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Less than 3000 Golden-Shouldered Parrots Left in the Wild

Words Juliana Foxlee | Photos Barry Lyon

As the focus on Australia’s extinction crisis heats up, Cape York Natural Resource Management and Northern Gulf Resource Management Group are working to protect the habitat of one of Cape York’s rarest birds – the golden-shouldered parrot.

The golden-shouldered parrot was once found in large flocks across Cape York, and has cultural significance to Traditional Owners. Today there are estimated to be around 2,500 golden-shouldered parrots remaining in far north Queensland, restricted to just two known populations on central – east Cape York and the northern Gulf.

Golden–shouldered parrots are listed as Endangered under the Environment Protection Biodiversity Conservation Act. The key threats to the species include altered fire regimes, feral pigs and grazing.

The Cape York NRM and Northern Gulf RMG project is focused on delivering on-ground actions that address known threats to the health of the species, and to the landscape more broadly.  

Northern Gulf RMG’s Biodiversity Officer James Donaldson said culturally appropriate fire management was a key component in protecting golden-shouldered parrots.

‘A number of the threats facing golden-shouldered parrots stem from inappropriate fire regimes. In particular, there has been a reduction in open grassland habitat favoured by these birds due to the combined impacts of grazing and unmanaged fire regimes, which results in woody thickening. Woody thickening presents a number of challenges to golden-shouldered parrots, namely a reduction in grass seed (their main food supply), increased predation from woodland predators and a decrease in available habitat and food for termites, which provide nesting sites for the parrots.

‘To this end, the project has a major fire theme. Both Cape York NRM and Northern Gulf RMG are holding annual Indigenous Fire Workshops which will focus on culturally appropriate burning. These workshops will build a network (North Queensland Indigenous Cultural Fire Practitioners Network) which will provide mutual support and mentoring for Indigenous fire practitioners, as well as promoting and practicing cultural burning.

‘Northern Gulf recently held its first Indigenous Fire Workshop on Talaroo station; Cape York NRM’s will be held on Mary Valley Station in July 2019.

‘By 2021, 16 Traditional Owners will be trained in culturally appropriate fire management to improve golden-shouldered parrot habitat and appropriate fire management will be in place across 11,200 ha of properties with known golden-shouldered parrot habitat.

‘Over the five years of the project we hope to increase the skills and knowledge of land managers and Traditional Owners to implement fire management and develop local action plans with landholders to identify and prioritise actions for golden-shouldered parrot conservation. We are also hoping to work with, and through, the golden –shouldered parrot Recovery Team to invest in local habitat restoration activities.

‘The key threats to these parrots are also key threats to the health of the landscape more broadly. The on ground actions supported through this project will not only help golden-shouldered parrots but also contribute to improving the condition of the environment overall.’

This project is supported by Cape York NRM and Northern Gulf RMG, through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.