The critically endangered Western Ground Parrot (Pezoporus flaviventris), also known as 'Kyloring’ , is a secretive bird which only reveals itself for minutes at dawn and dusk as its unique and beautiful bell-like calls resonate through its remote heathland home. The rest of the time, it is virtually invisible thanks to its outstanding camouflage, elusive nature and the ground-foraging habits from which it takes its name. Not surprisingly, this has hampered the very best efforts to learn more about one of Western Australia’s most endangered birds.
For a century, this bird was believed to be the same as its more numerous East Coast cousin, but mitochondrial DNA analysis in 2010 revealed that it was genetically distinct from other ground parrots, unique to Western Australia and perilously close to extinction.
The Western Ground Parrot is one of twenty bird species nationally which the Australian Government has prioritised for recovery
The current population is now only found in Cape Arid National Park and Nuytsland Nature Reserve (WA) – with no more than 150 individuals thought to remain. Optimum habitat for this species is patches of diverse near-coastal heath that have not burned for a decade and are free of introduced predators. This makes good management of feral species and fire regimes critical to their survival.
In 2003, the Department of Parks and Wildlife established the Western Ground Parrot Recovery Project. Over the past thirteen years, monitoring, recording, tracking and a captive management program have added to the body of knowledge about this cryptic species. At the same time, fire suppression has been improved and introduced predator control, in particular feral cats, has been a focus of managing key habitats.
Study of Biology and Behaviour for Breeding
Eight hundred kilometres north, Perth Zoo has created a specialised home for a very small number of Western Ground Parrots – custom-designed aviaries where we can monitor them 24-7 via CCTV and develop husbandry and breeding requirements. By increasing knowledge of their behaviour, social interactions and even dietary preferences, we are achieving a better understanding of their needs. This is improving the chance of successful breeding for these mysterious birds, as well as informing studies of wild birds. Once threats in the wild are managed, we will work together with the Department of Parks and Wildlife to release captive-born ground-parrots into protected parks in their natural range.
So far we have identified unique behaviours, calls and social requirements which has enabled us to refine husbandry provisions, resulting in a number of the birds attempting to breed. This is a very important step in developing a successful breeding program – optimising conditions that are even better than their wild ones so that the birds thrive and breed!
With so few surviving in the wild, the pressure is on!
Partners and Supporters
The Western Ground Parrot Recovery efforts are coordinated through the South Coast Threatened Birds Recovery Team. This group involves representatives from the Western Australian Department of Parks and Wildlife, Friends of the Western Ground Parrot, Perth Zoo, community and Birdlife WA. Management of habitat and the ground parrot field program is coordinated by Department of Parks and Wildlife and since 2003 has been supported by funding from various sources including the South Coast NRM, State NRM and the Commonwealth Government. The recovery work is supported by dedicated volunteers, and the community group Friends of the Western Ground Parrot who also lobby for funds to support recovery efforts. Captive breeding and reproductive biology investigation is coordinated by Perth Zoo in collaboration with the Department of Parks and Wildlife.