Swift parrot

Common Name: Swift parrot

Scientific Name: Lathamus discolor

Swift Parrots are nomadic migrants, which means that they only settle in areas of Tasmania or Australia where food is abundant and temperatures are cooler.

Larger egg clutches hatch in stages taking up to five days for the last egg to hatch. Despite this difference in timing, the young birds grow quickly, so by the time they are ready to leave the nest as fledglings, they are all similar in size.

Being nectarivorous, the Swift parrot plays a very important role as a pollinator for eucalypts due to their capacity for transporting much larger quantities of pollen on their tongues and beaks than insect pollinators.

Fast Facts

  • Status

    Critically endangered

  • Size

    25 cm tall; Wingspan of 32 - 36 cm

  • Weight

    50 - 74 g

  • Gestation

    20 days

  • Gestation

    20 days

  • Young

    3 - 5 eggs laid

  • Life span

    8 to 13 years in captivity, longevity in the wild unknown.

In the wild

Swift Parrots are primarily nectar feeders, but will also eat insects, fruits, berries, and seeds. In the winter they are dependent on flowering eucalypts.

This species spends the summer months in eucalypt forests in southeast Tasmania. During the winter months, they then migrate to southeast Australia, living in a variety of habitats such as farmland, parklands, and suburbs.

Swift Parrot breeding season coincides with the flowering of Tasmanian Blue Gum and Black Gum trees, from which they will make their nests in tree hollows 7-20 m above the ground. Large numbers of Swift Parrots are known to nest near each other, with individual trees housing 5 or more individual nesting sites. A female will lay a clutch of 3 -5 eggs and incubate them up until 10 days after hatching. The male does not incubate the eggs but instead provides the female and chicks with food.

In Tasmania, an introduced marsupial called a Sugar Glider is posing a severe threat to the wild Swift Parrot population. Studies have shown that they have predated around 79% of nests on mainland Tasmania and have killed around 65% of nesting females.

The main threats to Swift Parrots include nest predation from Sugar Gliders, habitat loss for agriculture and housing development, and from global warming, which is predicted to completely erase suitable habitats by the end of the 21st century. Swift parrots are particularly sensitive to temperature changes with recent extremes in excess of 30 degrees Celsius impacting on both the breeding and longevity of this species. Demographic information has shown that Swift Parrots may go extinct in the wild by 2031.
They are protected under CITES Appendix II, which restricts any form of trade of these birds, and regular surveys are being undertaken to assess areas of critical habitat both in Tasmania and Australia. Further action in reducing Sugar Glider predation has also been proposed.

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