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With a declining population estimated to comprise around 300 individuals, swift parrots are a species living on the edge. They are listed as critically endangered by both the Australian federal government and the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources). Swift parrots are unusual in that they are both nomadic and migratory. Nomadic means that they are not tied to particular areas but will move to where the resources are, such as food (flowering gums) and breeding hollows. This is necessary as their primarily food trees (Eucalypts), do not flower annually. Migratory means that they have a winter range and a summer range. More specifically swift parrots spend winter in south eastern mainland Australia and summer (breeding season) in eastern Tasmania. These seemingly unpredictable large-scale movements make protecting this species a challenge.

Habitat loss is a significant threat to swift parrots.

Since European settlement breeding habitat in Tasmania has been dramatically reduced and fragmented. To breed, swift parrots require areas of both intensely flowering blue or black gums and high tree hollow abundance. If these resources do not overlap in both time and space, breeding cannot occur.

Sugar gliders, introduced to Tasmania from mainland Australia, also pose a huge threat to breeding Swift Parrots.

 These small arboreal marsupials will enter nesting hollows at night, kill the adult female, and eat any eggs and nestlings in the hollow. Up to half of the breeding females can be killed each year in this way.

Fortunately for us, sugar gliders have never been present on Bruny Island, additionally we have large areas of remnant blue gum forest. Meaning that when conditions are right for flowering, Bruny Island is a safe haven for breeding swift parrots. In these years, large flocks may be seen adorning blue gums on the Inala property.

The Inala reserve itself contains a substantial area of blue gum which is regularly utilised by swift parrots for both feeding and breeding habitat. This area is protected in perpetuity from being logged and we are actively expanding this habitat through planting new areas of blue gum from seed collected on the property and grown in our greenhouse. The Australian National University and Difficult Bird Research Group supplement nesting hollows on the property using boxes.

One of the most important actions we can take for swift parrots is to protect their habitat.

To this end Tonia, with the support of many Inala guests, successfully campaigned for an end to clear fell logging in 2015. This action provided a voice for the ecotourism values that contributed to a 5 year logging moratorium on Bruny Island.

Lathamus discolor

Author: Dr Cat Young


created by

Chris Tzaros

Chris Tzaros