Superb Parrot Community Based Monitoring

From many years of community engagement activities in the South West Slopes, it is very apparent that many people, particularly landholders, love the superb parrot (Polytelis swainsonii), and have a strong desire to help in the recovery effort and to learn more about the species.

The superb parrot is a spectacular green bird that is easy to identify, thereby making it an ideal candidate for a citizen science monitoring program. Over the last 20 years, the superb parrot has become a local mascot in the Boorowa Shire with local businesses using the bird as their icon. The key threat to the species is the ongoing loss of large, old trees that provide hollows for nesting birds. Many old or dead paddock trees are lost each year.

The superb parrot is a highly mobile seasonal visitor to parts of the NSW South West Slopes, where it breeds in spring and summer. Most of the population then departs in autumn and winter, but their movements and non-breeding habitats are not well known. Since 2013, the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) and the Australian National University have been working with about 40 community members, including landholders and residents of local towns, on a monitoring program to collect important population and distribution information that will contribute to the bird’s conservation and management.

Every spring, community surveyors are asked to spend at least one morning between late September and late November counting superb parrots at sites of their choice, or sites that can be provided for them, on both private and public land. The landholder members count birds on their own properties. The survey involves counting the number of birds seen over a 1 km transect, over 1 hour, recording GPS locations and other data such as weather and the time of day. To date there have been over 100 surveys conducted. Data is collated by OEH, and reported back to community surveyors. Currently survey results are recorded on a paper data sheet. However, OEH South East Region is working on a project to enable the information to be collected via a smartphone app. Not only would this make it easier for community surveyors to collect the information, but it will assist OEH to incorpoate and review data more quickly.

This citizen science monitoring program is of particular interest, as the superb parrot is one of the species that the Rivers of Carbon programs are trying to save. To find out more about the NSW OEH program, visit the Saving Our Species Superb Parrot Website.

Article and photo from the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage Saving Our Species February 2015 Update.