As regular CFZ-watchers will know, for some time Corinna has been doing a column for Animals & Men and a regular segment on On The Track... particularly about out-of-place birds and rare vagrants. There seem to be more and more bird stories from all over the world hitting the news these days so, to make room for them all - and to give them all equal and worthy coverage - she has set up this new blog to cover all things feathery and Fortean.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Fire Destroys 90 Percent of Rare Bird's Habitat in Australia

Only about 140 western ground parrots remained before last month’s devastating fires

By John R. Platt on December 3, 2015

One of the world’s most endangered birds faces an uncertain future this month after massive bushfires in Australia destroyed at least 90 percent of the species’ habitat.

Only about 140 western ground parrots (Pezoporus flaviventris) remained before the fires. The birds—one of just five ground-dwelling parrot species on the planet—depend on dense vegetation for their nests. Many of their known nesting sites were destroyed in fires that ripped through the region around Cape Arid National Park last month. The bushfires destroyed 30,000 acres of crops, killed four people, and burned 15,000 livestock animals to death.

Officials for Western Australia’s Department of Parks and Wildlife told the Australian Broadcasting Company that two “pockets” of the birds’ habitat did not burn and that automated recording devices indicate that an unknown number of the birds remain alive in those sections. Two birds—a male and a female—were rescued before fires completely overran the park and are now recovering at Perth Zoo, which already has five other parrots in their collection.

The fires also reportedly took a toll on the local population of another critically endangered species, a mouse-like kangaroo called the Gilbert's potoroo (Potorous gilbertii).

Fire is a normal part of the ground parrot’s ecosystem, although the birds prefer areas that have not been burned for at least 40 years and which have a high level of low-growing shrubs. The birds can fly, but they spend most of their time on the ground, so it seems unlikely that they could have escaped the flames that hit their nests.

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