Conservation partners unite to save the threatened Superb Parrot

A Superb Parrot perched in a leafless tree.

Habitat loss has put the Superb Parrot in a vulnerable position. Photo: Mark Gillow CC BY 2.0.

The Superb Parrot (Polytelis swainsonii) is a vibrant woodland bird and plays an integral part in ecosystems through seed dispersal and pollination. However, its population is vulnerable as a result of habitat loss, particularly the loss of hollow-bearing trees, and changing environmental conditions.

Group efforts to conserve this spectacular green parrot by protecting existing habitat and planting more have seen substantial on-ground progress. The collaborative projects led by the NSW Government’s Saving our Species program involve a diverse range of partners including:

  • Greening Australia (more about our projects)
  • Five local Landcare groups in the Lachlan catchment
  • NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service
  • South East and Riverina Local Land Services
  • Coleambally Irrigation
  • Local field naturalist groups (including Cowra Woodland Birds Group), community members and citizen scientists.

These partners are uniting their unique skills and passions to address habitat loss by protecting mature trees with hollows crucial for breeding success, and by planting thousands of new trees and shrubs to increase habitat and landscape connectivity for the birds.

Key outcomes so far

  • Over 270 hectares of remnant box gum woodland habitat protected
  • 60 hollow-bearing paddock trees fenced off from stock
  • Over 25,000 tube stock trees and shrubs planted
  • Over 3,000 tube stock paddock trees planted, protected by cattle-proof tree guards
  • 348 hectares of Sandhill Pine woodland and 50 hectares of Box Gum woodland direct seeded – also helping restore these threatened vegetation communities
  • And more
A person is inspecting a large shrub full of seed in the foreground. In the background, more shrubs and tall mature trees are visible.

White pine sandhills in the Riverina, once devoid of shrubs, planted seven years ago and now rich with wattles and hop bush, full of seed. In a tree near this planting being inspected by Nicki Taws, recently fledged juvenile Superb Parrots were creched with a responsible adult.

Benefits for woodlands, parrots, landholders, communities

Greening Australia has partnered with Saving our Species since 2017, delivering important on-ground restoration to over 1,000 hectares of Superb Parrot Box Gum woodland habitat in southern NSW, and over 400 hectares of newly established Sandhill Pine and Box-Gum woodland habitat, both of which are threatened woodland communities.

Achieving this in less than a decade is a significant positive result, said Saving our Species Superb Parrot project coordinator, Dr Damon Oliver.

“To have a practitioner partner such as Greening Australia who can cover all aspects of a restoration project, including monitoring, engagement and reporting, makes the Saving our Species superb parrot project cost-effective and successful.”

A ute with the Greening Australia logo pulls a tree seeder, making a furrow across a green paddock, surrounded by older gum trees.

The Greening Australia team direct seeding in the NSW Riverina for Superb Parrot habitat.

Greening Australia Program Specialist Nicki Taws said the survival of this highly mobile bird relies on the availability of suitable habitat across a broad sweep of inland NSW farmland.

“The expertise of the Saving our Species team and researchers at the Australian National University has helped us prioritise breeding areas within this wider region so that the project can have its greatest impact.

“Landholders can also benefit from the plantings providing windbreaks and shade and shelter for livestock. Once farmers can see that restoring habitat in strategic ways across their property not only helps native biodiversity but also improves value for stock and pastures, they are keen to do more.”

These projects are also benefitting local communities by employing local businesses for everything from graphic design and catering to sign making and fencing.

A photo taken looking up into the sky. Three Superb Parrot are flying overhead with their wings outspread.

The project partners want to make this a common sight: Superb Parrots flying overhead. Photo: Mark Gillow CC BY 2.0.

Ways to help

These projects have achieved outstanding on-ground outcomes so far, thanks to the teamwork, knowledge sharing, skills, shared commitment and cost-saving initiatives brought by each partner involved. Efforts to protect and restore woodland habitat on farms continue, with momentum and interest in these projects building.

This article is adapted from one shared by Saving our Species in their June 2024 issue of Partnering with Purpose (subscribe to receive future issues).

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