New study could offer helping hand for picky parrots

11 December 2020

New research has shown just how picky the iconic superb parrot is about the types of tree hollows they nest in, with the discovery potentially key to protecting the threatened species.  

One of the lead authors of the study, Dr Dejan Stojanovic from The Australian National University (ANU), says while the superb parrot is a much-loved Australian bird, until now, little was known about what kind of habitat it needs. 

"Understanding the type of hollows animals need, and how abundant they are, is a critical step for conservation," Dr Stojanovic said. 

"Superb parrots like hollows in large tree limbs that have deep chambers, wide entrances and enough space on the floor for a big family. 

"This particular combination of traits is especially rare, and only 0.5 per cent of tree hollows in a woodland actually fit these criteria." 

The paper showed that very few mature trees have suitable hollows for the picky parrots. The researchers say this reinforces the need to protect their nests. 

"Baby parrots must be delicious, so they like to nest in hollows where the chicks are harder to reach by predators. This is why good hollows are critical for threatened species recovery," Dr Stojanovic said. 

Superb parrots are listed as vulnerable, and potential shortages of suitable tree hollows may limit their populations in landscapes where large trees are rare. 

This study is part of a partnership between ANU and the Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate. 

Dr Laura Rayner, Senior Ecologist from the ACT Parks and Conservation Service, and a lead author on the study said: "These results will help us identify and protect these very rare and valuable nesting trees. 

"Land managers, like ACT Parks and Conservation Service, use practical information based in strong science like this report to help us protect superb parrot habitat. 

"This research will be used alongside the Government's ACT Native Woodland Conservation Strategy, which guides the protection, restoration and management of our precious woodlands-and the plants and animals that live in them-for the next 10 years." 

The research is published in the journal Forest Ecology and Management.