Swift parrot – Lathamus discolor

Adult Swift parrot. Source: Wikimedia commons

Swift parrots are a critically endangered parrot and are native to Australia. They migrate from Tasmania to the mainland each year, and occasionally some Swift parrots come all the way to Toowoomba, as is the case at the moment.

Five Swift parrots were first sighted just over two weeks ago at Picnic Point, and this has aroused a lot of interest in the bird watching community. With around 100 people in total travelling from Brisbane and the Gold Coast to have a look, as well as interested locals. It’s significant because of the length of their journey (over 1800 kms) and also because these birds are on the brink of extinction.

There are only around 500 Swift parrots left in the world, so about 1% of their entire population has been visiting Toowoomba. Only around 200 Swift parrots are breeding and at the current rate of population decline they will be extinct in the 2030’s. The main cause of this is the logging of their breeding habitat in Tasmania. As migratory birds they also rely on a lot of food sources along the length of their journey, and they have suffered due to clearing on the mainland as well. The fact we are able to offer them good food along the escarpment underlies the importance of our local environment to not just ourselves, but nationally as well.

Of the five birds here three are adults and two are immature birds. One of which has obviously had a tough journey up. They are likely to recuperate here for another week or so and then head back to Tasmania for the breeding season starting around October. To see these birds is a very bittersweet experience. If you can’t see them in person you can see some video of them on birdbites.com.au.

This article first appeared in the High Country Herald on 24th of June, 2024