Emu Emu Society
Journal of BirdLife Australia
RESEARCH ARTICLE

The breeding and foraging ecology and abundance of the Princess Parrot (Polytelis alexandrae) during a population irruption

Chris R. Pavey A B E , Catherine E. M. Nano A , Jeff R. Cole A , Peter J. McDonald A , Peter Nunn A , Andrew Silcocks C and Rohan H. Clarke D
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Fauna and Flora, Department of Land Resource Management, Northern Territory Government, PO Box 1120, Alice Springs, NT 0871, Australia.

B CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences, PO Box 2111, Alice Springs, NT 0871, Australia.

C BirdLife Australia, Suite 2-05, 60 Leicester Street, Carlton, Vic. 3053, Australia.

D School of Biological Sciences, Monash University, Vic. 3800, Australia.

E Corresponding author. Email: chris.pavey@csiro.au

Emu 114(2) 106-115 https://doi.org/10.1071/MU13050
Submitted: 6 June 2013  Accepted: 27 August 2013   Published: 25 March 2014

Abstract

The Princess Parrot (Polytelis alexandrae) is an Australian endemic that displays irruptive population dynamics. We studied a breeding event in the southern Northern Territory in 2010–11, which followed a peak in primary productivity stimulated by extended above average rainfall. Birds were present from mid-July 2010 to February 2011, with highest numbers in August–November 2010. The maximum count was 172 birds. Multiple nests, all in mature Marble Gum (Eucalyptus gongylocarpa), were detected monthly from August to November 2010 and a single nest in January 2011. Birds fed on flowers, seeds and other material of 11 plant species, both on the ground and within foliage. The decrease in abundance of Parrots over time coincided with a decrease in plant species richness and flower abundance and an increase in availability of seeds and fruit. The area had not been burnt since 2002 indicating that fire-stimulated primary production does not trigger breeding. Despite the time since fire there was evidence of severe effects of past fires. Management of the area now involves efforts to reduce the incidence of high-intensity fires, control of buffel grass (Cenchrus ciliaris) and annual monitoring for the presence of Princess Parrots. Our research highlights the importance of ecological information for making effective conservation management recommendations.


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