Coxen's Fig-parrot Cyclopsitta diophthalma coxeni Recovery Plan 2001-2005

Coxen's Fig-Parrot Recovery Team
© The State of Queensland, Environmental Protection Agency, 2001

4. Habitat

4.1 Habitat preferences

Coxen's fig-parrots probably preferred lowland subtropical rainforests such as those found in the Big Scrub remnants around Lismore, the foothills west of Brisbane and lowland rainforests north to the Mary River (Holmes 1994b). Within these forests, alluvial areas where figs and other fleshy-fruited trees are prevalent are probably preferred (Martindale 1986, Holmes 1990). Gallery rainforest was probably also important (Holmes 1990). As much of this rainforest type has been cleared since European settlement, the remnants are fragmented, more hilly and consequently drier (Martindale 1986). They support fewer fleshy-fruited trees (Floyd 1977) and, as a result, may support lower densities of fig-parrots than the original lowland forests (J. Martindale pers. comm.).

Recent records of Coxen's fig-parrots are from subtropical rainforest, dry rainforest, littoral and developing littoral rainforest, sub-littoral mixed scrub, riparian corridors in woodland, open woodland and otherwise cleared land, and urbanised and agricultural areas with fig trees. These sightings span a range of altitudes from sea level to about 900m above sea level. Areas with a high fig diversity, where fruiting is staggered along moisture and altitudinal gradients, may be favoured. Most records are from small remnant stands, forest edges (Holmes 1994a) or thin strips of gallery forest (Norris 1964). The apparent distribution of these recent records and conclusions on habitat preference must be viewed with caution since the cryptic nature of the species makes it easy to overlook and, therefore, potentially subject to observer bias.

Nests are reported within subtropical rainforest, dry rainforest and also from ecotones between sclerophyll forest and subtropical rainforest (J. Young pers. comm.). These ecotones may form an important part of the bird's habitat (J. Young pers. comm.). Coxen's fig-parrot has also been reported visiting fruiting trees in gardens and cultivated farmlands (Forshaw 1969, Morris and McGill 1980, Fisher in Holmes 1990, Gynther et al. 1998).

4.2 Habitats critical to survival

Given the poor state of knowledge about the distribution, patterns of movement and ecology of Coxen's fig-parrot, it is not yet possible to state definitively what constitutes habitat that is critical to the survival of the taxon or to accurately map the distribution of such habitat.

The presence of abundant fig trees appears to be an important factor governing the subspecies' occurrence. However, as fig trees exist at apparently suitable densities across a wide range of habitats, landscapes and disturbance regimes (see 4.1), it would be inappropriate to identify and map all these ecosystems as being critical to the bird's survival. Nevertheless, the mapping of fig trees is recognised in this recovery plan (see 10.3.1) as a necessary prelude to the identification and protection of such key habitats. Other actions described in this plan will assess the importance of specific habitat types for feeding and nesting at and adjacent to sites occupied by Coxen's fig-parrot. These actions will complement the fig tree mapping and lead to a better understanding of all habitat attributes that may be critical to survival of the subspecies.