Parrots of Mallacoota

This post is a summary of what I know about members of the Parrot family which occur or might occur naturally in the Mallacoota area.  It thus excludes any obvious escapees (which seem to be an unavoidable consequence of aviculture)!

I have defined the Mallacoota area by an somewhat arbitrary rectangle including Genoa Peak, Shipwreck Creek and Gabo Island.

According to the Birdlife Australia (BLA) checklist there are 43 members of the Parrot, Lorikeet and Rosella family found in Australia.  11 species in this family have occured in the Mallacooota area and 1 further species has been reported to eBird elsewhere in East Gippsland and has been included as possibilities..

Sources of material

Within each family I have listed the species in the order in which they appear in the BLA checklist.  That  checklist is also the source of the scientific names, many of which have been changed recently as taxonomists change their minds about the meaning of life ( or at least DNA sequencing).   They will probably change their minds again in the future.

I have used my own photographs or, where I do not have a usable example, one taken by a named photographer and published in a publicly accessible source.

In commenting about key features and particularly sex differences I have benefited from comments in "The Australian Bird Guide" by Menkhorst et al

Where calls are useful I have linked to sound files included on Avibase.

Comments about key locations in the Mallacoota area are based on records submitted to eBird.  The species maps available from that source are an excellent resource for finding locations (and especially checking where the birds have been seen recently).

Australian King-Parrot (Alisterus scapularis)

They are not shy around humans!

A very common species in this area.  They are most commonly seen as single birds or pairs (together accounting for ~65% of records) but one record is of 70 birds and 10-30 is not uncommon.

A large, long-tailed parrot with the male, in particular, very spectacularly coloured.  The female lacks the scarlet head but must still be considered a very colourful bird.

They also have a distinctive call which may draw attention before the birds are seen.

The records in eBird come from many sites in the Mallacoota area and they can be seen anywhere.

Ground Parrot (Pezoporus wallicus)

Photo by Ron Ricketts (via Mallacoota Birds FB group)
 A more typical view of the bird: in flight, going away at pretty high speed!
Photo by Ron Ricketts (via Mallacoota Birds FB group)
One of the special birds of this area.  It has not been reported many times since it is:
  1. restricted to heathland habitat; and
  2. hard to spot as it is well camouflaged,  (A friend, who is an excellent naturalist, commented that he has nearly stepped on them until they flush.)
When seen rather resembles a large, fat, wild-form budgie.  In it's habitat it is unmistakable.  Of the 24 observations (from a total of  36) where the number of birds was reported 15 were of single birds, 6 of 2 birds and 3 of 3 birds.

The call is described  as 'distinctive' in the Australian Bird Guide.  That work also comments that the species calls predictably at dawn and dusk.

In the Mallacoota area the two areas with most reports are the Howe Flats area to the North of the Inlet and the Shipwreck Creek to Seal Creek walk.  Closer to town it has been reported to eBird from the Gun Club track (inland from airport) and the Heathland Walk (part of the Mallacoota Coastal Walk).  I have also heard anecdotes of the birds being seen on the grassland within the Airport fence.

Blue-winged Parrot (Neophema chrysostoma)

Photo by David Cook Wildlife Photography via Avibase/Flickr
It initially appeared that this species has not been recorded in Mallacoota (as I define it).  That was the case for eBird until 31 March 2010.  Until that date, on that platform it had been reported at Point Hicks and the Marlo area which are not too far away which is why I included it here.
The species is also not listed in the Birdlife Australia Bush Birds checklist for Mallacoota.

However on 18 July 2019 I received a comment from a former resident of the area (who I know to be a reliable observer)  that some years ago they used to record Blue-winged Parrot near the airport.  On checking the birdata content for the species and zooming in as far as I could I find markers for Betka Beach (1 record), the sewage works (2), Foreshore Caravan Park (1) and Gabo Island (1). Clicking on the points shows them to be made between 2001 and 2011 (I think after the period of my contact's sightings).
In addition the "Birds of Mallacoota - 2nd edition 1979 -  comments "... only a few records for this bird - all in heath land."

On 31 March we were driving along the Gun Club Track behind the airport and saw an unusal parrot.  I initially (mis)identified it as a Ground Parrot but on posting a photo to Facebook it was speedily identified by others as a Blue-winged Parrot.
A lifer for me.

The Australian Bird Guide comments that the birds "feed on the ground and in low, open vegetation:grassland, saltmarsh, rough pasture, weedy areas".  So keep your eyes open in those types of habitat in our area and IF YOU SEE THE SPECIES PLEASE REPORT IT TO EBIRD OR BIRDLIFE AUSTRALIA (and the Mallacoota Birds Facebook Group). Taking a photograph to support your ID would be very good also!

Turquoise Parrot (Neophema pulchella)

Photo by Greg Miles via Avibase/Flickr
This is another uncommon species.  There are 5 records for 4 sites.  The most recent is 2011.  All the sites fit the words of the Australian Bird Guide:
"A forest edge specialist in grassy open forest and woodland, mostly in foothills, usually close to open water."
The key field marks are a small parrot, bright green above, bright yellow below withe a turquoise face and forehead.  The adult male is much more colourful and has a red shoulder stripe (although that isn't always visible, from reviewing the images on Flickr).

The call is not exciting!

There are quite a few records (several for 2018 - my download doesn't include 2019) for the Cape Conran- Marlo area so possibly it is under-reported in Mallacoota.  As with the previous species  keep your eyes open in the specific habitat in our area and IF YOU SEE THE SPECIES PLEASE REPORT IT TO EBIRD AND/OR BIRDLIFE AUSTRALIA (and the Mallacoota Birds Facebook Group). Taking a photograph to support your ID would be very good also!

I have since received a message from a Mallacoota birder
"(I) was just wondering if Turquoise parrots have been listed in the Mallacoota region, or is there another parrot very similar in this area? I saw what i thought were turquoise parrots in the shady gully area when riding a few years back..?
I (MB) am regarding this as a possible record of the species.

Swift Parrot (Lathamus discolor)

Photo by Geoffrey Dabb via Canberra Birds
One of the few migratory Parrot species, moving from Tasmania to SE Australia in Autumn.  

On the mainland the focus of observations is Central Victoria, although quite a few birds are reported to eBird from the Sydney Basin and their presence seems to be increasing in Canberra.  (The orange icons are recent reports - April-May 2019).
Another uncommon species in Mallacoota with just two records.  Both records are the generic "Mallacoota" hotspot and were in 2010.  For East Gippsland there are more records, including some as recently as 2015.  The "Birds of Mallacoota" - 2nd edn 1979 -  notes "Occasional reports are made but it is probably more common than the sporadic records indicate." 

A very bright green parrot with red on the face, around the vent and the underside of the wings.  As shown in Geoffrey Dabb's photo, when perched, the red is visible on the shoulder.

They are a "chatty" bird and the call is given a lot when in flight or feeding.

On the mainland they feed mainly on blossom of box and ironbark (and the insects attracted to that blossom).

The species is rated as Critically Endangered due to habitat loss.  A recovery plan has been established and any sightings should be reported to EBIRD AND/OR BIRDLIFE AUSTRALIA (and the Mallacoota Birds Facebook Group). Taking a photograph to support your ID would be very good also!  If you find a corpse  due to roadkill, hitting a window etc  that should also be reported to Birdlife Australia.

Crimson Rosella (Platycercus elegans)

After a string of unusual birds this is one of the commonest, and most easily recognisable birds in the area.

The adults of the species are the spectacular crimson birds.  Juveniles are mostly green (with a red face) and immatures have a varying amount of crimson, increasing over time.  The sexes can be differentiated by males having a blue tail while in females the central feathers are green!

They are most commonly seen as single birds or pairs (together accounting for ~65% of records) but I have seen a flock of 70 birds (90% immatures) feeding in a paddock and 10-30 is not uncommon.

The call is commonly heard.

They are seen across the area in all habitat types including feeding on vegtation on beaches.

Eastern Rosella (Platycercus eximius)

This blog is not sponsored by a well known sauce company but the appearance of the bird is well known as a consequence of that trade mark!!

The crucial diagnostic feature of this species is in fact the white cheeks.  They can hybridise with Crimson Rosellas, in which case the offspring tend to have the general colouring of an Eastern Rosella except for the blue cheeks of the Crimson Rosella.

The call is higher pitched and more melodic than the Crimson Rosella.

Not as common in our area as the Crimson Rosella.  It prefers less densely treed habitat and as a consequence has only been reported from the built up areas.

Musk Lorikeet (Glossopsitta concinna)

A typical pose for this fairly common species.  The key feature is the red on the face running horizontally through the eye.  The yellow patch on the shoulder is also a help.

The birds are often seen as a noisy flock flying between flowering trees or - as in the photo above -climbing in the foliage feeding.  If flying high the call is quite distinctive.

Of the records on eBird the majority (about 65%) of records in Mallacoota have no counts, possibly reflecting difficulty is estimating the number of birds in an area when they are moving around  in dense foliage of several trees many metres above the ground.  The distribution of the number of records shows the birds to be recorded mainly from November to April with a peak in March, which may coincide with the Bloodwoods (Corymbia gummifera) flowering.

The birds are reported from a wide range of sites giving a feel that the records say more about where people are birding than where the birds may be!  It is interesting that Gipsy Point has the most records followed by the generic "Mallacoota" site.

Little Lorikeet (Glossopsitta pusilla)

Photo by Greg Miles via Avibase/Flickr
Not as common as the Musk or Rainbow Lorikeets.  When seen clearly - usually when feeding as shown in the image - the red plumage running vertically through the face is diagnostic.

When in flight the call, often transcribed as "zit, zit" is clearly different to that of the Musk Lorikeet.

Again a blossom feeder, the distribution of records through the year is similar to the Musk Lorikeet with peaks in November and March.

Most records are from the generic "Mallacoota" site.

Purple-crowned Lorikeet (Glossopsitta porphyrocephala)

Photo by Langham Birder via Avibasr/flicker
This is the second species not currently reported in Mallacoota.  There is one eBird report from Cabbage Tree Creek Flora Reserve, between Cann River and Orbost.  It is mentioned in "Birds of Mallacoota (2nd edition - 1979) as "Much less common than either Rainbow or Musk Lorikeet ..."  The Australian Bird Guide notes "Gregarious blossom nomad" often irrupting into a district from which it has been absent for some time."

The eBird range map for SE Australia shows the out-of range nature of the East Gippsland sighting.
The Canberra sightings were in 2014 by a number of observers at a number of sites.  It was accepted as wild birds at the time.

In flight the diagnostic features are red underwings (but short green tail - Swift parrot has long tail, red under).  When feeding the purple crown is a good mark but the round yellow face patch is more easily seen.

The observer in East Gippsland notes that they were originally alerted by the call.

With only one recent sighting in the Shire this is a long shot but keep your eyes open when there is heavy eucalypt/angophora blossom in our area and IF YOU SEE THE SPECIES PLEASE REPORT IT TO EBIRD OR BIRDLIFE AUSTRALIA (and the Mallacoota Birds Facebook Group). Taking a photograph (or sound recording) to support your ID would be very good also!

Rainbow Lorikeet (Trichoglossus moluccanus)

The most frequently report member of the Parrot family in this area,  Unmistakable, both in appearance and by call.

It is interesting (perhaps worrying?) that there is not a single breeding record for this species in eBird.  The New Atlas of Australian Birds shows this area with a more respectable rate of reporting the species as breeding.

Scaly-breasted Lorikeet (Trichoglossus chlorolepidotus)

A typical sighting feeding in eucalypt foliage!
Photo by Noel Luff via
Only one record for Mallacoota - which no longer appears on the hotspot map - (and 1 for the rest of East Gippsland).  Interestingly the Mallacoota sighting  was in 2014 - which seems to be a restless year for Lorikeets.  In my data download the local sighting was tagged as the generic "Mallacoota"  site.
The Australian Bird Guide comments on the population based around Melbourne as "...isolated (and presumably introduced)...".  The natural population seems to halt at the Illawarra (about 360km North - as the Lorikeet might fly).

Another long shot but keep your eyes open when there is heavy eucalypt/angophora blossom in our area and IF YOU SEE THE SPECIES PLEASE REPORT IT TO EBIRD OR BIRDLIFE AUSTRALIA (and the Mallacoota Birds Facebook Group). Taking a photograph (or sound recording) to support your ID would be very good also!


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