Swift Parrot ID tips - a few observations - corrections and additions in

To: Birding-Aus <>
Subject: Swift Parrot ID tips - a few observations - corrections and additions invited
From: David Adams <>
Date: Fri, 14 Aug 2009 11:42:05 +1000
I'm located a few ks north of Bermagui on the Far South Coast of NSW
and have seen small numbers of Swift Parrots for each of the past
three years. As people are probably aware, there were huge numbers
passing along the south coast this year. I didn't end up seeing any of
the large groups as, now that I've got a dog, I've discovered exactly
how much land around here is National Park. Lots.

In any case, I've had enough sightings by now that I thought I'd put
down what tips I've sorted out for myself for identifying Swift
Parrots. Hopefully, people with more knowledge can correct my mistakes
and add more pointers. Partly I'm writing because I believe Swift
Parrots are underreported for a couple of reasons:

* These are very unobtrusive birds. Their call doesn't carry that far
and they tend to be canopy feeders, as far as I can tell.

* It's always a bit intimidating to report a rare bird unless you're
100% sure. For example, I had some Swift Parrots land in my tree two
years back and didn't report them to the recovery program, although I
did report them locally. I was 99.9% sure but would have hated to get
it wrong. (In retrospect, I'm now 100% sure about those parrots.)

For background, the small common parrots down here are Musk and
Rainbow Lorikeets - so my reference for comparison are those two
parrots. (We also get Little and Purple-crowned Lorikeets here but in
very small numbers - I've seen each only once down here.) It would be
great if people further up the coast added comparisons with whatever
small parrots are common up there.

So, what I've noticed:

* If you can get a look at the birds they are easily distinguished -
I'm adding notes more about the 'jizz' of birds seen flying past or
heard up in the canopy.

* Swift Parrot calls are totally unlike Rainbow or Musk Lorikeets. The
call is often described as "laughing", which is as good a description
as you'll get I suppose. So, closer to a Rosella than a Lorikeet.
Personally, I end up with the same reaction each time. "That sounds
like a parrot - but not one I know - what is that? Could it be a Swift

* These birds are super easy to overlook. They are _small_ and they
hang out in the tall blossoms. Of course, if the tree has blossoms low
down you can see them there, but that's not always going to be the

* The flight profile of a Swift Parrot is, around here, a bit close to
a Rainbow Lorikeet. Size is completely useless as a field mark for
birds flying overhead as there's nothing for comparison. These are the
useful points I've observed (corrections welcome!)

-- The tail of a Swift Parrot is far more tapered than that of a
Rainbow Lorikeet.

-- The flight pattern of a Swift Parrot group is very different to
that of a group of Rainbows. Rainbows seem to fly fast, straight, and
strong (relatively speaking.) Swifties seem to fly in a tight group
with the distance between them shrinking and growing. Also, they seem
to wheel around trees checking them out for landing in a way very
different to Rainbows.

-- If you hear the Swifties on the wing, they really sound nothing at
all like Rainbows or Musk Lorikeets. I think that Rainbows and Muskies
can sound a bit alike if you're far away from them (some of the call
is no loner audible at a distance) but don't find a Swift Parrot call
to be like either of the Lorikeets under any conditions.

So, what I'm left with is flight profile compared to the other parrots
in the area and the call.

Suggestions and corrections most welcome!

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