A celebration of Australian parrots

Cheeky Australian Ringneck hoping for a handout at Donnelly River
Cheeky Australian Ringneck hoping for a handout at Donnelly River

No visitor to Australia can fail to notice and be charmed by the colourful, noisy and endearing parrots found in this country. Some of the most brightly coloured are the beautiful rosellas. They all have a similar plumage pattern, with an obvious cheek patch. My favourites are the Crimson Rosellas, which unfortunately are only found over east. I am always amazed at how such brightly coloured birds can disappear into foliage and be hard to spot.


Another brightly coloured and very noisy species is the Rainbow Lorikeet. Mainly found in the northern and eastern coast regions of Australia, they feed on the nectar and pollen of native plants, but have adapted to garden plants and will raid fruit when it is ripe. Unfortunately a population of these lorikeets has become established in Perth, as they out-compete local species for nest-hollows to the detriment of some of our endangered birds.


The Australian Ringneck is widespread across the country and varies quite a bit in colouration. My images are of the Western Australian races; the one with the red mark on the forehead is also known as the Twenty-eight Parrot (something to do with the call apparently). They can become quite tame/habituated if offered food, like the bird in the opening image which was taken at Donnelly River Village where people obviously often feed them.


Some of the prettiest parrots are very small and quite hard to get close to, such as Rock Parrots and Elegant Parrots (very similar) and the slightly larger Red-rumped Parrots. They mostly feed on the ground and are usually very wary, requiring a sneaky approach. There are some very beautiful birds in this group but many are very rare – maybe one day I’ll be lucky enough to photograph a few more species.

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Early morning on Rottnest

Herschel Lake at sunrise
Herschel Lake at sunrise

The first time I stayed over at Rottnest I was there to help with a bird banding project – banding almost always involves early starts. The first morning I rode past the beautiful scenery and shorebirds, wishing I had time to stop with my camera. The second morning I arranged a little bit of time off – I think it was worth it to get such lovely light. My plan is to find a way to spend a whole week over there just taking photos, as the birding and scenery is so wonderful.

Rock parrots on Rottnest

Rock parrot on Rottnest Island
Rock parrot on Rottnest Island

A little while ago I spent a weekend on Rottnest Island trying to get some decent images of these gorgeous little birds. There is a very small population of Rock Parrots (Neophema petrophila) left on the island, although there are more on the mainland. This first image gives a good idea of their small size, with the bird not much bigger than the tufts of grass.

So far, three of the Rottnest birds have been banded (or ringed). The plan is to monitor this group of birds and collect information to help determine the exact population size, whether they are breeding, which parts of the island they use and so on. The researchers wanted some images of banded birds to use for posters asking for sighting information from the public. We managed to find a group of four rock parrots, including the three banded birds, each of which has a metal band on its right leg and a coloured plastic band on the left leg. They were moderately cooperative, allowing me to get some images of them and their bands. They didn’t go so far as to fly into the nets that had been set up in the hope of catching the unbanded bird!


Anyone who visits Rottnest and is lucky enough to spot a banded Rock Parrot, please report date, time, location, number of birds and band colour to boldparkbirdbanding@hotmail.com For more information see http://www.rottnestisland.com/about/flora-fauna/birds

Rottnest Island

Quokka on Rottnest
Quokka on Rottnest

This cute little creature is a quokka, a small marsupial familiar to any visitor to Rottnest Island. ‘Rotto’, as it is affectionately known, is a small island off the coast of Perth, Western Australia. Reached by a ferry trip of about 1 hr or by private boat, Rottnest is popular for summer holidays and day trips. There are virtually no cars and most people get around on bicycles. I have found Rottnest to be a great place for photography; as is the case on many islands, the birds and other animals are much less skittish than usual. In fact, the quokkas often get too close!

Rottnest is home to a couple of very attractive feral species – introduced birds that have ‘gone wild’. I think there is now only one peacock left on the island – he did look rather lonely. I saw a group of pheasants as well; I’m fairly sure this one is a young male bird.