National Recovery Plan for the Superb Parrot Polytelis swainsonii David Baker-Gabb

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National Recovery Plan for the

Superb Parrot

Polytelis swainsonii

David Baker-Gabb

Prepared by David Baker-Gabb (Elanus Pty. Ltd.)

Published by the Victorian Government Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) Melbourne, 2011.

© State of Victoria Department of Sustainability and Environment 2011

This publication is copyright. No part may be reproduced by any process except in accordance with the provisions of the Copyright Act 1968.

Authorised by the Victorian Government, 8 Nicholson Street, East Melbourne.

ISBN 978-1-74242-346-3 (online)
This is a Recovery Plan prepared under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, with the assistance of funding provided by the Australian Government.

This Recovery Plan has been developed with the involvement and cooperation of a range of stakeholders, but individual stakeholders have not necessarily committed to undertaking specific actions. The attainment of objectives and the provision of funds may be subject to budgetary and other constraints affecting the parties involved. Proposed actions may be subject to modification over the life of the plan due to changes in knowledge.


This publication may be of assistance to you but the State of Victoria and its employees do not guarantee that the publication is without flaw of any kind or is wholly appropriate for your particular purposes and therefore disclaims all liability for any error, loss or other consequence that may arise from you relying on any information in this publication.

An electronic version of this document is available on the Australian Government Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities website

For more information contact the DSE Customer Service Centre 136 186

Citation: Baker-Gabb, D. 2011. National Recovery Plan for the Superb Parrot Polytelis swainsonii. Department of Sustainability and Environment, Melbourne.
Cover photograph: Peter Christie, Superb Parrot Polytelis swainsonii.


Summary 4

Species Information 4

Description 4

Biology and Ecology 4

Distribution 5

Population Information 6

Habitat 7

Decline and Threats 8

Recovery Information 12

Strategy for Recovery 13

Recovery Objectives 13

Program Implementation 13

Program Evaluation 13

Cost of the Recovery Plan 17

Affected Interests 17

Biodiversity Benefits 17

Role and Interests of Indigenous People 18

Social and Economic impacts 18

Management Practices 19

Acknowledgements 20

References 20

Priority, Feasibility and Estimated Costs of Recovery Actions 24

Figure 1. Distribution of the Superb Parrot 6

Table 1. Nationally threatened and declining birds within the range of the Superb Parrot. 17


The Superb Parrot Polytelis swainsonii is a large, mostly green parrot endemic to inland south-eastern Australia, where it occurs through the inland slopes and plains of New South Wales (including the Australian Capital Territory) to northern Victoria.

The Superb Parrot has suffered a decline in range and abundance over the last 100 years. Major threats include clearing and degradation of nesting and foraging habitat, disturbance around nesting sites, competition for nest hollows, trapping for the pet trade and road kills. The population is estimated to contain 5,000–8,000 birds.

The Superb Parrot is listed as Vulnerable under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. It is also listed as Vulnerable in New South Wales (Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995) and the Australian Capital Territory (Nature Conservation Act 1980), and Threatened in Victoria (Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988).

This national Recovery Plan for the Superb Parrot is the first national recovery plan prepared for the species. The Plan details the species’ distribution and biology, conservation status, threats, and recovery objectives and actions necessary to ensure its long-term survival.

Species Information


The Superb Parrot is a medium-sized (36–42 cm long; 133–157 g weight) slender, long-tailed, green parrot. Adult males are bright green above and below, with a bright yellow forehead, throat and cheeks, and a narrow red band separating the yellow throat from the green breast. Adult females are green all over, somewhat duller than the males, and lacking the male's yellow and red head and throat markings. Immature birds are similar to females, with young males being a slightly brighter green (description from Forshaw & Cooper 1981; Pizzey & Knight 1997; Higgins 1999).

Biology and Ecology

The Superb Parrot nests between September and December (Forshaw & Cooper 1981; Webster 1988, 1991, 1993a). Before nesting, birds congregate in small flocks (Forshaw & Cooper 1981), then females leave these flocks to begin nesting and do not return to the flocks until their chicks are well-developed (DECCW in prep.). Superb Parrots nest singly or in loose colonies of up to nine pairs (Webster 1988), with pairs usually nesting in separate trees, although occasionally two or more active nests can be found in hollows in the same tree (Keartland 1903; Higgins 1999). Over the nesting period, flocks of males feed together and travel to and from foraging sites where they collect food for the brooding females. These journeys occur 2–3 times a day over the first four weeks of the breeding season, during which time the females do not leave the nest other than to be fed by the male (Forshaw & Cooper 1981). Male birds will forage at least 9 km from their nesting colonies (Webster 1997).

Superb Parrots lay 4–6 eggs that are incubated by the female and hatch in about 22 days (Higgins 1999). The hatchlings are then fed by both parents until fledged -approximately 40 days after hatching (Forshaw & Cooper 1981). Survival rate to fledgling stage is variable, with 1–5 young birds leaving the nest (DECCW in prep.). Anecdotal information suggests that some Superb Parrots may live for 25 years or more (DECCW in prep.), although like most birds (Ford 1989), probably few make it through their first year. There may be about five years between generations (Garnett & Crowley 2000).

The Superb Parrot has been considered nomadic (Sharrock 1981), resident (Schrader 1980), dispersive (Webster 1988; Webster & Ahern 1992), migratory (Schrader 1980), or partly migratory (Higgins 1999). Most birds undertake regular seasonal movements between breeding and non-breeding areas, although some birds remain in the breeding range throughout the year (Blakers et al. 1984; Webster 1988). Movements have been attributed to changes in food supply between the breeding and non-breeding seasons. In central New South Wales, movements are said to occur when eucalypts flower, and when food becomes scarce due to drought and birds seek alternative sources of food (Higgins 1999). When making local foraging movements, birds usually move along wooded corridors, rarely crossing large areas of open ground.

Superb Parrots feed on a range of plant species, mostly on the ground, but also in trees. Diet includes seeds of Ringed Wallaby-grass Austrodanthonia caespitosa, barley-grasses Critesion spp., wheat Triticum aestivum, oats Avena sativa, numerous wattle species (eg. Gold-dust Wattle Acacia acinacea, Silver Wattle A. dealbata and Deane's Wattle A. deanei), flowers, fruits and nectar of a variety of Eucalyptus species, fruit of Box Mistletoe Amyema miquelii, Grey Mistletoe A. quandang and Dwarf Cherry Exocarpos strictus and lerps taken from eucalypt foliage (Keartland 1903; Webster 1988, 1991, 1998). Birds drink in the early morning and again in the evening (Frith & Calaby 1953).

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