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Seven western ground parrots relocated to site east of Albany to bolster fledgling satellite population

Headshot of Kasey Gratton
Kasey GrattonAlbany Advertiser
Seven western ground parrots have been translocated to a remote site east of Albany to support the establishment of an additional population
Camera IconSeven western ground parrots have been translocated to a remote site east of Albany to support the establishment of an additional population Credit: Albany Advertiser

The population of WA’s rarest bird has been given a vital boost, with seven western ground parrots recently relocated from an existing population near Esperance to bolster a burgeoning colony east of Albany.

There are fewer than 150 western ground parrots left in the wild, with their populations concentrated near Esperance in Cape Arid National Park and Nuytsland Nature Reserve.

Last autumn, a collaboration between researchers and volunteers saw seven of the parrots relocated to a habitat east of Albany where the birds have historically lived.

Following promising results of this initial move, seven more western ground parrots were transferred from Cape Arid to join the other birds in June.

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Parks and Wildlife Service regional ecologist Sarah Comer, who led the project with Allan Burbidge, said the aim of the program was to build another breeding population.

A western ground parrot with a transmitter following release.
Camera IconA western ground parrot with a transmitter following release. Credit: Stewart Ford

“We had really encouraging results with activity detected 12 months after the release in the new site, so basically we’re topping those birds up with a few more and hopefully they’ll start to do what birds do,” she said.

“What we want to do is actually build up the numbers now we’re confident that they’ll survive and they translocate really well.”

The translocation occurred as a partnership between the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions, with veterinary and animal husbandry support from Perth Zoo and assistance from BirdLife Australia, Friends of the Western Ground Parrot Group, South Coast Natural Resource Management and skilled volunteers.

The Australian Government’s Threatened Species Commissioner Dr Fiona Fraser also visited Cape Arid and participated in monitoring and translocation preparations.

Field team with Fiona Fraser (Threatened Species Commissioner) in Cape Arid National Park.
Camera IconField team with Fiona Fraser (Threatened Species Commissioner) in Cape Arid National Park. Credit: R. Almuna Morales

Once moved, the birds are initially monitored by transmitters they wear on a harness which are designed to fall off after a few weeks, and are then monitored long-term by a network of acoustic monitoring devices which pick up their calls.

Ms Comer said the importance of the project was made clear with the recent release of the Federal Government’s State of the Environment report which named western ground parrots as one of five Australian species “considered most at risk from extinction”.

She said developing the new population east of Albany would reduce the birds’ risk of extinction and pointed to past translocations of other endangered animals, including noisy scrub birds and the Gilbert’s Potoroo, as proving “fundamental in preserving those species”.

“What we’re trying to do is actually establish another population so that there’s some resilience to big bushfires impacting the source population out at Cape Arid,” Ms Comer said.

“If we can establish them somewhere else it means, metaphorically, your eggs are in more than one basket.”

Unfurling mist-nets in Cape Arid National Park.
Camera IconUnfurling mist-nets in Cape Arid National Park. Credit: Allan Burbidge

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