have the following comments. 
Firstly is ther eany chance of a good still photo close up of the
bird.  The video is difficult to see details in.

The suggestions made so far include:

Grey-headed Lovebird - not present in Australian aviculture - if
it was it would sell for maybe $5000 a pair and would definately
not be flying wild!

Peach-faced Lovebird - looks too large to be a peachface, they
are between a budgie and a cockatiel in size, and have a distinct
red face, which I couldn't spot on the video.

Parrotbill - not sure what species you mean by this.

One of the Central or South American Parrrotlets - A possibility
- maybe a quaker - see below.

One way to approach it is to look at species commonly held in
aviculture in Australia.  The more common the bird in aviaries
the more likely for it to have escaped.  After Lovebirds, and
only Peachfaces, Fishers and Black Masks are common, the next
most common group is the Psittacula genus, pincipally Indian
Ringnecks and Alexandrines.  Both have a LONG tail (Princess
Parrot-like).  The bird in the video look to have a shortish
tail.  After the Psittaculas, the next most common group is the
Conures. The main species here are the Nanday, Sun and Jenday
Conures, all distinctively coloured and definately not the parrot
in question.  All of these three conures sell for around $250 to
$750 each, and all the other conures in Australia sell for over
$1000 each, some much more than $1000.  It is highly unlikely
that birds of such value would be flying around without someone
setting out to trap them.

The only bird left that I can think off that is even only fairly
common, and which matches the appearance of the video bird, is
the South American Quaker, or Monk Parrot (Myiopsitta monachus). 
it is a bird about Eastern Rosella in size, green wings, tail and
back, and a grey face and chest - the chest showing a scalloping
effect rather like a scaly-breasted lorikeet but in grey rather
than green.  I have scanned a picture which can be seen at 

My guess - with a deal of surprise - is a Quaker.  My surprise is
that they are still a quite valuable bird, the normal green
variety still sells for around $250 each.  Eight years ago when
they were first seen they sold for about $750 each.  I would be
amazed that local aviculturalists did not recognise them and try
to trap them with that sort of value on them.

If they are Quakers then it is of some concern.  They are
probably the most successful feral parrot in the USA and are
banned in several states there.  In Australia they have not been
placed onto the list of exotic birds that need registering,
mainly I suspect because they were considered to be of sufficient
value to ensure that wild populatins would not survive for long
before being trapped out. They are extremely adaptable to new
environments, and while their capacity for crop destruction has
been overstated, nevertheless there is potential.  The good news
(if it can be called that) is that if they are Quakers, they have
a unique way of breeding, and do not use nesting hollows but
build a nest of twigs on the branches of trees, often in large
colonies.  They are the only species of parrot (apart from the
Kakapo) that I can think of which do not use a nest hollow, and
therefore they do not compete with our native parrots for nest
hollows in trees.

Russell, if you let me know exactly where in Geelong they can be
found I will try to contact some local aviculturalists familiar
with the species to go look at them and confirm the ID. It is
likely that if the identification of Quakers is confirmed that
aviculturalists will try to ensure they are trapped and removed
from the wild.  Capture of non-native birds such as these should
be perfectly legal and at around $200 plus a bird, is well worth
the effort.

Hope this helps your quest to identify the species,


Mike Owen
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