Alwal’s Christmas dinner

Published 18 Dec 2017 
about  Cape York Partnership  
A juvenile Alwal feeding on a Melaleuca viridfolia flower. Photo John Grffiths, Cape Capers.<br/> A juvenile Alwal feeding on a Melaleuca viridfolia flower. Photo John Grffiths, Cape Capers.
An adult Alwal in Melaleuca viridifolia. Photo John Grffiths, Cape Capers.<br/> An adult Alwal in Melaleuca viridifolia. Photo John Grffiths, Cape Capers.
Sue Shepard, Terry Mahney and Ashaley Ross putting out a feeding station. Photo John Grffiths, Cape Capers.<br/> Sue Shepard, Terry Mahney and Ashaley Ross putting out a feeding station. Photo John Grffiths, Cape Capers.
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Last week was the last trip for 2017 by Olkola Land Managers and Bush Heritage for the ‘Bringing Alwal Home’ project, and we gave the Golden Shouldered Parrots (Alwal) their Christmas dinners!

The early wet season is a critical time for the survival of juvenile Alwal. Seeds are in short supply as early rains have germinated much of the seed and it's too soon for the young grasses to produce more. Young Alwal are particularly vulnerable to starvation at this time as they haven't learnt the skills of the adults in finding hidden seed supplies amongst rocks and debris.

To help them get through this important period we provide supplementary feeder stations, filled with small parrot seed, to enhance their chances of survival. This is deemed necessary as the Alwal population is critically low in number. In a healthy population the numbers of birds are sufficient to survive despite losses during lean periods.  However, with Alwal anything we can do to ensure the survival of future breeding birds is important.

This year Olkola Ranger, Ashaley Ross, and myself (as Bush Heritage Ecologist) had help finding the best places to locate feeding stations from long-term Alwal researcher Sue Shepard (from Artemis Station) and ornithologist John Griffiths.

It's no easy matter, as Sue has found from years of experience. Alwal form small flocks during the wet season that follow the elusive Black-faced Woodswallow and other insectivorous birds to feeding areas. The woodswallow, being insect eaters, fly overhead and perch in tall trees while Alwal, finches and doves feed on the ground. Being high in the trees and sky the woodswallows alarm calls act as an early warning system for the parrots and finches when a predator is approaching, allowing them to escape to the protection of a nearby tree before they're ambushed on the ground.

However, to further complicate things we needed to find areas where the woodswallows were nesting and place our feeders nearby. This is because we have to put the feeders in places the Alwal will return to each day so they learn to use the feeders. Where the woodswallows nest is the one area we know the parrots and wood swallows return to each day.

This year we successfully found five sites with Alwal and woodswallows together and we put our feeders in these places. This compliments the three sites on Artemis Station where Sue has been supplementary feeding Alwal during the wet season for a number of years.

So, Merry Christmas Alwal and all Alwal supporters – hope you enjoy your Christmas dinner and survive healthy and hearty into the new year!

National Landcare Program logo

The Bringing Alwal Home project is supported through funding from the Australian Government's National Landcare Program.

An adult Alwal in Melaleuca viridifolia. Photo John Grffiths, Cape Capers.<br/> An adult Alwal in Melaleuca viridifolia. Photo John Grffiths, Cape Capers.
Sue Shepard, Terry Mahney and Ashaley Ross putting out a feeding station. Photo John Grffiths, Cape Capers.<br/> Sue Shepard, Terry Mahney and Ashaley Ross putting out a feeding station. Photo John Grffiths, Cape Capers.
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