When I first laid out my garden vision, I mentioned a need to develop habitats for native species – my home grown heroes. I went so far as to announce that I would extend my friendship to those species by supplementing their food in winter, and trying to give them a competitive advantage against the non-native invaders. Today I will be looking at the first of those species.
I’ve been holding off on my creature posts because I wanted to take some pictures in the trees rather than my deck balustrade. And I wanted to include sound recordings as well as pictures, but they are proving more difficult to obtain than I had imagined. However, I do want to start moving on the garden work, so needs must as they say.
I’m starting with one of my favourites: the Australian King Parrot (Alisterus scapularis)1. At 42 – 44cm, they are known as a “large” parrot. They generally travel as a pair, or sometimes in small flocks, though I have only seen them locally in small family groupings. The male is easily identified by his glorious orange head, seen here with his “wife”. You can’t tell from my photo, but their tails are a deep blue.
As a small aside, I recently saw a startlingly expensive fitted silk top in that exact shade of orange which gave me the idea that I could make it into a stunning outfit teamed with a fitted “king parrot” green jacket and green or deep blue flared skirt. With black ankle strap heels and a tiny black handbag à la 1950s style if you were wondering.
But back to the parrots, I love that I can hear them coming – they cry “eeeee eeeee eeeee” as they fly through the forest. Once they land they cheep and burble. Many times I have sat on my deck with my morning coffee and had “conversations” with them, they chatter away during the spaces in between my sentences. They sound like this (the recording will auto-start after a short pause). They have seemingly sweet dispositions, and are commonly pushed out of the way by other birds when seed is made available. Cleverly they eat early and rest during the hottest part in the forest understorey2.
They breed between September and January, with a nesting period of 35 days (deep inside hollow tree trunks) producing a clutch of up to five eggs over 20 days incubation3. Their chicks will be coloured like their mother, but with brown eyes – males grow out their adult plumage around 16 – 30 months. Caged birds have lived up to 25 years, but the lifespan of wild birds has not yet been determined5.
As with most parrots, their diet consists of fruit, seeds, berries and flower buds. Eucalypts are a good source of these and we do have one or two, and there are a great many nearby in the National Park. Additionally tea tree, bottle brush, banksia and hakea, and we have representatives of those species as well. I have acquired a list of particular plants to verify against my local conditions, but I won’t bore you with the details. The King Parrot is also fond of introduced species like hawthorn, pin oaks and cotoneaster.
So along with provision of clean water, and a cat exclusion zone we seem to be fairly supportive of the king parrot. Over time I will be removing some of the non-native species (excepting the cotoneaster which is now off the list) and replacing them with natives so that will help as well. I see them fairly frequently, so I don’t think I would get a nesting box for them.
What do you think? Do you have any concerns? Or are you reassured that the King Parrot will be secure in my garden?
- Morcombe, Michael. 2000. Field Guide to Australian Birds. Archerfield: Steve Parish Publishing Pty Ltd. ↩
- Dengate, John. 1997. Attracting Birds to Your Garden in Australia. Sydney: New Holland Publishers (Australia) Pty Ltd. ↩
- http://www.birdsinbackyards.net/species/Alisterus-scapularis ↩
- http://beautyofbirds.com/australiankingparrots.html ↩