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Tasmania's Swift Parrot Faces a Swift Extinction if Nothing is Done

Mar 27, 2015 12:36 AM EDT
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Parrots discover clever way to get food quicker

The Tasmanian swift parrot is reportedly facing severe population decline. Now researchers are estimating that the iconic green parrot only has about 16 years left to make a comeback, or it's all over for the tiny birds.

That's at least according to a study recently published in the journal Biological Conservation, which details how, if the parrots' situation remains as is, their total population will be cut in half every four years. That could result in a possible decline of 94.7 percent over the next 16 years - a drop the species would likely to be unable to recover from.

"Swift parrots are in far worse trouble than anybody previously thought," study lead Robert Heinsohn, from The Australian National University (ANU), said in a statement. "Everyone, including foresters, environmentalists and members of the public will be severely affected if they go extinct."

According to the researcher, swift parrots actually serve as major pollinators of blue and black gum trees, spreading the trees' pollen even as they forage. Ironically, it is these same trees that are attracting extensive logging in swift parrot habitats, leaving the birds with little room to live, nevermind reproduce.

Over the course of a five-year study, Heinsohn and his colleagues determined that the parrots migrate between various parts of Tasmania to eat and breed - a process that is being disrupted by the logging industry, which is fragmenting key forests.

This disruption to breeding practices is also leaving the animals exceptionally vulnerable to sugar gliders - adorable, but ferocious predators that naturally prey on the parrots.

Between these two threats, the researchers concluded that the swift parrot does not have much chance of recovery... that is, unless a moratorium on logging in relevant habitats in enacted.

"Current approaches to swift parrot management look rather inadequate," added co-researcher Dejan Stojanovic. "Our [results] are a wake-up call. Actions to preserve their forest habitat cannot wait."

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

- follow Brian on Twitter @BS_ButNoBS

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