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Golden-Shouldered Parrot forum

Habitats for the Golden-Shouldered Parrot (GSP) are being overrun by thicker bush and trees, making the endangered parrot more susceptible to feral animals and predatory butcher birds, a forum has heard. 

Organised by Cape York Natural Resource Management, the forum included representatives from Olkola Aboriginal Corporation, Kyerrwanhdha Thingalkal Land Trust, Kunjen Rangers, Lama Lama Rangers, Artemis Nature Fund and Gulf Savannah NRM, to discuss progress made in protecting and caring for the rare bird.

“We are heading into our final year of funding under the current program, so today's event reviewed what information has been collected and what actions have been taken by groups in the GSP Recovery Team. Then it’s a question of where do we go from here?” Cape York NRM Biodiversity Officer Francis Malcolm said. 

The Golden-shouldered parrot is only found in southern Cape York Peninsula and lives in open forested grassland populated by termite species and their mounds. The parrot feeds on the seeds of small grasses and nest in the large termite mounds.  

It is listed as endangered, with surveys pointing to a total wild population of around 2,000 birds with about 300 breeding pairs. 

The forum discussed recent surveys carried out by landholder groups to verify what was predicted on the modelled mapping of potential habitat that parrots could move back into, however, some surveys were hampered by late rains and few-to-no parrots were found. 

Potential habitats were found but need modification by fire and other methods being trialed to both provide the resources the parrot requires and limit access to  ambush predators threatening the birds and their nests. 

A presentation by Dr Gabriel Crowley, who has been studying the birds for more than 20 years,  reviewed changes in canopy cover in the bird’s habitats from 1990-2018 and pointed to major thickening of bushland as a key factor in the reduction of nesting sites. 

The Artemis Nature Fund also presented trials that have been undertaken since 2019 to open up parrot habitat to reduce ambush predation risk. This initially required legal negotiation which took two years before native vegetation could be cleared under the Vegetation Management Act 1999. They then restored areas that had been mapped as historical grassland ecosystems. 

Predatory birds in those areas were GPS tagged and results showed that they did not enter the restored areas. With the antbeds in these restored areas now protected the parrot can once again use them for nesting.   

Colour-banding of the Golden-shouldered parrot has also provided a way to monitor the bird’s survival and population trends, with improvements expected over the next few years. 

Discussion on the best ways forward for all groups at the forum included following the Artemis Station trials of clearing identified habitats of thickened vegetation and to consider using feeders, similar to those used at Atemis Station, to attract the birds back into restored areas

It was also agreed that TOs from each region should be given the opportunity to continue learning from trials undertaken on Artemis Station and work together with neighbouring groups, by going on field trips where they can share information and knowledge and develop a united front to save the endangered parrot.

The Forum was facilitated by Cape York NRM through funding from the Federal Government's National Landcare Program.