Friends of Grasslands
supporting native grassy ecosystems
PO Box 440
Macquarie ACT 2614
Terrestrial Species Conservation Section
Department of the Environment
GPO Box 787 Canberra ACT 2601
Listing assessment: Polytelis swainsoni (Superb Parrot)
Friends of Grasslands (FOG) is a community group dedicated to the conservation of natural temperate grassy ecosystems in south-eastern Australia. FOG advocates, educates and advises on matters to do with the conservation of grassy ecosystems, and carries out surveys and other on-ground work. FOG is based in Canberra and its members include professional scientists, landowners, land managers and interested members of the public.
FOG is concerned about the future impacts of the identified threats on the Superb Parrot. The consultation report states that “predicted future declines resulting in a mean density representing only 6% of the original pre-clearing estimate over a two hundred year period” and that “Much of the remnant habitat is degraded, with regeneration of nest trees prevented by overgrazing by stock and rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus), and by inappropriate fire regimes”. This information alone supports FOG’s view that, in the long term, the superb parrot will need to be listed as endangered if we are to retain sufficient habitat and nesting hollows to retain the species. Removal of threatened species status is likely to increase the disappearance of suitable habitat and nesting trees, since in some cases this is the reason trees have been retained across the landscape. While high quality box-gum woodland areas are protected separately, both paddock trees and connecting areas with old trees but degraded understorey will be lost at a greater rate if species such as the Superb Parrot that make use of them are not protected.
Another concern is the use of three generations in the criteria. Three generations of the Superb Parrot is 22.5 years, a relatively short period. However, the time it takes for trees such as Blakely’s Red Gum to grow to maturity and produce suitable nesting hollows is over 120 years. Once nesting hollows are lost from the landscape, the time it takes to replace them is more than enough for the parrot’s population to decline dramatically. In this regard we point to the article by Manning et al (2012)1, where anything other than “implementing enhanced conservation actions now to redress loss of hollows…. resulted in substantial declines in potential nest trees…”. It would be far better to retain protected status for the species to ensure that the existing populations of the parrot remain stable and viable.
In this regard, FOG points to the known overall decline of many woodland birds, even species formerly regarded as quite common. For example, Cunningham and Rowell (2006)2 report species such as the Brown Treecreeper, Varied Sittella, Jacky Winter and Double-barred Finch to be of concern in ACT woodlands. Without conservation actions to retain and improve woodland habitat, we are likely to see an increase in the number of bird species threatened with extinction in years to come.
FOG is also not convinced that the evidence for much larger numbers of Superb Parrots is based on rigorous scientific studies. Our understanding from the Canberra Ornithologists Group is that there are no published data to indicate an increase in abundance or survival rate of the parrot, and we were unable to identify any such data ourselves. Delisting a species on the basis of increased numbers should not occur unless there is clear evidence based on thorough surveys over a significant period, evidence that has been accepted by the scientific community.
For these reasons, FOG believes that the Superb Parrot should continue to be listed as vulnerable under the EPBC Act.
24 December 2014
1. Manning A. et al., 2012). Hollow futures? Tree decline, lag effects and hollow-dependent species. Animal Conservation 2012.
2. R Cunningham and A Rowell, 2006. A statistical analysis of trends in detection rates of woodland birds in the ACT, 1998 to 2004. Prepared for COG and Environment ACT.