Shut the Front Door! – How Security Measures Could Save Rare Parrots
Australian scientists are caught up in a race to save critically endangered swift parrots from being killed by marsupial sugar gliders. The rare parrots migrate to Tasmania every year in order to breed. But this year, the abundant food supplies will see the birds drawn to the forests where the sugar gliders lie in wait.
What are Sugar Gliders?
Sugar gliders are small, omnivorous, arboreal, and nocturnal gliding possums. They glide through the air much like flying squirrels and like to feed on the eggs of swift parrots. Sugar gliders were introduced to Tasmania in the 19th century but are now seriously threatening the swift parrots.
There are believed to be as few as 2000 swift parrots remaining in the wild. Scientists are sure that if they do not intervene, this year could see a huge reduction in numbers. The Swift parrot is one of just two parrot species which migrate and their numbers continue to decline.
New Nesting Boxes
Researchers at the Australian National University believe that the parrots could be saved by the introduction of nesting boxes with front doors which close at night. The Sugar gliders are active at night when the parrots are sleeping. The parrots often nest in hollows where larger predators cannot reach them but this tactic does not foil the sugar gliders. The use of special could help the birds to successfully rear their young.
The nesting boxes have doors which automatically shut at night. The sugar gliders cannot then reach the birds. The parrots get used to the boxes which are light sensitive. Tests in other regions have shown that parrot numbers increase when the boxes are used.
The decline in the population of swift parrots is mainly down to human activity. Deforestation due to logging has seriously depleted Tasmania's ancient forests. This has removed much of the birds' habitat and has made it more likely that they will encounter sugar gliders which shouldn’t have been introduced to the forests in the first place.
Fundraising for the Parrots
A crowd funding campaign was recently launched to raise money for the special nesting boxes. This raised AUS $33,000 in less than 24 hours. The scientists have been overwhelmed by the response and gratified that people are recognising the importance of saving the birds. However, the issue of logging must be addressed as nesting boxes alone will not ensure the survival of the parrots over the coming years.