Perth Zoo is hoping to produce the world’s first captive-bred Western Ground Parrots this breeding season.
Home to five Western Ground Parrots, the only ones in human care, Perth Zoo has spent nearly two years learning about the behaviours of the cryptic and critically-endangered species. It is hoped the information gleamed via 24 hour monitoring will help set the parrots up for breeding success this year.
The species has suffered the impacts of habitat loss, feral cats and bushfires have driven the bird to the brink of extinction. With less than 140 believed to exist near Bremer Bay and Esperance, a zoo insurance population is vital to help fight off extinction.
Perth Zoo became home to five parrots in July 2014 to provide an insurance population to safeguard the species.
The three males, named Joy, Zephyr and Brutus, and two females called Dawn and Fifi are under 24-hour surveillance.
The Zoo’s Australian fauna zoology supervisor Arthur Ferguson oversees the program and says around-the-clock observation has helped shed light on the “secretive and shy” species.
“Very little is known about the bird’s breeding behaviour and biology because they are a difficult species to observe in the field.
“To date, there have only been two nests of wild Western Ground Parrots ever found,” said Arthur.
The team are perfecting their husbandry skills by monitoring the bird’s social interaction and identifying individual calls but there is still lots to learn.
“It’s incredible how cryptic the birds can be – even with the number of cameras we have, they can still sometimes be hard to locate,” Arthur said.
“We don’t fully understand what all the calls mean yet.”
It is suspected the parrot’s breeding season occurs between July and December so keepers are busy preparing. Birds have been paired, shade cloth ‘privacy screens’ have been installed recently and incubators are ready to go.
Perth Zoo is hoping this year will prove a success after bonding was observed between Joy and Dawn and Fifi and Zephyr, and courtship displays and nesting behaviour also observed in the past.
Arthur said “We are confident the species can be bred in captivity but there are a lot of unknowns until we have the eggs on ground and chicks.”
Author: Peta Eddy – Media and Communications Officer