About 200 Swift Parrot birds found in Hunter Valley, 10 per cent of known world population

Swift Parrots are one of only two wholly migratory species of parrots in the world and they are found in our own backyard.

They are beautiful, many-coloured, thus their Latin name “discolor”, and noisy, showy and active.

They are also critically endangered. This means they are in danger of extinction and it is thought there are as few as 2000 of the birds left in the wild.

In May, surveys were conducted at various sites throughout the Hunter Valley and about 200 birds were found which equates to 10 per cent of the known world population.

Such a special event causes a great deal of excitement in the bird watching world and I, along with other members of Hunter Bird Observers Club, was thrilled to see a small flock of these parrots in the Cessnock woodlands recently.

It goes without saying that cameras were an essential piece of equipment that day.

These birds never sit still and although their acrobatic behaviour is amusing to watch, it makes it very difficult to get a clear image.

Swift parrots live and breed in Tasmania from September to January and in the winter months each year they fly across the Bass Strait in search of winter flowering eucalyptus trees.

While on the mainland they are wholly nomadic, following the blossoms.

In years of drought and when the trees are not flowering as well, they travel much further afield in search of food.

The parrots feed on the nectar and flowers of eucalyptus trees such as box and ironbark and on psyllids (“lerps”), which are sap sucking insects attached to the leaves.

They occasionally also eat seeds. Swift parrots spend their time high in the canopy of trees and only come to the ground to drink.

They are bright green, blending beautifully with the leaves, and have patches of red on the throat, chin and forehead with yellow bordering these areas.

They also have red on the shoulder and under the wings and blue on the head making them truly multi-coloured.

In flight they are unmistakable with pointed wings and a long tail and with very direct swift flight.

They have a flute-like chirruping “kik-kik-kik” call, distinctly different to other parrots.

The survival of the Swift Parrot depends on protecting the remainder of their breeding and foraging sites.

For more bird photos, visit the Hunter Bird Observer’s Club website.

The group can also be found on Facebook.

- MARGARET CLARKE 

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