Recovery of the endangered Norfolk Island Green Parrot

Eight years ago I was fortunate enough to encounter the critically endangered Norfolk Island Green Parrot (Cyanoramphus cookii) during a walk in the Norfolk Island National Park. Having heard how rare and difficult to spot these parrots were I was not overly positive about my chance of success. But after a long walk through lush rainforest dominated by distinctive Norfolk Island Pine, I saw one. Bright green and blending seamlessly into the vegetation, its presence was only given away by the movement of the leaves and its bright red forehead. My efforts at capturing it on camera were hampered by my excitement and before I could get a clear photograph, it was gone. Although only seen briefly, this bird ranks as one of my most memorable wildlife encounters because of its beauty, the fragile status of its population and its geographic isolation, endemic to this tiny 5 mile by 3 mile island in the South Pacific.

GetAttachment (3)Green parrot blending with its environment. Photo by Phoebe Carter

The Green parrot population on Norfolk Island has been greatly affected by introduced Black rats and cats. Nesting in tree hollows and cavities within 2m of the ground, these birds, their eggs and nestlings are particularly vulnerable to predation by these animals. However, Norfolk Island wildlife rangers and the Foundation for National Parks and Wildlife have been able to boost the survival of these birds, by using 78 predator-proof nest sites, along with ongoing predator control. This year, 30 chicks have fledged and another 26 are still in nests. Of the 30 that have made it into the wild, 13 have been female which is an estimated doubling of the known female population of this species. While this is great news, the breeding population is still small and vulnerable, so work is now underway to establish a second population in the wild, to give this species the best chance of recovering.

Tim Flannery, a UK ecologist visiting the island to film Coast Australia, said in The Guardian, “Without ongoing work, we will certainly lose this species. As it is, a handful of rangers have plucked this species from the very brink of extinction. Far too many island species are already extinct, so to see such a fantastic program working to save this critically endangered species was wonderful.” I couldn’t agree more.

 

Cover photo by Foundation for National Parks and Wildlife

 

 

 

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A nature writer and ecological advisor with wide experience of writing about wildlife and working in freshwater, marine and terrestrial environments. Website: www.phoebecarter.co.uk. Twitter: @DrPhoebeCarter

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