Spatial ecology of the Critically Endangered Swift Parrot within their winter range

The migratory Swift Parrot is one of Australia’s most frequently assessed threatened species in relation to environmental impact statements under the Commonwealth Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act 1999.  That is, every month there are development application referrals that trigger potential controlled actions since they have the potential to impact on Swift Parrot habitat ( publicnoticesreferrals/).  Despite the large number of impact assessments being undertaken, the relevant spatial scale at which the species uses winter habitat resources is poorly understood, and therefore often not taken into consideration when evaluating the significance of potential impacts.  This poses a significant conservation problem and is particularly concerning given the species’ status has recently been upgraded to Critically Endangered both nationally (TSSC 2016) and internationally (IUCN 2015).  Although the species is capable of long-range movement during migration (Saunders & Tzaros 2011), this comes with significant energetic and fitness costs, which must then be counteracted with an abundance of local resources during the breeding and wintering seasons.

The aim of this novel project is to undertake the first radio-tracking of swift parrots within their winter range to determine the relevant spatial scale at which the species’ forages.  We will collect this empirical field-based data by using a radio-tracking drone, the latest robotic drone technology developed by Dr Saunders and colleagues at the Australian Centre for Field Robotics (ACFR), which enables us to overcome many of the typical challenges when tracking highly mobile species across broad landscapes. Photo:©N. Lazarus