The Ground Parrot is one of only four ground-dwelling parrots in the world, the others being its closest relative, the extremely rare Night Parrot, the somewhat closely related Antipodes Island Parakeet and the unrelated highly endangered Kakapo from New Zealand.
The coloration of the Ground Parrot, the Night Parrot and the Kakapo is similar – yellowish-green with darker barring, somewhat reminiscent of the head and back of the wild-type budgerigar. This is a feature retained from ancestral parrots; probably the latter as barred plumage is found all over the family, from the tiny tiger parrots to female cockatiels.
When disturbed, the Ground Parrot flies swiftly just above the ground before dropping back into the vegetation. The presence of the bird is often only revealed by its characteristic dusk and dawn call, a clear whistling sequence of notes which rise in pitch before fading. It is silent in flight.
A small group of volunteers based in Albany in the South West of Western Australia assists the Western Ground Parrot Recovery Project with a project that attempts to assist this highly endangered parrot survive. There are almost certainly less than 140 of these rare birds left and if these are lost one more species will cease to exist in Australia. The birds are not occupying all the available habitat and it is believed that the predators (especially cats) have taken a heavy toll on them. Fire is another major threat.
The most pressing requirement is to more accurately assess the actual number of ground parrots left in the two known habitats a few hours drive from Albany. This survey work is done in a very labour intensive way by people listening. Although this method will always be useful, a new project is now running to get remote recorders set up to try to establish both the likely number of birds and to understand more about their behavior patterns. Later in 2009 it is hoped to commence the first stage of a captive breeding program as it is feared that the species will be lost unless this step is taken. As far as is known, the Western Ground Parrot has never been kept in captivity.
The above video is extremely rare footage of of the Western Ground Parrot in its native habitat.
The first section of footage is currently being examined by DEC scientists to determine the WGP diet, which is important information to know for the proposed captive breeding program. So far, the good news is that the Parrot eats 'pretty much everything', so an effective diet in captivity should not be difficult to develop.
The last quarter of the video contains some truly amazing footage and audio. There are two birds, a mated male and female. The the female is currently nesting (although no WGP nest has ever been found). When nesting the male bird gathers food, and meets with the female away from the nest. The female makes a 'begging call' (which you can hear as a 'twanging' sound on the video) and in response the male regurgitates the food he has gathered to feed the female.
We greatly thank Brent Barrett and the Department of Environment and Conservation for allowing us to use this amazing footage.
Exetel is donating a little over $10,000 a month in conjunction with the Western Australian Government Department of Environment and Conservation to support the establishment of a captive breeding program in Albany WA and the processes associated with attempting to prevent this important bird joining the thousands of Australian animal, reptile, bird and flora species that generations of uncaring Australians and their State and Federal governments have driven to extinction over the time we have lived on this land. If you would like to support this project, any small amount will help, then you can make your personal donation here:
Progress reports by the Project manager for this and other Exetel sponsored projects can be found on the Exetel Forum here: