Swift parrot 'massacre' warning as campaign raises funds for predator-proof nest boxes

Swift parrot 'massacre' warning as campaign raises funds for predator-proof nest boxes

Swift parrot 'massacre' warning as campaign raises funds for predator-proof nest boxes

Updated 19 October 2017, 12:05 AEDT

Conservation scientists raising money for new nesting boxes to protect endangered swift parrots from predators reach their target within hours of launching the campaign for funds.

Conservation scientists have had success raising money to stop what they're calling a potential "parrot massacre" on Tasmania's east coast.

The one-week campaign passed its $40,000 target within hours of launching.

The money will be used to build 100 solar-panelled gated nest boxes to protect the critically endangered swift parrots from hungry sugar gliders.

The tiny parrot species has been breeding on Tasmania's Bruny Island, which is free of sugar gliders, but Dr Dejan Stojanovic from the Australian National University (ANU) said large numbers had just moved to the state's east coast.

Dr Stojanovic said sugar gliders would eat the birds, their babies and their eggs if nothing was done to stop them.

The parrots are nomadic and eat nectar, travelling in flocks to nest near flowering eucalypts.

"This year, all their food is on the east coast of Tasmania, and that area is full of sugar gliders," Dr Stojanovic said.

"We're very concerned that all the birds we bred on predator-free islands last year, will end up nesting on the mainland in sugar glider habitat and being eaten."

With the help of an electrician, Dr Stojanovic has designed "possum-keeper-outer" nest boxes, with a door to close behind the parrot once darkness fell.

"Effectively, it's just a little motor and a light sensor," he said.

"As soon as it's daytime the sensor automatically detects that there's ambient light and it will open to release the parrot to go about their business.

"It's got to be sturdy — the possums really want to get into these nest boxes."

Dr Stojanovic said it was vital to get them into the birds' new habitat as soon as possible.

"It's very urgent," he said.

"We've only got a week to raise the funds to make enough boxes to protect the swift parrots. Birds have already arrived from migration, and they're already searching around for places to nest."

"It's only a matter of days before the first eggs start appearing."

Gliders' 'severe rate' of predation on parrots

Dr Stojanovic said previous research had shown the possums could eat parrots "within a couple of days" of the bird laying its eggs.

"About half of the female swift parrots that nest on the mainland of Tasmania each year end up being eaten by sugar gliders," he said.

"It can be a really severe rate of predation."

Dr Stojanovic said the crowd-funding protection measures were needed due to ongoing deforestation of the swift parrot habitat, by logging.

Birdlife Tasmania's Dr Eric Woehler said the need to crowd fund to protect the parrot didn't reflect well on authorities.

"It's a shocking indictment on the State Government when crowd funding is required to raise $40,000 for a critically-endangered species," he said.

While the Government had moved to halt logging on Bruny Island to protect the swift parrot habitat, Dr Woehler said he also had concerns about ongoing deforestation of the specie's habitat in other parts of Tasmania.

"It's incredible that we're still seeing logging of habitat for swifts parrot by Sustainable Timbers Tasmania," he said.

"Clearly they're not sustainable because they'll never get FSC [Forestry Stewardship Council] certification while they're impacting on the habitat of a critically endangered species."

The Tasmanian Government has previously been refused FSC certification, due to a lack of protection for swift parrots in old-growth clear-felling areas in the state's south.

In a statement, the Government said it "continues to work closely with the Commonwealth, Sustainable Timber Tasmania and the Australian National University on conservation efforts for the swift parrot."

"Logging has been halted on Bruny Island because it is one of a number of offshore islands where sugar gliders haven't been able to threaten swift parrot numbers and their habitat," the statement said.

The crowd-funding campaign will continue until mid-next week.