Parrots in Urban Environments

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Aim of Project

To investigate reasons why some species of parrots, such as the Rainbow Lorikeet, have increased dramatically in urban areas along the east coast of Australia, what resources they may be utilising and other fauna that they may be competing with for these resources.

Participants

They study was undertaken by Adrian Davis from the University of Sydney, along with Charlotte Taylor, also from the University of Sydney and Richard Major from the Australian Museum.

Methods

Over 500 surveys were carried out on urban golf courses, parks and sporting ovals as well as in remnant vegetation and along streets. Surveys were also carried out in the Blue Mountains, Royal and Ku-ring-gai Chase National Parks. These surveys were carried out over two years and were within the parrot breeding season of June to November as well as outside of the breeding season.

Sixty four motion activated video cameras were also placed in hollow bearing trees throughout suburban Sydney as well as the surrounding National Parks. They recorded all fauna that entered the hollows between June and November over a two year period.

Results

There was a significantly greater diversity of parrots within the urban area than within the surrounding national parks. All areas of the urban environment had a significantly greater abundance of Rainbow Lorikeets than the national parks and there were significantly more Sulphur-crested Cockatoos as well as other parrots in the outer suburban environments than in the city environments and the national parks. Golf courses also contained a significantly higher abundance of Rainbow Lorikeets as well as other parrots than the national parks, except for Sulphur-crested Cockatoos which had a significantly higher abundance in remnant vegetation than national parks.

Thirty one species were recorded using hollows with significantly more visitations in the urban environment than in the national parks. Rainbow Lorikeets were the most characteristic bird utilising urban hollows and claimed more hollows than both the parrots and other fauna. The most characteristic species of hollows in the national parks were the pygmy possum, lace monitor and the Sulphur-crested Cockatoo.

Discussion

Rainbow Lorikeets seem to utilise all areas and habitats within the urban environment and particularly golf courses. All other parrots were recorded in higher abundances in the urban environment than the national park, the only exception being the Crimson Rosella, which was present more often in the national parks. Hollows within the urban environment seem to be dominated by Rainbow Lorikeets though there are more of the other parrots also utilising hollows in the urban environment than in the national parks. The Sulphur-crested Cockatoo did not occupy or visit as many hollows as was expected in the urban environment, with there being no difference in Sulphur-crested Cockatoo visitation between the two habitats. There was a greater variety of fauna that are visiting hollows in the national parks.

Conclusions

Rainbow Lorikeets appear to be doing better than any other parrot in the urban environment and appear to be able to adapt quite readily to urban landscapes. In general, most parrots seem to prefer the urban environment and it is important when planning and designing landscapes to take into account the species that may utilise such newly created landscapes as well as species and resources that may be cleared and should therefore be replaced. This is particularly important when it comes to tree hollows as there appears to be a high rate of competition for hollows in the urban environment. Future and ongoing research will investigate food resources, such as nectar, that may also be contributing to increased abundance of parrots in the urban environment.

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