Ravenous parrots move onto agricultural land

Taelor PeluseyAugusta Margaret River Times
Australian Ringneck (semitorquatus) parrot.
Camera IconAustralian Ringneck (semitorquatus) parrot. Credit: Rod Smith/BirdLife WA

Climate change, deforestation and the health and cycles of native tree species could be contributing factors to Australian ringneck parrots being driven onto agricultural land across the Capes.

Olive growers in particular this year have lamented the increased activity of the generally forest-dwelling parrots — colloquially known as 28s.

Vasse Virgin’s Louis Scherini told the Times the problem appeared to be worsening and he was unsure about the cause.

“They eat everything,” he said.

“They’re even eating from my mandarin trees now. It’s remarkable.”

The Times understands small-scale producers in particular have been hit hard this year by the species, which research has shown to be highly resilient and able to feed on a range of food sources.

Margaret River-based biologist and Bird Life WA project staff Shapelle McNee has studied the bird extensively further inland with Boyup Brook Landcare, but said she knew of little local research.

Ms McNee said it could be that food sources were diminishing rather than populations increasing, but acknowledged it was a multi-faceted issue in need of more research.

“Deforestation and loss of habitat is definitely having an effect, but it wouldn’t be the only cause,” she said.

“Marri is an important food for the birds and canker (fungus) could be diminishing that food source.

“And another factor would probably be climate change — rainfall patterns would have been very different 50 years ago.”

While Boyup Brook is less than two hours away, Ms McNee said a Capes-specific approach was needed to ascertain the underlying causes.

Olio Bello general manager Brett Roberts said his orchard had fared OK this season, but he knew of smaller growers who were picking earlier to ensure there was “something left”.

“It hasn’t been as bad for us this year, but that could be size of our operations or even down to location, I’m really not sure,” he said.

“I know a lot of people have had it worse this year, though.”

Wulura Olive Oil’s Brad Harnett said he had been in the game for 20 years and the issue was worsening exponentially.

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