Swift Parrot (Lathamus discolor) Recovery Plan 2001-2005

Swift Parrot Recovery Team (2001)
Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment
ISBN 0 7246 6283 9


Current Species Status

The swift parrot is listed as Endangered on the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 and Endangered under Schedule 3 of the Tasmanian Threatened Species Protection Act 1995; Schedule 1 of the New South Wales Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 and Vulnerable under Schedule 8 of the South Australian National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972. In Victoria the species has been listed as a threatened taxon in Schedule 2 of the Victorian Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988. The swift parrot population is estimated to number less than 2,500 mature individuals. Within the parrot's breeding range the area of occupancy is less than 500 km2 and the population has a severely fragmented distribution. A continuing decline in the number of mature individuals and in habitat extent and quality is projected unless action is taken to address the threats to the species.

Habitat Requirements and Limiting Factors

The swift parrot breeds only in Tasmania and migrates to mainland Australia in autumn. During winter it is semi-nomadic, foraging for lerps and nectar in flowering eucalypts predominantly in Victoria and New South Wales, particularly in box ironbark forests and woodlands. In Tasmania, the breeding range of the swift parrot is largely restricted to the east coast within the range of the Tasmanian blue gum. The breeding season of the swift parrot coincides with the flowering of blue gum and the nectar of this eucalypt is the main source of food for the parrots during breeding.

Woodlands and forests within the parrot's over-wintering range and its restricted breeding distribution have been fragmented and substantially reduced by land clearance for agriculture and urban and coastal development. Forestry operations and firewood collection have also altered the age structure of forests, resulting in the loss of older trees that provide a major food resource as well as hollows for nesting. The swift parrot also suffers from high mortality during the breeding season through collisions with man-made structures such as windows, wire mesh fences and vehicles.

Recovery Plan Objectives

Overall objectives

  • To change the conservation status of the swift parrot from endangered to vulnerable within 10 years.
  • To achieve a demonstrable sustained improvement in the quality of swift parrot habitat to increase carrying capacity.

Specific objectives

  • To identify priority habitats and sites across the range of the swift parrot.
  • To implement management strategies to protect and improve priority habitats and sites resulting in a sustained improvement in carrying capacity.
  • To reduce the incidence of collisions with man-made structures.
  • To determine population trends within the breeding range.
  • To quantify improvements in carrying capacity by monitoring changes in extent and quality of habitat.
  • To increase public awareness about the recovery program and to involve the community in the recovery

Recovery Criteria

  • Priority habitats and sites have been identified and protected.
  • Management strategies to protect breeding and foraging habitat have been implemented.
  • The incidence of collisions is reduced.
  • The population density or extent and quality of habitat is not reduced and ideally is enhanced.
  • Community based networks are maintained and a newsletter is produced.

Actions Needed

  1. Identify the extent and quality of foraging habitat.
  2. Protect and manage the habitat of swift parrots at a landscape scale.
  3. Reduce the incidence of collisions.
  4. Monitor population trends and habitat use.
  5. Keep the public, volunteers and community networks informed.
  6. Manage the recovery process through a recovery team.
Estimated costs of recovery (in $1000's)
Year 1 36.0 66.0 3.0 96.0 10.2 5.2 216.4
Year 2 36.0 36.5 3.0 96.0 10.2 5.2 186.9
Year 3 40.0 42.5 3.0 96.0 10.2 5.2 196.9
Year 4 28.0 41.5 3.0 132.0 10.5 6.1 221.1
Year 5 28.0 41.5 5.0 102.0 10.5 6.1 183.1
Total 168.0 228.0 17.0 522.0* 51.6 27.8 1014.4
* This figure includes $398,000 worth of volunteer time and travel.

Biodiversity Benefits

As a forest and woodland dependent bird, the swift parrot is a high profile species associated with forest and woodland conservation in south eastern Australia. It is the only member of the genus Lathamus, and therefore is of high conservation significance. The management and protection of the habitat of swift parrots will have benefits for the ecological integrity of a range of threatened vegetation communities including the grassy Tasmanian blue gum and grassy/shrubby swamp gum forests of eastern Tasmania, the box-ironbark forests of south-eastern Australia, spotted gum forests and coastal swamp mahogany forests in New South Wales. Conservation of swift parrot habitat has benefits for other nationally threatened species including the forty-spotted pardalote Pardalotus quadragintus, regent honeyeater Xanthomyza phrygia, powerful owl Ninox strenua, tuan Phascogale tapoatafa, squirrel glider Petaurus norfolcensis and a number of other declining forest and woodland bird species in south eastern Australia.