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Welcome to Birdata 27 November 2015

Hooded Parrot: A Top Bird in the Top End

Peter Marsack

It is quite common to see Hooded Parrots foraging on the ground in areas where Black-faced Woodswallows are circling overhead in pursuit of flying insects, or perched in chattering flocks along the bare branches of a tree. This is a scene that occurs only in the semi-arid inland of the Top End region of the Northern Territory, as Hooded Parrots occur nowhere else on earth. But why on earth do they do it?

When flocks of Hooded Parrots are feeding on the ground, taking seeds from grasses or herbs, they are particularly susceptible to being caught by aerial predators, such as falcons, or by terrestrial predators, such as feral cats. At the appearance of a predator, the Woodswallows instantly give off a cacophony of scolding, chattering alarm calls, alerting the Parrots to the presence of imminent danger and allowing them to escape.

This is not the only association that Hooded Parrots have with other species. Most parrots build their nests in hollows, especially in trees, but Hooded Parrots build their nests at the end of long tunnels dug into the side of termite mounds. This trait is shared with their close relatives, the Golden-shouldered Parrot and the extinct Paradise Parrot.

One of the best places to see the Hooded Parrot is a small town called Pine Creek. There the locals are used to seeing birdwatchers, armed with binoculars and cameras, creeping about in the park across the road from the pub, trying to see the Parrots feeding on the grass, or loitering around the water-tower at dusk to watch them fly in to drink. In the Wet Season, they are easily seen foraging on seeding herbs growing by the roadsides.

The accompanying map shows that Hooded Parrots are confined to the Top End. Many of the records in the Atlas are clustered along the road between Pine Creek and Katherine; Pine Creek is one of only two towns where the species was recorded; the other was Mataranka.

If you want to discover more information about this species or any other birds that occur in Australia, just follow this link and you can explore BirdLife Australia's Atlas of Australian Birds.

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