On 23 October 2015, ring-necked parakeets came to the trees opposite my window. Including this male, #A13.
As one can see, the trees are in their autumn colours.
This video from Australia says about itself:
Tasmania’s swift parrot set to follow the dodo
31 March 2015
The iconic Tasmanian swift parrot is facing population collapse and could become extinct within 16 years, new research has found.
The researchers have called on the Federal Government to list the birds as critically endangered.
“Swift parrots are in far worse trouble than anybody previously thought,” said leader of the study, Professor Robert Heinsohn, from The Australian National University (ANU).
“Everyone, including foresters, environmentalists and members of the public will be severely affected if they go extinct,” said Professor Heinsohn from the ANU Fenner School of Environment and Society.
The five-year study discovered that swift parrots move between different areas of Tasmania each year to breed, depending on where food is available.
The new data was combined with a previous study that showed that swift parrots are preyed on heavily by sugar gliders, especially in deforested areas.
The research predicted that the population of the birds will halve every four years, with a possible decline of 94.7 per cent over 16 years.
A moratorium on logging in swift parrot habitat is needed until new plans for their protection can be drawn up, said co-researcher, Dr Dejan Stojanovic, also from ANU Fenner School.
“Current approaches to swift parrot management look rather inadequate,” he said.
“Our models are a wake-up call. Actions to preserve their forest habitat cannot wait.”
The research has been published in the latest edition of Biological Conservation.
From Birdline Victoria in Australia today:
Sat 15 Swift Parrot
You Yangs Regional Park–Visitor Entrance Area
4 Swift Parrots in eucalypts close to Park Office. Fuscous Honeyeaters and Black-chinned Honeyeaters still in area also. John Newman & David Tytherleigh 15/8 #224210 Swift Parrot
Deakin University–Waurn Ponds Campus
2 Swift Parrots vocal and mobile around the NA building and Koorie studies building of the campus this morning. John Newman 15/8 #224209
This video from Australia says about itself:
Help us Save the Night Parrot
9 August 2015
With the recent discovery of the only known population left in the world, we have a second chance to ensure the survival of this unique and remarkable species.
While little is known about the mysterious Night Parrot, no more than 100 individuals are thought to remain. That is why we must move quickly to save it.
If we are to haul it back from the brink of extinction, a recovery team must be on the ground now, implementing feral animal control as a matter of urgency. We will also need to develop a fire management plan before summer, and tackle the issue of human disturbance – the other main risk to the bird’s future.
Together, we can save the Night Parrot. Please donate urgently today.
This 9 August 2015 video from Australia is called Elusive night parrot captured for the first time in 100 years in Queensland.
From daily The Guardian in Britain:
Night parrot capture and tagging hailed as ‘holy grail’ moment for bird lovers
The area of south-west Queensland where the elusive nocturnal parrot, presumed extinct, was caught is now to be protected
Monday 10 August 2015 03.26 BST
The elusive night parrot, a species thought to be extinct for about 100 years, has finally been captured and tagged by scientists as part of a pioneering project to safeguard the remaining ground-dwelling birds.
Aside from two dead parrots found over the past 25 years, the night parrot had not been captured since the 1890s and was presumed extinct by many bird experts.
But in 2013, ornithologist John Young announced that he had taken a few blurry images of the night parrot after a decade spent scouring the spinifex vegetation and caves of the Queensland outback for the bird.
Following an 18-month search for a night parrot, fellow ornithologist Steve Murphy netted one of the birds on 4 April. Feather samples were taken from the bird, and a small tracker, with a battery that lasted for 21 days, was placed on its leg to gain greater insight into the habits of the mysterious creature.
“It’s fantastic to have this bird, which is such an enigmatic creature,” said Rob Murphy, executive manager of conservation group Bush Heritage Australia. “When you talk to bird lovers, this is the holy grail. It’s like finding a thylacine.
“Before this research, we didn’t know what they ate, where they got their water from or anything. We’re really starting from ground zero with the night parrot.”
The area of south-west Queensland where the nocturnal parrot was caught is now to be protected, with the property bought and managed by Bush Heritage Australia.
The tagged bird roamed up to 8km for food each night, but remained in the same nesting site. It is unclear how many of the animals remain, and Bush Heritage is keeping the exact location of its habitat, the only known site for night parrots in Australia, a secret.
“This is such a rare bird that giving the location would attract some well meaning people but also poachers,” Murphy said. “The confidentially of the site has been the best friend to the bird.”
About 30 remote cameras have been set up to gain a better understanding of how many night parrots are in the area. However, these have so far proved less effective than sound recordings that have picked up the sounds of several birds within the prickly spinifex shrubs.
While the drought that has gripped western Queensland has reduced the number of feral cats in the area, the feline predators remain a mortal threat to the night parrot.
Bush Heritage will trial a feral cat “grooming trap” at the site to kill any cats in the area. The trap, developed by South Australian firm Ecological Horizons, contains a range of sensors that determine whether an animal passing within four metres is a cat.
If it identifies the target as a cat, the trap will spray it with a toxic gel that the cat will ingest when grooming.
See also here.
This video is called Parrots: Majestic Birds (Nature Documentary).
From Wildlife Extra:
Scientists solve how parrots mimic humans
Ever wondered how parrots are ablie to mimic human speech? New research indicates that it is key structural differences in the brains of parrots that explain a parrot’s unparalleled ability to imitate sounds and human speech. This research was led by an international team of scientists led by Duke University researchers.
“This finding opens up a huge avenue of research in parrots, in trying to understand how parrots are processing the information necessary to copy novel sounds and what are the mechanisms that underlie imitation of human speech sounds,’ said Mukta Chakraborty, a post-doctoral researcher in the lab of Erich Jarvis, an associate professor of neurobiology at Duke and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator.
Parrots are one of the few animals considered ‘vocal learners,’ meaning they can imitate sounds, and researchers have been trying to figure out why some bird species are better imitators than others. Besides differences in the sizes of particular brain regions, however, no other potential explanations have surfaced.
By examining gene expression patterns, the new study found that parrot brains are structured differently than the brains of songbirds and hummingbirds, which also exhibit vocal learning. In addition to having defined centres in the brain that control vocal learning called ‘cores,’ parrots have what the scientists call ‘shells,’ or outer rings, which are also involved in vocal learning.
The shells are relatively bigger in species of parrots that are well known for their ability to imitate human speech, the group found.
Until now, the budgerigar (common pet parakeet) was the only species of parrot whose brain had been probed for the mechanisms of vocal learning.
This team included researchers from Denmark and the Netherlands who donated precious brain tissue for the study. They characterized the brains of eight parrot species besides the budgerigar, including conures, cockatiels, lovebirds, two species of Amazon parrots, a blue and gold macaw, a kea and an African Grey parrot.
The researchers looked for specific gene markers that are known to have specialized activity in the brains of humans and song-learning birds.
They compared the resulting gene expression patterns in all the parrot brains with neural tracing experiments in budgerigars.
Even the most ancient of the parrot species they studied, the Kea of New Zealand, has a shell structure — albeit rudimentary. This suggests that the populations of neurons in the shells probably arose at least 29 million years ago.
Before now, some scientists had assumed that the regions surrounding the cores had nothing to do with vocal learning. In a 2000 study, Jarvis and Claudio Mello of Oregon Health & Science University concluded that the core and shell were actually one large structure. These differing views caused confusion about the sizes of the brain regions important for vocal learning. Jarvis teamed up with Steven Brauth from the University of Maryland and his former postdoctoral fellow Sarah Durand, to help reconcile this confusion.
‘The first thing that surprised me when Mukta and I were looking at the new results is, ‘Wow, how did I miss this all these years? How did everybody else miss this all these years?” said Jarvis, who is also member of the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences. ‘The surprise to me was more about human psychology and what we look for and how biased we are in what we look for. Once you see it, it’s obvious. I have these brain sections from 15 years ago, and now I can see it.’
The new results support the group’s hypothesis that in humans and other song-learning animals, the ability to imitate arose by brain pathway duplication. How such a copy-and-paste job could have happened is still unknown.
‘How can you get a mirrored song system surrounding another one?’ Jarvis asks. ‘Each (vocal learning centre) has a core and a shell in the parrot, suggesting that the whole pathway has been duplicated.’
Most of the bird’s vocal learning brain regions are tucked into areas that also control movement. These areas in parrots also show some special patterns of gene expression, which the scientists speculate might explain why some parrots are also able to learn to dance to music.
‘It takes significant brain power to process auditory information and produce the movements necessary for mimicking sounds of another species,’ Chakraborty said. ‘The question is, how specialized are these parrot brains, and in what ways? Is it just a select group of specialized genes, or is it some specific projections that we haven’t discovered yet?’
The scientists are especially curious about whether the shells give parrots a greater ability to imitate human speech.
‘If that’s true, then we’ve answered a big question in our field that people have been wanting to know for many years,’ Jarvis said.
This video is called Mulga parrot – Bird watching in Australia.
From Wildlife Extra:
Bigger beaks help birds combat global warming
To help them cope with climate change birds are grow[ing] bigger beaks, new research suggests. The scientists, led by Dr Matthew Symonds from Deakin’s Centre for Integrative Ecology in Australia, have discovered a pattern between increased climatic temperatures and an increase in the size of the beaks of parrot species in southern and eastern Australia.
“Birds use their beaks to keep themselves cool. Just as an elephant’s ears help to act as a fan to keep the animal cooler, birds can pump blood to their highly vascularized bills, enabling them to lose excess heat when they get hot,” Dr Symonds said.
The researchers examined 410 bird skins, collected between 1871 and 2008 and located at Museum Victoria, the Queensland Museum, the South Australian Museum and the Australian National Wildlife Collection, Canberra.
They found that four of the five species examined had measurably bigger beaks now than they had in the 19th century.
“In an earlier study we found that birds in hotter climates had bigger beaks than those in cooler climates, which prompted us to look at whether there has been an increase in beak size generally as the climate has got hotter over the past century,” Dr Symonds said.
“We found an increase in beak surface area of between four and 10 per cent, which may not sound like much, but would actually make a huge difference to the birds’ ability to cool down when they are stressed by heat. We have been able to show there has been an increase in the size of the beaks, in line with the increase in the temperature these parts of Australia have experienced over the same time frame.
“However, we can’t yet conclusively rule out the effect of other environmental factors, such as changes in habitat or food availability. This work provides an important basis on which to do more research. The next step will be to expand the research to consider a wider range of species from other regions, and with different kinds of beak shapes and lifestyles.
“Aside from it indicating another way in which climate change is affecting animals, the beak is so intimately tied to a birds’ lifestyle that climate-related changes in beaks may have further ramifications for other aspects of their biology: what kind of food they eat, how they compete with each other and how they reproduce.”
The five native Australian parrot species examined were the mulga parrot (Psephotus varius), gang-gang cockatoo (Callocephalon fimbriatum), red-rumped parrot (Psephotus haematonotus), Australian king parrot (Alisterus scapularis) and crimson rosella (Platycercus elegans). The Australian king parrot was the only species where an increase in beak size was not recorded.
The research, “Climate-related spatial and temporal variation in bill morphology over the past century in Australian parrots”, has been published in this month’s edition of the Journal of Biogeography</em>.
This video from Australia says about itself:
Lorikeet Feeding Frenzy
22 November 2012
The feeding of the Rainbow Lorikeets at Bungalow Bay Koala Village which is on the North-east side of Magnetic island, just off the coast of Townsville, Queensland.
From Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, Volume 90, September 2015, Pages 34–48:
Molecular phylogenetics suggests a New Guinean origin and frequent episodes of founder-event speciation in the nectarivorous lories and lorikeets (Aves: Psittaciformes)
The group is inferred to have originated within the last 10 million years in New Guinea.
Dispersal and founder-event speciation have been important in their diversification.
Dispersal appears to have been primarily ‘downstream’ from New Guinea and Australia.
Some genus level changes to the group’s systematics are recommended.
The lories and lorikeets (Aves: Loriinae: Loriini) are a readily recognizable, discrete group of nectarivorous parrots confined to the Indo-Pacific region between Wallace’s Line and the Pitcairn Island group in the central-east Pacific Ocean. We present the first phylogenetic analysis of all currently recognized genera in the group using two mitochondrial and five nuclear loci.
Our analyses suggest a New Guinean origin for the group at about 10 million years ago (95% HPD 4.8–14.8) but this origin must be interpreted within the context of that island’s complicated, recent geological history. That is, the origin and early diversification of the group may have taken place as New Guinea’s Central Cordillera arose and the final constituent terranes that form present-day New Guinea were accreted. The latter activity may have promoted dispersal as a key element in the group’s history.
We have detected several instances of dispersal out of New Guinea that we argue constitute instances of founder-event speciation. Some phenotypically cohesive genera are affirmed as monophyletic but other genera are clearly in need of taxonomic dismantlement and reclassification. We recognize Parvipsitta Mathews, 1916 for two species usually placed in Glossopsitta and we advocate transfer of Chalcopsitta cardinalis into Pseudeos Peters, 1935. Other non-monophyletic genera such as Charmosyna, Psitteuteles and, probably, Trichoglossus, require improved taxon sampling and further phylogenetic analysis before their systematics can be resolved. Cursory examination of trait mapping across the group suggests that many traits are ancestral and of little use in determining genus-level systematics.
This video says about itself:
Critically endangered yellow-crested cockatoos discovered stuffed inside plastic bottles – TomoNews
8 May 2015
Indonesian police discovered more than 24 yellow-crested cockatoos stuffed inside empty water bottles at the port of Tanjung Perak customs. These critically endangered birds could be sold for a lot of money if the smugglers were not caught.
Indonesia’s very own Wildlife Crimes Unit works hard to stop smugglers and educate locals about animal habitat.
These majestic cockatoos live in the lush islands of Sulawesi, however their habitat is also threatened due to illegal logging and pesticides. Almost 50% of the birds die during smuggling.
Yellow-crested cockatoos also seldom breed and are in greater danger as they only lay two eggs in one year.
From Wildlife Extra:
22 live birds found stuffed in water bottles at Indonesian port
An Indonesian man has been arrested on suspicion of wildlife smuggling by Indonesian police after almost two dozen rare live birds, mostly yellow-crested cockatoos, were found jammed inside plastic water bottles in his luggage.
He was stopped by police when he left a passenger ship in Surabaya.
The head of the criminal investigation unit at Tanjung Perak port, Aldy Sulaiman, said police found the birds stashed inside the man’s luggage.
“We found 21 yellow-crested cockatoos and one green parrot,” he said. “All the birds were found inside water bottles, which were packed in a crate.”
The birds have since been sent to Indonesia’s natural resources conservation office, which deals with wildlife-trafficking cases.
If he is found guilty of smuggling he could face up to five years in prison.
The critically-endangered Yellow-crested cockatoos are native to Indonesia and neighbouring East Timor and can sell for around £1,000 each.