Emu Emu Society
Journal of BirdLife Australia

Managing the Ground Parrot in its fiery habitat in south-eastern Australia

Jack Baker A D , Robert J. Whelan A B , Lyn Evans C , Stephen Moore C and Melinda Norton C
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Institute for Conservation Biology and Environmental Management, University of Wollongong, NSW 2522, Australia.

B University of Wollongong in Dubai, PO Box 20183, Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

C NSW Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water, PO Box A290, Sydney South, NSW 1232, Australia.

D Corresponding author. Email: jbaker@uow.edu.au

Emu 110(4) 279-284 https://doi.org/10.1071/MU10014
Submitted: 8 March 2010  Accepted: 27 March 2010   Published: 26 October 2010


The Ground Parrot (Pezoporus wallicus) is a rare and iconic endemic of heathlands in southern Australia. It is threatened by frequent and widespread fire. The species has been an integral element in the development of our understanding of the impacts of fire regimes in heathlands and is an integral part of conservation management of these fire-prone ecosystems. This long-term study documents the densities of Ground Parrots in three areas of long-unburnt habitat in southern New South Wales. Using area searches and aural surveys, we estimated densities of Ground Parrots at Barren Grounds Nature Reserve–Budderoo National Park (1983–2009), Beecroft Weapons Range (1997–2008) and Nadgee Nature Reserve (1995–2009). At each location, the species occurred in long-unburnt habitat (≥20 years post-fire), sometimes at high densities (≥2 birds per 10 ha). We recommend that, in south-eastern Australia, fire should not be used to manipulate the ecological functioning of habitat for the persistence of Ground Parrot populations and conclude that there should be area-specific adaptive management plans that specify how the important elements of the biodiversity will be conserved and how this will be measured.

Additional keywords: conservation, fire, heathland, Pezoporus wallicus, population, threatened species.


The project at Barren Grounds Nature Reserve was initiated by Richard and Pat Jordan and continued by Mick and Jacqui Bramwell in their capacity as Wardens at the Birds Australia Barren Grounds Bird Observatory. We acknowledge their efforts in collecting data from 1983 to 1990. Hundreds of volunteers acted as beaters over the 24 years of area searches at Barren Grounds. Many tens of volunteers assisted in collecting aural survey data at Barren Grounds Nature Rreserve–Budderoo National Park, Beecroft Weapons Range and Nadgee Nature Reserve. David McFarland provided recent, unpublished data for Ground Parrot densities in Queensland and cautioned us about the possibility of long-unburnt habitat becoming a Ground Parrot retirement village. David McFarland, Les Mitchell, Liz Tasker and two anonymous referees provided helpful comments on earlier drafts of this paper.


Acevedo, M. A. , and Villanueva-Rivera, L. J. (2006). Using automated digital recording systems as effective tools for the monitoring of birds and amphibians. Wildlife Society Bulletin 34, 211–214.
CrossRef |

Baker J. (1998). Ecotones and fire and the conservation of the endangered eastern bristlebird. Ph.D. Thesis, University of Wollongong, NSW.

Baker, J. (2000). The eastern bristlebird: cover-dependent and fire-sensitive. Emu 100, 286–298.
CrossRef |

Baker, J. , and Whelan, R. J. (1994). Ground Parrots and fire at Barren Grounds, New South Wales: a long-term study and an assessment of management implications. Emu 94, 300–304.
CrossRef |

Bradstock, R. A. , Bedward, M. , Gill, A. M. , and Cohn, J. S. (2005). Which mosaic? A landscape ecological approach for evaluating interactions between fire regimes, habitats and animals. Wildlife Research 32, 409–423.
CrossRef |

Bryant S. (1991). The Ground Parrot, Pezoporus wallicus, in Tasmania: Distribution, Density and Conservation Status. Parks, Wildlife and Heritage, Tasmania, Hobart.

Bryant, S. (1994). Habitat and potential diet of the Ground Parrot in Tasmania. Emu 94, 166–171.
CrossRef |

Burbidge A. H. (2003). Birds and fire in the Mediterranean climate of south-west Western Australia. In ‘Fire in Ecosystems of South-west Western Australia: Impacts and Management’. (Eds I. Abbott and N. Burrows.) pp. 321–347. (Backhuys: Leiden.)

Burbidge A. H. , Watkins D. , and McNee S. (1989). Conservation of the Ground Parrot in Western Australia. WWF Australia, Perth.

Burbidge A. H. , Blyth J. , Danks A. , Gillen K. , and Newbey B. (1997). Western Ground Parrot Interim Recovery Plan 1996–1999. In ‘Interim Recovery Plans 4–16 for Western Australian Critically Endangered Plants and Animals. Western Australian Wildlife Management Program No. 29’. (Eds J. Pryde, A. Brown and A. Burbidge.) Interim Recovery Plan No. 6, pp. i–v, 1–22. (WA Department of Conservation and Land Management: Perth.)

Burbidge, A. H. , Rolfe, J. , McNee, S. , Newbey, B. , and Williams, M. (2007). Monitoring population change in the cryptic and threatened Western Ground Parrot in relation to fire. Emu 107, 79–88.
CrossRef |

Bushfire and Environmental Services (2001). Fire Management Plan, Beecroft Weapons Range. Environment Australia, Canberra.

Forshaw J. M. (1969). ‘Australian Parrots.’ (Lansdowne: Melbourne.)

Fox, A. M. (1978). The ‘72 fire of Nadgee Nature Reserve. Parks and Wildlife 2, 5–24.

Garnett S. T. , and Crowley G. M. (2000). ‘The Action Plan for Australian Birds 2000.’ (Environment Australia: Canberra.)

Higgins P. J. (Ed.) (1999). ‘Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds. Vol. 4: Parrots to Dollarbird.’ (Oxford University Press: Melbourne.)

Jordan R. (1984). The Ground Parrot: effect of fire on a population. In ‘Barren Grounds Bird Observatory and Field Study Centre Report 1982–84’. (Eds P. Jordan and R. Jordan.) pp. 28–29. (Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union: Melbourne.)

Jordan R. (1987). The Ground Parrot in Barren Grounds Nature Reserve. In ‘Barren Grounds Bird Observatory and Field Study Centre Report 1984–86’. (Eds P. Jordan and R. Jordan.) pp. 19–23. (Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union: Melbourne.)

Keith D. A. (2004). ‘Ocean Shores to Desert Dunes: The Native Vegetation of New South Wales and the ACT.’ (NSW Department of Environment and Conservation: Sydney.)

Keith D. A. , McCaw W. L. , and Whelan R. J. (2002). Fire regimes in heathlands and their effects on plants and animals. In ‘Flammable Australia: The Fire Regimes and Biodiversity of a Continent’. (Eds R. A. Bradstock, J. Williams and A. M. Gill.) pp. 199–237. (Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, UK.)

Kenny B. , Sutherland E. , Tasker E. , and Bradstock R. (2004). Guidelines for Ecologically Sustainable Fire Management. NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, Sydney.

May, R. M. (1994). Ecological science and the management of protected areas. Biodiversity and Conservation 3, 437–448.
CrossRef |

McFarland D. C. (1989). The Ground Parrot Pezoporus wallicus wallicus (Kerr) in Queensland: Habitat, Biology and Conservation. Queensland Department of Conservation, Brisbane.

McFarland, D. (1991a). The biology of the Ground Parrot, Pezoporus wallicus, in Queensland. III. Distribution and abundance. Wildlife Research 18, 199–213.
CrossRef |

McFarland, D. (1991b). The biology of the Ground Parrot, Pezoporus wallicus, in Queensland. II. Spacing, calling and breeding behaviour. Wildlife Research 18, 185–197.
CrossRef |

Menkhorst, P. , Ingwersen, D. , Quin, B. , and Cartwright, K. (2009). Surviving ‘Black Saturday’: the Helmeted Honeyeater and Victoria’s bushfire disaster. Wingspan 19(2), 14–15.

Meredith C. W. , and Isles A. C. (1980). A Study of the Ground Parrot Pezoporus wallicus, in Victoria. Ministry for Conservation, Melbourne.

Meredith C. W. , and Jaremovic R. (1990). Current status and management of the Ground Parrot in Victoria. Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research Technical Report Series No. 58. Department of Conservation and Environment (Vic.), Melbourne.

Meredith, C. W. , Gilmore, A. M. , and Isles, A. C. (1984). The Ground Parrot (Pezoporus wallicus Kerr) in southeastern Australia: a fire-adapted species? Australian Journal of Ecology 9, 367–380.
CrossRef |

Murphy, S. , Berryman, A. , Burbidge, A. , Joseph, L. , and Austin, J. (2009). Raising the stakes. Wingspan 19(2), 19.

Norton M. (2009). Habitat associations of the Long-nosed Potoroo. M.Sc. Thesis, University of Wollongong, NSW.

NPWS (1998). Budderoo National Park, Macquarie Pass National Park, Barren Grounds Nature Reserve and Robertson Nature Reserve Plan of Management. NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, Sydney.

NPWS (2003). Draft Fire Management Strategy Nadgee Nature Reserve. NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, Merimbula, NSW.

NPWS (2005). Nadgee Nature Reserve Plan of Management. NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, Merimbula, NSW.

Recher H. (1981). Bird communities of heath and their management and conservation requirements. In ‘Heaths in New South Wales’. (Ed. C. Haigh.) pp. 27–40. (NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service: Sydney.)

Spearritt A. , and Krieger G. (2007). A review of a long term monitoring program of the Ground Parrot (Pezoporus wallicus wallicus) population within the national parks of the Sunshine Coast, south-east Queensland. Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, Moggill, Qld.

Williams, J. E. , Whelan, R. J. , and Gill, A. M. (1994). Fire and environmental heterogeneity in southern temperate ecosystems: implications for management. Australian Journal of Botany 42, 125–137.
CrossRef |

Export Citation