Striving to save WA’s rarest bird
What’s bright green, camera shy, lives on the ground and has a call likened to a kettle whistle?
WA’s rarest bird – the western ground parrot, also known as the Kyloring.
Once found from Esperance to Dongara, the parrot’s wild population is now known to exist at Cape Arid National Park, 120kms east of Esperance.
The critically endangered parrot is on the brink of extinction with less than 150 birds left in the world.
Being a ground-dwelling bird makes it easy prey for predators.
A group of Albany volunteers have spent 14 years raising awareness of the parrot’s plight in a bid to save it from disappearing forever.
The Friends of the Western Ground Parrot formed in 2003.
Chairperson Anne Bondin says they were worried the birds’ calls weren’t being heard in national parks near Albany.
“They were getting scarcer and scarcer,” Anne says.
“It got to the point where we thought they are all going extinct.”
The Friends didn’t even have a photo of the parrot when they started out – no one had managed to snap the secretive bird.
In 2004, a Department of Parks and Wildlife staff member captured a fuzzy image of one of the birds.
“We were so excited,” Anne says.
“It wasn’t a very good photo but at least we could show people the bird exists and what we were trying to save.”
SOCIAL MEDIA CAMPAIGNS OVER TIN RATTLING
The Friends have raised more than $350,000 in donations and grants, Anne estimates.
She says many West Australians are still unaware of the parrot’s existence, despite their efforts.
“You need to love what you’re going to save and if you don’t know it, you can’t love it,” Anne says.
“We need to get people interested and that’s been starting to happen over the last couple of years.
“Finally, we feel like we are starting to make an impact.
“We’ve come a long way but there’s still a long way to go.”
“Shaking a tin is very time-consuming and we are only a small group,” she says.
They have 125 members, many who are not involved with fundraising activities.
HOW DO YOU SAVE A SPECIES?
Friends members are on the parrot’s recovery team with the Department of Parks and Wildlife, Perth Zoo, Birdlife WA and scientists.
Efforts include a captive breeding program at Perth Zoo and field surveys.
In November 2015, they feared the species was lost, after bushfires in Cape Arid National Park destroyed 90% of its habitat.
“That was devastating – we thought maybe this is the end,” Anne says.
A few months later, in the Nuytsland Nature Reserve (a location where calls hadn’t been recorded for 10 years) a call was recorded and offered a glimmer of hope for the parrot’s survival.
“WE CAN’T GIVE UP HOPE”
The group’s latest project is a documentary called Secrets at Sunrise by Esperance filmmaker Jennene Riggs.
It’s been two years in the making and is due for completion in early April.
Anne says bringing the parrot back from the brink of extinction would be encouraging.
“The western ground parrot is just the canary in the coal mine,” Anne says.
“There are many other native species at threat from feral predators.
“If we can hear the western ground parrot singing again in the morning over the heath, we know we’ve done the right thing.”