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Small, Successful, Secure… Red-rumped Parrots

By Keith Hutton on June 13, 2012 in Other

Photo: Chris Burt

The parrots of the world fall into at least three fairly well differentiated groups: cockatoos, lorikeets and ‘typical’ parrots. About a fifth of the 60 species that live in the Australia/New Zealand region occur regularly in and around Sydney. Rainbow Lorikeets and white cockatoos are seen and heard most commonly, and Galahs are well known. In autumn and winter, Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos visit the beaches and bays of the east to feed on the coastal banksias. Crimson and Eastern Rosellas are fairly regular too and, of the scarcer species, Red-rumped Parrots are probably seen most often. They frequent grassy areas where they are fairly easy to approach as they feed quietly in the open on the ground.

Adult males are unmistakable small, long-tailed parrots that appear grass green in colour with mainly yellow underparts extending from the lower breast, and with yellow shoulder patches; they have red rumps that are more obvious in flight. Adult females are mainly drab olive green above with green rumps and paler greenish white on their bellies. Juveniles and immature birds are similar in appearance to adult females.

Red-rumped Parrots occur only in Australia where they are generally common, dispersive and sedentary. They are widespread in NSW and Victoria with their main range extending into southern Queensland and southeast SA; there is also an isolated population in the Cooper Creek drainage basin in southwest Queensland and northeast SA. Lightly timbered areas with a grassy understorey, such as open woodlands or wooded grasslands, and cleared farmland, particularly pasture, are preferred habitats.

They feed in pairs, small parties or flocks of 25 to 30 birds, sometimes more in winter, almost exclusively on the ground. They are very active when feeding, scurrying about picking up seeds and nibbling grasses and other herbaceous plants, fluttering from shade beneath one tree to another nearby, or just relocating within the crowd. When disturbed they fly to fence wires or trees, or flit ahead of you for a short distance with cheery calls, when the yellow bellies and red rumps of adult males are most conspicuous. Much less frequently they may be seen in foliage eating seeds, fruits and flowers in trees.

Red-rumped Parrots expanded their range eastwards into many coastal areas in the twentieth century and reached Sydney by 1950. They have benefitted from land clearing for agriculture, and development of roadside habitats, parks, sports fields and golf courses in urban areas. However, they also suffer losses due to exotic predators, road kills and trapping as cage birds. Nevertheless, over the last 20 or 30 years there have been no significant changes in reporting rates nationally, but some regional decreases have been identified on the coast between Brisbane and western Victoria.

Overall, Red-rumped Parrots appear well established, successful and secure and may be observed without too much effort in suitable areas around the Eastern Suburbs; both Lyne Park in Rose Bay and Centennial Park would be worth a look for a start.