Ground Parrots


Ground ParrotThe Ground Parrot or Ground Parakeet (Pezoporus wallicus wallicus) is also known as the Eastern Ground Parrot, Swamp Parrot or Button-grass Parrot and is an Australian endemic and can be found along the eastern and southern coasts of Australia as well as interior Tasmania.


The Ground Parrot is one of only four ground-dwelling parrots in the world, the others being:

  • Night Parrot (Pezoporus occidentalisits) - its closest relative and extremely rare;

  • Antipodes Island Parakeet (Cyanoramphus unicolor) - somewhat closely related; and

  • Kakapo (Strigops habroptilus) from New Zealand. It's unrelated to the Ground Parrot, and highly endangered.

Western Ground ParrotThe Ground Parrot is a shy and elusive parrot that it is not usually seen unless it is flushed out. 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 - which consists of a clear whistling sequence of notes which rise in pitch before fading.

Ground Parrots usually remain in their chosen habitats, but young birds may disperse to find their own territories. Ground Parrots may also move away from fires and fire-affected areas.


Status / Conservation:

The Ground Parrot is considered vulnerable in its natural habitat as its numbers are dwindling. The eastern nominate species, P. wallicus wallicus, is listed as vulnerable in New South Wales. The western subspecies of the Ground Parrot, P. wallicus flaviventris, is listed federally as endangered.

Threats
  • Fires: Humans have impacted on Ground Parrots through clearing or changing their habitat. Too-frequent fire regimes caused a general decline in the population and a fragmentation of their habitats. However fire exclusion can also adversely affect the survival of some native species, including the Ground Parrots, as natural wild fires are important to maintain natural ecosystems.
  • Habitat Destruction / Loss: Historical loss and fragmentation of habitat through clearing for agriculture and residential developments. Dieback of dwarf-shrub habitats from Phytophthora fungus may also be a potential threat.
  • Predation by foxes and cats is also a threat.
  • Avian Diseases: Psittacine Circoviral Disease (PCD)

Diet / Feeding:

Ground Parrots usually feed on the ground, eating seeds of sedges, grasses, herbaceous plants and shrubs. Although the Ground Parrot is an opportunistic feeder the bulk of its diet probably comprises species from the Restionaceae family.


Western Ground ParrotThere are three recognized subspecies of the Ground Parrot in Australia:

Eastern Ground Parrot (Pezoporus wallicus wallicus): The nominate species - occurs in fragmented populations in south-eastern Australia from southern Queensland through New South Wales to western Victoria. It is considered vulnerable on the schedules of the New South Wales Threatened Species Conservation Act. There are estimated to be 2,000 breeding birds. Small numbers are found on the north coast (Broadwater, Bundjalung, Yuraygir NPs) and Myall Lakes on the central coast. The largest populations occur on the New South Wales - south coast, particularly Barren Grounds NR, Budderoo NP, the Jervis Bay area and Nadgee NR. Small numbers are recorded at Morton and Ben Boyd NP and other areas on the south coast.

Tasmanian Ground Parrot (Pezoporus wallicus leachi): The least endangered. Most common in south west Tasmania.

Western Ground Parrot (Pezoporus wallicus flaviventris): Federally listed as endangered. Occurs in the extreme southeast of Queensland to southwest Australia, Tasmania and some off-shore islands.


Calls / Vocalization:

This species is mostly quiet and silent in flight. It has a distinctive call - given at dawn and dusk - that consists of a series of piercing whistles, rising in steps, with each note flowing on almost unbroken, but abruptly higher than the preceding note. The variable high-pitched call is audible for some distance, and is answered by neighboring members of species.


Description

The Ground Parrot is distinctive, bright grass-green, long-tailed, ground-dwelling parrot with an average length of 30 cm or 12 inches (from beak to tip of tail). The plumage is bright grass-green, each feather having distinctive black and yellow markings; and there is a prominent pale yellow wing bar. The tail is long and barred with yellow. The forehead of birds older than three or four months is orange-red. The cere is greyish pink and the bill greyish-brown to horn-color. The longish feet are greyish-brown; and claws are not so curved as those of other parrots. They have narrow pale grey periophthalmic rings and whitish-yellow irises.

The coloration of the two Pezoporus species and the Kakapo is similar – yellowish-green with darker barring, somewhat reminiscent of the head and back of the wild-type budgerigar. This is not an indication of a true relationship, however, but either adaptation to a particular lifestyle or 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.

Males and females look alike.

Immatures look like adults, but have a slightly duller plumage. They lack the orange-red band to the forehead that can be seen in the adult. The head, nape, upper back and breast are green, each feather with distinct black shaft markings. The tail is shorter and their irises are brown.


Breeding

The breeding period stretches from September to January (one record in March). This parrot constructs a nest consisting of an excavation in soil, lined with fine twigs, leaves, fern and grass. The nest is usually well hidden under small bushes or tussock hanging over nest.

The female incubates the eggs and broods the young. During this time of incubation and brooding, the female is fed by the male, who also feeds the young when they hatch.

The average clutch consists of 3 to 4 eggs and the incubation period is believed to be 21 days. The chicks are well camouflaged with thick greyish-black down. They remain in the nest for two to three weeks and the young are fed about three times a day.


Taxonomy

Genus: Scientific: Pezoporus ... English: Ground Parrots ... Dutch: Grondpapegaaien ... German: Erdsittiche ... French: Pezoport terrestre

Species: Scientific: Pezoporus wallicus wallicus ... English: Ground Parrot, Swamp Parrot, Button-grass Parrot ... Dutch: Grondpapegaai, Grondparkiet ... German: Erdsittich ... French: Pezoport terrestre ... CITES II - Endangered Species

Distribution: South-eastern Australia, Tasmania. Some Islands on Brass Strait



Sub-species:


Species Research by Sibylle Johnson

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