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Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Turquoise Parrots on Nowra - Braidwood Road

A complete surprise today - I saw a flock of 20+ Turquoise Parrots.
A "first " for me - a "lifer" as the "twitchers" say.
Alan Stephenson and I were driving back to Nowra from Bulee Gap (Between Sassafras and Nerriga) when I spotted a flock of birds on the power lines.
Mystery bird on powerlines

I had assumed they were Woodswallows, then as we zoomed past, I realised they had long tails. Could they be Parrots?
If so, what species?
They were parrots all right, but small, and NOT Lorikeets.
I asked Alan to stop and go back.

 Parrots on powerlines.
The light was terrible, so my  photos are very very very poor quality.
Grey skies are not helpful.
Click to enlarge, to see some details of the birds.
Turquoise Parrots on powerlines - Jerrawangala National Park

Turquoise Parrots were the obvious suspects, except I have NEVER seen them.
It was misting, and dark in the late afternoon - a photographer's nightmare.

It is definitely a "Neophema Parrot" (smaller than the Red-rumped Grass Parrots - which is in a different genus). The call of the Turquoise Parrot is a little thin rattling "tweeet" - very quiet (described as similar to a Thornbill's call). That explains why we didn't hear them calling at all. By contrast, Red-rumped Grass Parrots are relatively noisy birds (but nothing near as noisy as Lorikeets),

Turquoise Parrots - two-toned blue on wings, slight orange wash on belly.

The two-tone blue markings on the wings (turquoise blue and dark blue) are right for the Turquoise Parrot.
Some hint of orange on the belly had me confused at first - but Birds in Backyards has a  female which looks just like my birds.
It says that older birds of both sexes show some orange on the belly

I can see no red on the wings, but everything else is spot  on.
I have just found these images on the Internet.
Those images show that the red is not always visible, and there is no red on the wings of females or young birds. I have checked that with the Bird Books and it is correct. That explains a lot (especially given that a group like that could well be composed of 50 % young birds in early February).

This linked image is very clearly of a male bird, in clear light.
But the two-tone blue on the wing is right for my birds.
I get no strong colour on the birds faces in my photos, unfortunately. But the females look right.

In my mind, the Turquoise Parrot ID is strongly enough established, to "claim" a sighting.

Previous records in the area.
My old bird books report  records of "family groups south west of Nowra" of Turquoise Parrots, between January and February 1977, and also near Tomerong (same year).
Guess where we were today?
Now that I have learnt how to use the NSW Wildlife Atlas, I can now report that it shows 3 records along the Braidwood Road, and one at Tomerong. See Map details.
NSW Wildlife Atlas records for Turquoise Parrot in Nowra region
Nobody can quibble with this record.
The species is listed as "Vulnerable" in NSW.

The maximum number in any of my images is 13 birds - so that is a definite number. There were more birds when we first saw them. Small parties split up and then re-joined the main group.
I would "claim" 20+ birds. Not precise, but it gives a better idea than the "definite 13" in my first photo.

Will these birds be there when the weather clears?
If the weather clears on Saturday or Sunday, I will go back there and see if I can find them again, and try for a decent photo.

A good record - my first ever sighting of this species.
Even if this species has been previously reported from the area, I am still delighted to have seen them.
Shame about the photos, though.

Post Script:
Written Friday afternoon

The Canberra Ornithologists have come in on this issue.
Some suggest Blue-winged Parrots. Of course I had considered that, but I would require a much better "standard of proof" to claim that species (and many on the COG chatline  would have howled down my claim)
  • not only out of area
  • but out of season, as they mostly breed in Tasmania and stay there until March.
Anyway, my friend Geoffrey Dabb has communicated with Joe Forshaw, on the subject.
Joe is the author of "Australian Parrots"
Geoffrey's note is as follows:
  • Thanks Denis.  Better slightly imperfect images than none.  Joe Forshaw confirms turqs (within range, not Out Of Area), as below
  • Many thanks for the enhanced images. 
  • Really interesting because I cannot see an adult male, and most, if not all birds, appear to be juveniles. 
  • Joe
Alan and I will go back again, on the faint hope that we might be able to track down these birds again and get better views of them, and hopefully better images. 

We know exactly what to look for now, as diagnostic characteristics.

Alan has reported the sighting to the local National Parks people, who were interested to hear about these birds.



Rohrerbot said...

What a great find! Sometimes just the blurry photos are good enough to show everyone the "evidence". I feel the same way you do, but sometimes when it's necessary, I actually will post those pictures as it adds to the story. Thanks for sharing. It must have been exciting:)

Flabmeister said...


Indeed excellent. I have looked at the Atlas of Australian Birds as represented by birdata and it shows a smattering of records in heathy areas on the South coast and into the Mallacoota (Gypsy Point?) area. I'll email you the image.


mick said...

That's a great sighting. You did well to notice that there was something different with the birds on the wire as you went past. Getting record shots in such a situation is enough!

Denis Wilson said...

Thanks Rohrerbot.
It is always a dilemma for the blogger - whether to post or not to post sub-standard photos?
My answer is always to post if the "record" is important enough.
Science over Ego, I guess one could say.

Denis Wilson said...

Thanks Martin.
Perhaps you might email me if the Atlas of Australian Birds is available on line. You may have scanned that image from hard copy. Not sure.

Denis Wilson said...

Thanks Mick.
Your early comments drop down the list.
You respond first, but i find them last. Not right.
You and Rohrerbot support the "some records are important enough" theory of posting rubbish photos.
I agree.
At the time I was saying to Alan, I would kill for a good "long lens"
My 300mm lens just does not cut it for such occasions.
But carting round a 500mm lens when I mostly use a Macro for ultra-close shots, is simply not sustainable.

Gouldiae said...

G'day Denis,
Great sighting, nice detailed info - as usual. Gotta be Turqs I would have thought. Another species that could be nominated as a plentiful and popular aviary bird and declining in the wild.
Welcome to the confusing world of disputed bird IDing. Been there, done that!

Denis Wilson said...

Thanks Gouldiae
In fact I have since positively identified an adult male, and many juveniles showing a sign of the red wing mark.
Its always tough getting into a dispute over IDs.