Western Ground Parrot breeding program to be developed, critically endangered birds transferred to Perth Zoo

The critically endangered Western Ground Parrot. Photo: Jennene Riggs.
The critically endangered Western Ground Parrot. Photo: Jennene Riggs.

WESTERN Australia's rarest bird has had a rare win, with seven critically endangered Western Ground parrots transferred to Perth Zoo, where it is hoped they will successfully breed.

Environment Minister Albert Jacob said with fewer than 140 of the parrots estimated to be left in the wild, breeding birds in captvity may be one of the keys to the species' survival.

The Western Ground Parrot's entire population is restricted to locations across the south coast, notably Cape Arid and Fitzgerald River National Park.

The shy, ground-dwelling bird is vulnerable to predation by feral cats and to bush fires.

Mr Jacob said in an effort to safeguard the species, Parks and Wildlife established a secure facility on the south coast five years ago for a small number of the parrots

"Now these birds have been transferred to a newly refurbished aviary at Perth Zoo, a breeding program will be developed to underpin ongoing recovery efforts for the wild population," he said.

"Once threats have been addressed - and if the bids are able to be successfully bred at the zoo - we hope they can be released back into national parks."

State government funding to initiate the captive breeding program has been supplemented by a $15,000 grant from the volunteer-run-group, Friends of the Western Ground Parrot.

"The Friends of the Western Ground Parrot are to be commended for their achievement to this species," Mr Jacob said.

"It is pleasing to see such co-operative arrangements between government and the community to achieve positive conservation outcomes."

The Friends group recently took out a $5000 prize after lodging a dream with Sunsuper Dreams.

Once a prolific species that roamed the coastal regions from Esperance to Geraldton, predation by foxes and feral cats has reduced the parrots' population to less than 140 birds in the wild.

Experts believe the remaining birds are in the Fitzgerald River National Park or the Cape Arid National Park.

A nest has not been found in almost 100 years.

In late June, Parks and Wildlife researchers and managers said they were encouraged by the progress of the parrot.

The endangered species of parrot is endemic to Western Australia.

Parks and Wildlife's South Coast Threatened Birds Recovery Team is currently conducting field work in Cape Arid National Park and has reported hearing food numbers of the parrots.

A spokesperson said a landscape-based trial of Parks and Wildlife-developed Eradicat bait for feral cat control is in place in Fitzgerald River National Park and 145,000 hectares of Cape Le Grand National Park.

"The baiting program is aimed at conserving western ground parrots and other threatened or conservation-dependent mammals and birds," they said.

"It complements other work being done on fire management and fox control."

The Threatened Birds Recovery Team has been monitoring uptake of baits and other data by attaching GPS radio-collars to feral cats.

Monitoring is also carried out through the use of remote cameras and automated recording of ground parrot calls.

DPaW said it is still too early to draw firm conclusions but staff were encouraged by the parrot's progress. 

Western Ground Parrots are a medium-sized bird with mainly green and yellow feathers highlighted by brown and black flecks.

The parrot has a bright red band above its beak.

Find out more by following the Friends of the Western Ground Parrot on Facebook.

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