Recent evidence strongly suggests that the population of this species is well over 10,000 individuals, with no evidence of a continuing decline, and although there are projected declines in nest hollows of 20-29% for one part of the population over the next three generations (19 years), there is not believed to be sufficient evidence of the link between hollow availability and parrot abundance such that the total population could be predicted to decline at a rate approaching 30% in the three generations. The species has consequently been downlisted to Least Concern. If it is demonstrated that the loss of dead trees is likely to cause significant future declines in the global population, the status of this and other nest hollow-dependent species would warrant reconsideration.
Christidis, L.; Boles, W. E. 1994. The taxonomy and species of birds of Australia and its territories. Royal Australasian Ornithologists' Union, Melbourne.
Christidis, L.; Boles, W. E. 2008. Systematics and taxonomy of Australian birds. CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood, Australia.
Sibley, C. G.; Monroe, B. L. 1990. Distribution and taxonomy of birds of the world. Yale University Press, New Haven, USA.
40 cm. Bright green parrot with long, graduated tail. Adult male bright green with diagnostic bright yellow face sharply demarcated by bright red band across lower throat. Mainly grey undertail. Adult female duller than male with bluish-green on face, grey undertail feathers with conspicuous rose-pink edges. Juvenile similar to adult female, but with paler bill. Voice Not well known. One call is prolonged warbling note terminating abruptly or rolling, grating currack currack. Hints Easier to find during breeding season. Dispersive at other times of year.
An expert review panel considered it highly likely that the population in 2010 exceeded 10,000 mature individuals, probably by many thousands (Garnett et al. 2011). A study systematically sampling 23,000 km2 of parrot habitat on the western slopes in 2001 (Manning et al. 2007) found nearly 1,500 parrots in 53 out of 81 well-separated sites. Furthermore they were reported from throughout the landscape, not just where there were corridors of trees as had previously been thought essential for the species. A simple extrapolation of these results gives a total population of over 400,000 individuals. While no member of the Australian Threatened Species Committee thought this number likely, they thought it highly unlikely the total could be as low as 10,000. The total is thus placed here in the band 10,000-19,999 mature individuals but may prove to be higher.
The overall trend is uncertain but there is no evidence for a continuing decline. The Atlas reporting rate increased by 61 per cent between the averages for 1977-1981 and 1998-2009, and there is no evidence that increases in Canberra in the last decade have been accompanied by losses elsewhere in the range.
It nests in the New South Wales and Victorian Riverina in loose colonies in riparian woodland of river red gum Eucalyptus camaldulensis and forages in box woodland. On the slopes of the Great Dividing Range, it forages and nests in box-gum woodland, preferring highly modified, open habitat such as scattered paddock trees on private agricultural land (Manning et al. 2004, 2006). Nesting birds on the South-West Slopes show clear preferences for Blakely's red gum trees E. blakelyi, dead and aging trees in general, and larger trees, as all of these factors are correlated with the presence of suitable nest hollows (Manning et al. 2004). The species also shows a preference for lower elevations in this area, which are dominated by agriculture (Manning et al. 2006), in contrast to the poorer soils and lower temperatures of higher elevations (Manning et al. 2007). In the Riverina, it feeds on the seeds of herbaceous plants, switching to lerp, mistletoe berries, eucalypt flowers and grass seed in winter, and forages up to 15 km from the nest. In contrast, it appears that the most important habitats for breeding birds on the South-West Slopes are within 3 km of nest-sites (Manning et al. 2006).
Range contraction is largely the result of clearing for agriculture. Decreases in the species's abundance are linked to land clearing that does not leave scattered trees in the landscape (Manning et al. 2007). Remaining habitat is often fragmented, with feeding and breeding habitats divided. Regeneration is commonly prevented by high grazing levels by stock and rabbits or inappropriate fire regimes. Scattered box-gum woodland is threatened by limited regeneration, rural tree dieback, removal of trees and firewood collection (Manning et al. 2007). In breeding areas the majority of nest trees are often on private land, with scattered paddock trees in mixed agricultural land of vital importance on the South-West Slopes. Nest-site fidelity means that birds continue to use traditional breeding sites despite habitat loss and degradation (Leslie 2005). Many nest trees are dead, particularly on inland slopes, and have no replacements when they fall or are cut for firewood, potentially resulting in competition with other species, particularly the Common Starling Sturnus vulgaris. There are limited provisions for the protection of dead trees, and due to continued illegal removal and natural loss of old trees a decline in nest site availability is inevitable (Manning et al. 2004). In areas of low occupancy, the availability of food in the breeding season, and not that of nest hollows, may limit population size (Leslie 2005). In the Riverina, altered flooding regimes may compromise the health and extent of riparian woodlands where this species nests (C. Tzaros and M. A. Weston in litt. 2003). Illegal trapping occurs, but is a far less significant threat than habitat loss. Birds are also killed on roadsides and possibly suffer from pesticide poisoning. The abundance and distribution of the species appears to be affected by changes in plant productivity, as influenced by climate (Manning et al. 2007). It is therefore susceptible to climate change and its interaction with fragmentation (Manning et al. 2007).
Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix II. All populations were surveyed in the 1980s, and regular surveys of Barmah State Forest and along Murray, Murrumbidgee and Edward Rivers have been instigated. Annual community-based surveys occur in northern Victoria and southern New South Wales (C. Tzaros and M. A. Weston in litt. 2003). Guidelines have been developed for forestry in riparian breeding habitat, but these have sometimes been inadvertently ignored. Conservation Actions Proposed
Refine monitoring techniques. Extend surveys of nest trees. Determine the extent of trade. Protect all known breeding and feeding habitat from clearance, including scattered paddock trees on private agricultural land (A. Manning in litt. 2007). Reduce firewood collection. Promote good habitat management and revegetation on private land (Manning et al. 2006). Coordinate land management on the scale of landscapes and centuries (Manning et al. 2004), and involve all stakeholders (Manning et al. 2006). Develop regional operations groups. Research the potential benefits of nest boxes (Manning et al. 2004). Conduct research into methods of regenerating scattered trees (Manning et al. 2006) and develop grazing regimes suitable for eucalypt regeneration (Manning et al. 2004). Initiate research into population demography and communal behaviour (Leslie 2005). Research importance of woodland, and potential new plantings, adjacent to breeding sites, and relationship to mortality of immatures (Leslie 2005). Conduct research on local and landscape-scale movement patterns (A. Manning in litt. 2007). Study nest-site fidelity (A. Manning in litt. 2007). Carry out further investigations into, and monitoring of, the effects of climate variation on the species's abundance and distribution and the interaction with habitat loss and modification (A. Manning in litt. 2007).
Garnett, S. T.; Crowley, G. M. 2000. The action plan for Australian birds 2000. Environment Australia, Canberra.
Garnett, S.T., Szabo, J.K. and Dutson, G. 2011. The Action Plan for Australian Birds 2010. CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood.
Leslie, D. 2005. Is the Superb Parrot Polytelis swainsonii population in Cuba State Forest limited by hollow or food availability? Corella 29: 77-87.
Manning, A. D.; Lindenmayer, D. B.; Barry, S. C.; Nix, A. 2006. Multi-scale site and landscape effects on the vulnerable superb parrot of south-eastern Australia during the breeding season. Landscape Ecology 21: 1119-1133.
Manning, A. D.; Lindenmayer, D. B.; Barry, S. C.; Nix, A. 2007. Large-scale spatial and temporal dynamics of the vulnerable and highly mobile superb parrot. Journal of Biogeography 34: 289-304.
Manning, A.D.; Lindenmayer, D. B.; Barry, S.C. 2004. The conservation implications of bird reproduction in the agricultural "matrix": a case study of the vulnerable superb parrot of south-eastern Australia. Biological Conservation 120: 363-374.
Manning, A.D.; Lindenmayer, D. B.; Nix, H. A.; Barry, S.C. 2005. A bioclimatic analysis for the highly mobile Superb Parrot of south-eastern Australia. Emu 105: 193-201.
Further web sources of information
Australian Govt - Action Plan for Australian Birds 2000 - Recovery Outline
Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Garnett, S., McClellan, R., Pilgrim, J., Symes, A., Taylor, J.
Manning, A., Tzaros, C., Weston, M.
IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S., Taylor, J.
BirdLife International (2014) Species factsheet: Polytelis swainsonii. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 18/04/2014. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2014) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 18/04/2014.
This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.
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Additional resources for this species
|Current IUCN Red List category||Least Concern|
|Species name author||(Desmarest, 1826)|
|Population size||10000-19999 mature individuals|
|Distribution size (breeding/resident)||81,200 km2|
|Links to further information|
|- Additional Information on this species|