National recovery plan for the Golden-shouldered Parrot (Psephotus chrysopterygius) 2003-2007

Recovery Plan
Dr Stephen Garnett and Dr Gabriel Crowley
Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, Brisbane

3. Recovery Actions (continued)

Specific objective 4 Determine impacts of pied butcherbirds on nest success

Action 4.1.1 Develop research plan to determine effects of pied butcherbird predation.

Justification
Pied butcherbirds are thought to be a major predator of young golden-shouldered parrots, particularly immediately before and after fledging when they have already survived predation from other sources. It has never been possible to quantify this to determine whether it is a major influence on the fecundity of the parrots. To do this properly necessitates careful design of the research plan, preferably with refereeing by others who have done similar research.

Methods
Prepare a research plan and circulate for comment. Incorporate comments as appropriate.

Responsibility
Administration: QPWS.

Action 4.1.2 Obtain ethics approval for pied butcherbird research plan.

Justification
Almost certainly butcherbird predation cannot be quantified without first removing some butcherbirds. This process requires public consultation and ethics approval before the work begins.

Methods
Prepare an ethics approval proposal and disseminate among the recovery team and other interested parties for comment.

Responsibility
Administration: QPWS.

Action 4.2.1 Undertake quantitative study of pied butcherbird predation on golden-shouldered parrot nests.

Justification
Assuming a project plan has been written (Action 4.1.1) and approved (Action 4.1.2), research will be required for at least two breeding seasons to determine comparative productivity between manipulated and control nests to determine whether there is any change in productivity. Support will be needed for fieldwork and for a student if one with appropriate aptitude can be located.

Methods
Methods will be determined in Action 4.1.1.

Responsibility
Administration: QPWS. Fieldwork: QPWS, student if appropriate.

Action 4.2.2 Determine management implications of pied butcherbird research for golden-shouldered parrots.

Justification
The research should provide results that can give guidance on the management of golden-shouldered parrots. This may involve removal of selected butcherbirds or other means of protecting parrot nests.

Methods Researcher will produce a report on how their results can be used to improve the conservation status of the golden-shouldered parrot.

Responsibility
Administration: QPWS.

Action 4.2.3 Incorporate pied butcherbird recommendations into parrot management guidelines.

Justification
Protection of parrots from butcherbird predation, if thought necessary as a result of 4.2.1, needs to be incorporated into parrot management plans if it is to be effective.

Methods
Recovery team will decide how recommendations will be incorporated into the revised recovery plan.

Responsibility
Administration: QPWS.

Specific objective 5 Determine and manage impacts of change in vegetation structure on black-faced woodswallows

Action 5.1.1 Complete research into the relationship between vegetation structure and fecundity of black-faced woodswallows.

Justification
Black-faced woodswallows have an important role during the early wet season as they protect their nests against predators and thus warn parrots feeding nearby. They have become less abundant however, in the area from which the parrot has disappeared, possibly for the same reasons, since the Cape York Peninsula subspecies is a bird of open woodland and the more closed woodland that is developing as a result of vegetation thickening may not be suitable for them. Research on the woodswallows has already been started by a PhD student from Northern Territory University. The results of this research should answer questions on whether this is the case.

Methods
Fecundity of the woodswallows will be determined in relation to the structure of the vegetation.

Responsibility
Administration: QPWS. Fieldwork: NTU student, QPWS.

Action 5.1.2 Determine management implications of black-faced woodswallow research for golden-shouldered parrots.

Justification
The research should provide results that can give guidance on the management of golden-shouldered parrots. This may involve intense management of traditional woodswallow breeding areas.

Methods
Researcher will produce a report on how their results can be used to improve the conservation status of the golden-shouldered parrot.

Responsibility
Administration: NTU student, QPWS.

Action 5.1.3 Incorporate black-faced woodswallow recommendations into parrot management guidelines.

Justification
Management of woodswallow habitat, if thought necessary as a result of 5.1.1, needs to be incorporated into parrot management plans if it is to be effective.

Methods
Recovery team will decide how recommendations will be incorporated into the revised recovery plan.

Responsibility
Administration: QPWS.

Specific objective 6 Assess and minimize adverse impacts of cattle and pigs on food plants and termite mounds

Action 6.1.1 Monitor and assess cattle and pig impacts on cockatoo grass and termite mounds.

Justification
During the period 2000-2002, heavy pig predation was noted in areas where termite mounds of the type used for nesting and cockatoo grass has been monitored. It is not known whether this has a long-term detrimental effect at a scale likely to threaten the persistence of the parrots. Trial plots have been erected to exclude cattle or cattle and pigs in selected habitat on Artemis Station. Similar plots may be set up on other properties as part of property planning. These plots need to be monitored over a range of climatic conditions to determine the impact of the two species.

Methods
Biennial visits to monitor treatment and control plots: to determine condition of cockatoo grass immediately after the wet season; and fuel load at the end of the dry season. Where possible, monitoring would be undertaken with leaseholders and traditional owners as part of property planning and would include perennial grasses important for pastoralists (Sorghum, Heteropogon) and plants of cultural importance. The monitoring would also consider woody plants to verify the conclusions of the management recommendations on fire and grazing management being drawn up as part of the 1998-2002 Recovery Plan. Actions would be biennial. Funding is required for labour to support monitoring.

Responsibility
Administration: QPWS. Fieldwork: QPWS; traditional owners.

Action 6.2.1 Develop and implement management strategies to minimize cattle impacts on cockatoo grass and termite mounds in golden-shouldered parrot habitat if this is determined necessary in A.6.1.1.

Justification
If cattle exclusion demonstrates significant differences in the availability of cockatoo grass seed in the early wet season, then methods should be devised to exclude cattle from key wet season feeding areas or to amend spell-grazing regimes. Rotation of stock in association with storm-burning may be adequate to elevate seed availability (A.1.4.1). However, fencing of small areas may also be required.

Methods
Assess abundance of cockatoo grass after storm-burning in association with stock reduction using methods of Crowley and Garnett (2001). If necessary, fence off small areas of wet season feeding habitat to exclude cattle (e.g. along existing fence lines). For relevant habitats see Table 6 (above). Time of action is to be determined. Funding is required for surveys, and may also be required for fencing.

Responsibility Administration: QPWS; fieldwork: QPWS, leaseholders; traditional owners.

Action 6.2.2 Develop and implement management strategies for the control of pigs in golden-shouldered parrot habitat if this is determined necessary in A.6.1.1.

Justification
If the impact of pigs on control plots is shown to be sufficiently intense to be detrimental to golden-shouldered parrots, control of pigs may be necessary.

Methods
The methods used to control pigs may range from more intensive baiting to shooting to exclusion fencing of selected sites depending on the site and the scale of control thought necessary. For relevant habitats see Table 6 (above). Actions would be conducted when necessary, and may be necessary only after wet years when pig numbers are high. Funding may be required to supplement that expended on normal leaseholder activities.

Responsibility
Administration: QPWS. Fieldwork: QPWS, leaseholders, traditional owners.

Action 6.3.1 Advise National Park managers regarding appropriate levels of pig control.

Justification
Pig control may also be necessary on protected areas to reduce damage to resources needed by golden-shouldered parrots.

Methods
An estimate of the impact of pigs will be made as part of Action 5.2.1. Advice to National Park management will be made on the basis of observations made as part of that action. For relevant habitats see Table 6 (above). Action would occur when necessary. Funding may be required to supplement QPWS core business.

Responsibility
Administration: QPWS. Fieldwork: QPWS, traditional owners.

Specific objective 7 Increase the number of wild populations of golden-shouldered parrots

Action 7.1.1 Restore and maintain grassland structure of reintroduction trial area using appropriate fire regime, in co-operation with leaseholders and traditional owners.

Justification
The area of Mungkan Kandju National Park designated for restoration has been grazed by cattle and pigs for over 100 years. Fencing and destocking will allow recovery of this area. The burning regime for the destocked area will then need to be managed using fire in accordance with the principles being adopted under 1.1.2.

Methods
Fire planning and verification will be conducted on fenced area as per Action 1.1.2. For relevant habitats see Table 6 (above). Action will occur annually. No extra funds needed.

Responsibility
Administration: QPWS. Fieldwork: QPWS, traditional owners.

Action 7.2.1 Establish and maintain nursery stocks of cockatoo grass for re-establishing in reintroduction trial area.

Justification
A nursery is to be established near the Land and Sea Centre in Coen. One of its tasks will be to establish cockatoo grass from which seed can be obtained for broad scale propagation once the right conditions for germination and recruitment have been established. The stocks are needed as a means of increasing the availability of cockatoo grass on the trial release area for golden-shouldered parrots.

Methods
Base stock will be collected from central Cape York Peninsula and established in pots in the nursery. Propagation trials and training in nursery management will be undertaken at Coen and Lake Eacham. Action will take place starting late 2002 and will be ongoing according to the results of trials and to demand. Funds may be required after existing project for further training and for nursery maintenance.

Responsibility
Administration: QPWS. Fieldwork: QPWS, traditional owners.

Action 7.3.1 Establish and maintain cockatoo grass in reintroduction trial area.

Justification
Cockatoo grass appears to be an important component of the wet season diet for a range of granivorous birds. Dense stands of the species should enhance the probability that reintroduced golden-shouldered parrots will flourish.

Methods
In a range of suitable sites, areas fenced against cattle and pigs will be planted out with young cockatoo grass at high density to maximize seed production and availability during the wet season. For relevant habitats see Table 6 (above). Action would begin in 2003 wet season. Funds may be needed to establish further plots after current project, but requirements cannot be predicted at this stage.

Responsibility
Administration: QPWS. Fieldwork: QPWS, traditional owners.

Action 7.4.1 Prepare a full justification for reintroduction against appropriate IUCN guidelines.

Justification
Arguments for reintroduction and release need to be prepared against IUCN guidelines (IUCN/SSC 1995) to satisfy government agencies that such a program can be justified.

Methods
A justification will be prepared for captive breeding and release. It is known that the most important prerequisites for such a program have been met. These are that the species is absent from an area from which it was once present and that rehabilitation of habitat under secure tenure is under way to make it possible for the species to live there again. Captive breeding and release is preferred over translocation as released birds will be more likely to stay near the release site, making it possible to feed them during the wet season in their first inexperienced year as well as to determine whether the release program has been successful. Action will be completed early 2003. No extra funds are required.

Responsibility
Administration: QPWS.

Action 7.4.2 Consult with aviculturists about aviary design and the best means of building up stock for release.

Justification
Golden-shouldered parrots are difficult to breed in captivity but substantial captive stocks will be required before enough birds are available to make a release possible. The skills in captive breeding are held by the avicultural community. It is hoped members of this community will be able to play a major role in any captive release program. It is thought captive breeding should occur.

Methods
Letters will be written to the Parrot Society of Australia and local avicultural clubs asking their advice on how the numbers of captive animals will be increased, designs for aviaries and instructions on parrot management in aviaries. Action will be undertaken when release area has been secured and the recovery of the parrot habitat has been initiated. No extra funds required.

Responsibility
Administration: QPWS, aviculturists.

Action 7.4.3 Negotiate with potential donors to construct aviaries, and construct aviaries at appropriate sites.

Justification
The level of interest among aviculturists wishing to become involved in recovery of the species in the wild is such that it is hoped they will be able to fund the construction of aviaries at appropriate sites.

Methods
Applications/appeals for funds will be directed towards appropriate Australian and international funding agencies. When funding is secured, breeding aviaries will be built at two separate localities with a release aviary at the release site. Action will be undertaken when the release area has been secured and the recovery of the parrot habitat has been initiated. Extra funds may be required to top up external contributions but extent cannot currently be predicted.

Responsibility
Administration: QPWS, traditional owners, aviculturists.

Action 7.4.4 Capture an appropriate number of wild parrots of an appropriate age class for captive breeding.

Justification
A small number of wild parrots will need to be captured for the breeding program.

Methods
A small number of parrots will be captured for the breeding program. It is envisaged that these will be nestlings taken from nests with a low probability of success.

Responsibility
Administration: QPWS. Fieldwork: QPWS, traditional owners, aviculturists.

Action 7.4.5 Initiate captive breeding program.

Justification
Once the breeding stock has been captured a breeding program will be necessary to build up captive stock before release.

Methods
Breeding of captive stock will be initiated with all birds being micro-chipped and genetically typed. A studbook will be maintained. No release will take place until a minimum of 50 birds is available for release at the release site. It is not anticipated that any release will take place in the life of the current recovery plan. Techniques for release will be influenced by those being trialed at Mareeba Wetlands for the Gouldian Finch.

Responsibility
Administration: QPWS. Fieldwork: QPWS, traditional owners, aviculturists.

Specific objective 8 Downlist species from endangered to vulnerable

Action 8.1.1 If appropriate on basis of A.3.1.1 write submission to Threatened Species Scientific Committee to reclassify golden-shouldered parrot as vulnerable under Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cwlth).

Justification
If all actions are successful it should be possible to downlist the species from Endangered to Vulnerable.

Methods
The appropriate application will be completed when the full round of monitoring is complete in 2007 and trends are known from across the species' range. The timetable for this action is consistent with the 1998-2002 Recovery Plan. Action will take place in 2007 if appropriate. No extra funding required.

Responsibility Administration: QPWS.

Action 8.2.1 If appropriate on basis of A.3.1.1 write submission to reclassify golden-shouldered parrot as vulnerable under Schedule 3 of the Nature Conservation (Wildlife) Regulation 1994.

Justification
If all actions are successful it should be possible to downlist the species from Endangered to Vulnerable.

Methods
The appropriate application will be completed when the full round of monitoring is complete in 2007 and trends are known from across the species' range. The timetable for this action is consistent with the 1998-2002 Recovery Plan. Action will take place in 2007 if appropriate. No extra funding required.

Responsibility
Administration: QPWS.

Specific objective 9 Support recovery process

Action 9.1.1 Manage the recovery process through a recovery team.

Justification
The appropriate body to undertake reviews of the recovery plan is a recovery team drawn from representatives of funding bodies, land management agencies, community stakeholders and other people with appropriate expertise.

Methods
The recovery team will usually meet once a year and consists of: representatives of the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (chair and participating employees), leaseholders with golden-shouldered parrots on their properties; representatives of traditional owners and other indigenous communities, with Birds Australia and the Cairns and Far North Environment Centre representing other community interests. Meetings would take place annually, usually around October. Funds are required for the administration of meetings.

Responsibility
Administration: QPWS. Attendance: leaseholders (Artemis, Bulimba, Dixie, Kalinga, Killarney, Mary Valley, others where appropriate); traditional owners; QPWS (Cairns, Atherton, Chillagoe, Coen, Lake Eacham), Birds Australia (representative), Cairns and Far North Environment Centre. An appropriate avicultural society may be invited to join the team in the event of success in rehabilitating habitat.

Action 9.1.2 Consult with interested parties and keep them informed of progress.

Justification
Most golden-shouldered parrots live on leasehold land that is managed for pastoral purposes and where native title applies. Native title also applies on Mungkan Kandju National Parks, from which the parrots have disappeared. Leaseholders and traditional owners are therefore stakeholders who have the right to be informed of any actions or policies that affect these lands. Their cooperative involvement will ensure that actions developed are consistent with their various aspirations for affected land. The golden-shouldered parrot is also an iconic species of interest to specialist bird and conservation organizations (Australian Conservation Foundation, Birds Australia, Cairns and Far North Environment Centre, Threatened Species Network for Queensland, Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland, WorldWide Fund for Nature, avicultural societies) that wish to be informed of progress in the recovery process. Actions affecting land on Cape York Peninsula can also affect interest groups that do not have direct interest in affected lands. These stakeholders (Cook Shire Council, Cape York Peninsula Development Association, several pastoralist associations) should also have the opportunity to assess the potential effects of recovery action on their communities.

Methods
Prepare a newsletter Antbed as occasion demands and other information as the need arises. Funds are needed for salary, illustrations and postage.

Responsibility
Administration: QPWS.

Action 9.1.3 Support non-government stakeholder attendance at meetings.

Justification
The attendance of non-government stakeholders at recovery meetings is frequently contingent on financial support. Financial support also indicates the esteem with which stakeholder involvement is regarded by government agencies.

Methods
Funds will be made available for the attendance of non-government members of the recovery team. Funding will be required to cover travel costs, and, where appropriate, overnight accommodation.

Responsibility
Administration: QPWS.

Action 9.1.4 Conduct a major review of the recovery process.

Justification A major review is a requirement of the recovery process to assess the progress made toward meeting the recovery plan objectives. It should include input from people not involved in the recovery plan and may require contracting a consultant(s).

Methods
A major review of the recovery program will occur in the final year of the recovery plan. Action will take place early in 2007 to allow results of the review to be incorporated in the next recovery plan. Funds are required for a consultant to carry out the review.

Responsibility
Administration: QPWS. Report: consultant.

Action 9.1.5 Rewrite the recovery plan at the end of five years.

Justification
A recovery plan is necessary to carry forward actions into the next period.

Methods
All data will be drawn together from the recovery process to consider actions required for the next recovery plan. Action will take place in mid-late 2007. Funds will be required for the lead author of the recovery plan.

Responsibility
Administration: QPWS; recovery plan preparation and review: consultant, recovery team.

Management practices

Critical habitat of golden-shouldered parrot (Table 4) should be managed to maintain an open grassland/grassy woodland structure, to protect termite mounds suitable for nesting and maintain seeding populations of perennial grasses (particularly cockatoo grass and plume sorghum).

Critical habitat should not be cleared. Clearance elsewhere in the parrot's distribution is unlikely to have adverse effects, as long as substantial areas of eucalyptus/corymbia woodland with fire grass remain (>70% original cover on sand ridges, >50% other land forms).

Critical habitat should be managed using low stocking rates (or destocking) and storm-burning every two to four years. In most habitats, three-yearly storm-burning is ideal. This should maximize fuel loads. Where stock are present, numbers should be reduced at least 6 months before burning, to maximize fuel loads, and up to six months after burning, to allow recovery of perennial grasses.

Critical habitat needs to be protected from unintentional fire through the dry season. The most effective method for doing this is to use early dry-season burning to create firebreaks around designated areas, especially between critical habitat and public roads.

Pig numbers should also be controlled in critical habitat, through the use of baiting, fencing and hunting.

Management practices essential to the maintenance of critical habitat:

  1. moderate stocking rates or destocking,
  2. effective pig control,
  3. regular storm-burning,
  4. effective firebreak networks.

Signs of habitat degradation are:

  1. golden-shouldered parrots no longer present,
  2. golden-shouldered desert traditional nesting areas,
  3. black-faced woodswallows desert traditional nesting areas,
  4. dense suckering of broad-leaved ti-tree and/or lemon-scented ti-tree,
  5. cockatoo grass population declines, or its seed production reduced,
  6. plume sorghum population declines,
  7. increase in annual grass at the expense of perennial grass.

Management practices most likely to degrade critical habitat:

  1. clearance,
  2. inadequate pig control,
  3. overstocking,
  4. inappropriate fire regime (frequent dry season fires or inter-fire intervals of five or more years).