While in the Winton Wetlands we spoke to a man who was actually a boiler maker who lived across the road from the wetlands and did volunteer work with the scientists who were working to restore this area. He was absorbing all the information he could get from working with them and seemed to just love it. He just oozed passion for the place and told us(among other things) about the area being “Turquoise country”. He was talking about the Turquoise Parrot and how the community was caring for the threatened species. We found out that the parrot is very fortunate to be with us today.
In the mid nineteenth century the Turquoise parrot was a common sight. By the late 19th century and early 20th century their numbers and range had drastically decreased. By the 1920’s the TP was generally considered, to quote Sydney ornithologist, G. A. Heuman, to be “on it’s deathbed”.
Because the TP has a habit of feeding almost entirely on the ground on the seeds of native grasses it is believed that changes to ground layer vegetation from grazing livestock and introduced rabbits plus the “federation drought (1895-1902) was almost certainly responsible for their decline.
Direct human destruction also decimated populations from indiscriminate shooting and also trapping. In the 1890’s in western Sydney, one old trapper noted he would catch two or three dozen before breakfast. By 1910 the same trapper reported that the birds had completely disappeared.
BACK FROM THE BRINK- THE RESURGENCE OF THE TURQUOISE PARROT
Few species on the verge of extinction have been able to make a comeback but the TP seems to have. In the 1930’s the TP began to reestablish small populations in NSW and southern QLD. In the 1950’s it started to reappear in Victoria. In 1966 the TP was nesting in low stumps in the hilly areas around the Winton Wetlands. Local farmers were bemused by the sudden interest from bird watchers noticing small numbers on their property’s since 1954, unaware of how special sightings of this endangered species were.
The “Practical Parrot Action Project” began which recognised that something could be done to help this beautiful little bird survive in the log term. Some of the farmers around the Warby Ranges and Chesney Vale Hills along with scientists are helping to build and increase habitat with the hopes that this will encourage breeding in the area. M
We did not see this bird while we were in the wetlands as they are predominantly on private land in the hills you can see around the wetlands. Steve went back through his bird list and found one though. He had seen it along the Gwydir River at Bingara where we stopped for the night. He did not realise until now how special this siting was! M