Sunshine Coast Birds

Birding and other wildlife experiences from the Sunshine Coast and elsewhere in Australia - and from overseas - with scribblings about travel, environmental issues, kayaking, hiking and camping.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Coxen's Fig-Parrot: Does It Live?

Coxen's Fig-Parrot
Does the coxeni race of the Double-eyed Fig-Parrot - quite possibly a distinct species - still exist, or is it extinct? An intriguing sighting of a group of small, green parrots in the Sunshine Coast hinterland recently has again sparked hopes that the parrot may indeed survive. A local observer watched the birds for several minutes high in a Ficus tree in the Tuchekoi area of the Mary River Valley in early-December.

The observer, who does not want to be identified, watched the parrots feeding on figs through 10x binoculars and a 16x rifle scope (used for feral animal control) on a privately owned farm. He believed 3 or 4 birds were in the tree. The birds were described as tiny, green parrots with no visible head colouration, but bright blue wing flashes were noted on several occasions although the birds were quite distant. It is this feature which makes the observation particularly interesting. The patches of red and blue on the face of Coxen's Fig-Parrot are not nearly as obvious as they are in the northern races of Double-eyed Fig-Parrot (and are much duller than in the painting above); they could have been overlooked easily at some distance. However, the blue wing flashes - and the observer is adamant they were seen - are hard to ascribe to anything else. The sighting of the birds feeding on figs is also significant; this has been rarely reported in claimed records of Coxen's Fig-Parrot in recent times.

Fruit and leaves from parrot feeding tree
The observer says Rose-crowned Fruit-Doves were also feeding on figs in the tree. He collected and photographed the remains of small figs from the ground below where the birds were feeding. The identity of the farm property is not being revealed by the observer as it is presently subject to an intensive feral animal control program. The tree was in a patch of vine scrub in farm pasture in a stretch of the Mary River Valley where good numbers of Ficus trees remain. When I visited the general area (not the property) this morning, I saw plenty of Australasian Figbirds and a good sprinkling of other birds feeding on figs including Barred Cuckoo-shrike, Channel-billed Cuckoo and Eastern Koel.

Tree where Fig-Parrots were possibly seen
There have been no authenticated records of Coxen's Fig-Parrot for about 25 years or so. None of numerous claimed sightings over that time have been able to be confirmed by photographs or follow-up observations, leading to speculation that the bird may be extinct in its habitat of lowland rainforest in south-east Queensland and north-east NSW. This latest may well well prove to be yet another unconfirmed sighting, but Sunshine Coast birders and people visiting the region might want to keep an eye out. There are a number of unconfirmed sightings of Coxen's Fig-Parrot from the Mary River Valley region since the 1980s as well as historic records.

Paradise Riflebird
From Tuchekoi I moved on to an excellent area of lowland rainforest along Cedar Creek Road in the western foothills of the Blackall Range. Of interest here was a nicely performing Paradise Riflebird and a pair of Lewin's Rail in creekside vegetation. Plenty of Wompoo and Rose-crowned Fruit-Doves were about.

Paradise Riflebird
More common fare in open areas nearby around Belli Park included Red-browed Finch and Red-backed Fairy-wren.

Red-backed Fairy-wren

Red-browed Finch

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