Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Fig Parrot Chicks

Of highest priority to saving the endangered southern race of fig parrot is finding a next with chicks so that a captive breeding program can be established.  If you live south of Rockhampton and you see parrots like the ones in this post, take photos if you can and contact the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (email address is in recovery plan). Look for cheerful little faces looking at you from the trees.
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My favourite fig parrot - this little chick watches what I get up to (1/11/2014)
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I stand about 5 m away and take photos with a superzoom camera.
According the species recovery plan published in 2005, “Coxen's fig-parrot [the endangered subspecies] is thought to nest in the same manner as the red-browed fig-parrot [the subspecies shown in this post]. Training in north Queensland will be undertaken to hone the skills necessary for locating the nest holes of Coxen’s fig-parrot. This exercise will enhance observers’ abilities in nest recognition, particularly with respect to the height, aspect, positioning and appearance of nest holes, the tree species favoured for nesting and the preferred breeding habitats. In addition, familiarity will be increased with the appearance, flight style, behaviour and calls of the similar red-browed fig-parrot. The training exercise in north Queensland should be conducted by members of the recovery team in October or November so that the experience gained can be passed on to others and applied”.  Most of that information can be found in this post and previous posts on this subject.

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A chick in a large dead paperbark in the mangroves about 15 m above the ground (5/11/2014)
fig parrot nest hollow
When I first saw the hole in September, a parrot was in it but taking photos with a smart phone through binoculars was not successful. When I went to take a photo a few days later, green ants were trying to claim the hole.  However the chick above survived the green ants  
In late September, I started to hear the noise of chicks begging for food.  Sometimes, I would even glimpse a bit of baldy head but the parent would enter the nesting hole and push the chick back if I observed too closely.  Now the chick or chicks are older, they are getting interested in the outside world and spend a lot of time with their heads out of the burrow looking around.  This may be the best time to look for active nests as you can make some funny sounds and the chicks come up for a look.  They are much less timid than the adults.  Fig parrots never become tame and do not make good pets.  With their really small tails they do not make good aviary birds as they can’t turn quickly and tend hit the end of the aviary as full speed, hurting themselves.  I would be careful about handling a bird that is not tame and that can chew through wood, not to mention that handling an endangered species would get you in serious trouble.

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Dad to my favourite fig parrot chick
Most of the time, the fig parrots that visit my yard target green figs.  They eat some figs including Ficus racemosa and ignore other figs such as Ficus superba.  Ficus variegata is also a favourite.  They eat the seeds of the fruit and spit out the flesh and normally feed on green fruit, which would are dreadful tucker from a human perspective as they are full of sap-flavoured, glue-like resin.  Ficus racemosa fruit are very good to eat when fully ripe and have a flavour like strawberries.  I a pretty sure that Ficus variegata never really ripens and is never good to eat.  When the figs are the best for me, the fig parrots have long lost interest and think the idea that they normally feed on ripe fruit needs to be discarded.  Fig parrots tend to pick a cluster of figs and quietly chew for hours.  Cluster figs may be far more important that species of fig which have fruit dispersed through the canopy.  Normally, I detect the parrots by hearing the plugs of fruit the spit out landing on the leaf litter beneath the tree. When a few birds are present, the tree literally drips bits of fig.  The birds also make small squeaks as contact calls and the parent generally calls to be chick before approaching the nest hole.

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Green Ficus racemosa is the best.  There are two birds in the photo.
Ficus racemosa
This is the first and only time I have seen a fig parrot on ripe figs.
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