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Swift Parrot

Lathamus discolor

Appearance

  • Colour: mostly bright green, with a blue crown, cheeks and colouring on its wings. It has red around its bill, throat and forehead, and bright red patches under each wing. The red on its throat is edged with yellow and its long, pointed tail is purple-red. The female is slightly duller, with a creamy bar under its wings.
  • Size: about 25 cm.

Behaviour

  • Call: a distinctive "kik-kik-kik" usually given in flight, and soft chattering when feeding.
  • Diet: mainly nectar from flowering eucalypts, as well as seeds, flowers, fruit and insects. Favoured feed trees include the Tasmanian Blue Gum, Swamp Gum, Swamp Mahogany, Spotted Gum, Red Bloodwood, Mugga Ironbark, and White Box. It is an active and agile feeder, often hanging upside down. It occasionally comes to the ground to drink.
  • Movement: very fast and direct in flight. It is migratory, breeding in Tasmania and then moving to south-eastern mainland Australia (Victoria and New South Wales, with smaller numbers in south-eastern Queensland, the Australian Capital Territory and south-eastern South Australia) for the non-breeding season (from February–March to September–October). Its movements on the mainland are poorly understood, moving in response to food supply. Some have been recorded in Tasmania during the non-breeding season. It is usually seen in small groups of up to 30 birds, but sometimes congregates in much larger flocks.
  • Breeding: it breeds only in Tasmania, mostly along the eastern coastal strip, the Wellington Range near Hobart and on Maria and Bruny Islands. It nests in hollows in old-growth trees across a range of eucalypt species. Many pairs breed close together and nest sites may be re-used, but not necessarily in successive years. Three to five eggs are laid which are incubated by the female for around 25 days. Young birds leave the nest after about six weeks. Two clutches per season may be laid, depending on the availability of food resources.

What to Observe

  • Courting/mating
  • Calling
  • Feeding
  • Bird on chicks
  • Bird on eggs
  • Bird on nest
  • Bird feeding young

Please also note any eucalypts flowering nearby.

ClimateWatch Science Advisor

The effects of climate change may influence a change in the timing of movements by Swift Parrots, or even make them redundant. It may also affect the timing of when they start to breed and the duration of their breeding activities. Help scientists answer the question: "How are our animals, plants and ecosystems responding to climate change?" by recording the observations above.

When To Look

  • From September to January for breeding behaviour
  • Nesting occurs from late September to November
  • Egg laying usually occurs during October and November
  • Young birds leave the nest from early December to late January
  • Migratory birds are in south-eastern mainland Australia from February–March to September–October

Where To Look

  • In dry open, eucalypt forests and woodlands, suburban parks and gardens and orchards. In Tasmania they are often seen among Tasmanian Blue Gum.
  • In south-eastern Australia. Its breeding grounds are in eastern and northern coastal Tasmania, and in the non-breeding season it occurs along the east coast of mainland Australia, mainly in southern and central Victoria and eastern New South Wales (including the South-West Slopes). It is also occasionally found in south-eastern Queensland, the Australian Capital Territory and south-eastern South Australia.

Swift Parrot occurrence - ALA

References

Beruldsen G 2003. Australian Birds: Their Nests and Eggs. Author, Queensland.

Crome F and Shields J 1992. Parrots and Pigeons of Australia. Angus and Robertson/National Photographic Index of Australian Wildlife, Sydney.

Higgins PJ (ed) 1999. Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds, Volume 4 (Parrots to Dollarbird). Oxford University Press, Melbourne.

Morcombe M 2000. Field guide to Australian Birds. Steve Parish Publishing, Oxley, Queensland.

Pizzey G and Knight F 2003. Field Guide to the Birds of Australia. 7th edition (revised and updated, edited by P. Menkhorst). HarperCollins: Pymble, NSW.

  1. Search Species

  1. What Else?

    Musk Lorikeet (Glossopsitta concinna): has a green, not red, patch under its wings.
    Scaly-breasted Lorikeet (Trichoglossus chlorolepidotus): has scaly, yellow markings over its underbody (compared to the uniform yellow-green breast and belly of the Swift Parrot), a green face with a red bill (Swift Parrots have red on the face with a dull bill) and a long pink-orange bar on its underwings.
    Its distinctive flight call, streamlined body, long pointed tail and bright-red patches under its wing enable it to be readily identified.

  1. Did You Know?

    Its other common names include: Red-faced or Red-shouldered Parrot, Swift or Swift-flying Lorikeet, Red-faced, Red-shouldered, Swift or Swift-flying Parakeet, Clink, Keet, and Talking Keet.

    Its wingspan is 32–36 cm.

    Its average weight is 65 grams.

    It is listed federally as Endangered.

    It undertakes the longest migration of any parrot species in the world.