Sugar glider and hollow nesting birds including swift parrot, orange-bellied parrot and forty-spotted pardalote

​Application for Scientific Permit – Available for Public Comment

Public comment on the following application for a Scientific Research (Fauna) Permit is open until 18 November.

Applicant: Australian National University

Species/Taxon: Sugar glider Petaurus breviceps, swift parrot Lathamus discolor, green rosella Platycercus caledonicus, musk lorikeet Glossopsitta cocinna, rainbow lorikeet Trichoglossus haematodus, blue-winged parrot Neophema chrysostoma, orange-bellied parrot Neophema chrysogaster, forty spotted pardalote Pardalotus quadragintus, striated pardalote Pardalotus striatus, tree martin Petrochelidon nigricans, Tasmanian masked owl Tyto novaehollandiae castanops.

Location: A range of private and public land across Tasmania, with a particular focus on the range of swift parrots and sugar gliders

Title of research: Management of species threatening the survival of Tasmanian hollow nesting birds

Aim of project: To understand the biology of hollow nesting birds, and the effect of sugar glider predation on birds.

Justification: Tasmanian hollow nesting birds are under threat from a range of factors including habitat loss, parasites and predation by sugar gliders. This project focuses on the critically endangered swift parrot, the endangered forty-spotted pardalotes, the critically endangered orange-bellied parrot, and other Tasmanian tree hollow nesting birds, and seeks to understand their ecology, causes of decline, and approaches to recover their populations. In addition, the project investigates the ecology of two invasive species in Tasmania, the sugar glider and the rainbow lorikeet, and seeks to identify control options to prevent their ongoing spread.

Maximum likely numbers of individuals involved: We estimate that annually we will use: Sugar glider Petaurus breviceps (n=200), swift parrot Lathamus discolor (n=200), green rosella Platycercus caledonicus (n=165), musk lorikeet Glossopsitta cocinna (n=165), rainbow lorikeet Trichoglossus haematodus (n=50), blue-winged parrot Neophema chrysostoma (n=165), orange-bellied parrot Neophema chrysogaster (n=100), forty spotted pardalote Pardalotus quadragintus (n=300), striated pardalote Pardalotus striatus (n=200), tree martin Petrochelidon nigricans (n=200), Tasmanian masked owl Tyto novaehollandiae castanops (n=200). Maximum numbers are provided in parentheses.

Activities undertaken and methods:
1.    We will monitor the nests of all birds using a combination of motion activated cameras and manual checks. Nestlings will be handled for sample collection (blood, brachial venepuncture) and banding, and capture of adults (tree hollow traps, mist nets for pardalotes) for the same purpose.
2.    We will continue to monitor nest boxes deployed during earlier phases of this project (boxes were deployed to target swift parrots, rainbow lorikeets, sugar gliders and forty spotted pardalotes). We will perform maintenance on nest boxes as needed.
3.    Sugar gliders caught at nest boxes and Mawbey traps will be individually marked with ear tags. We will also use ‘selfie traps’ to identify animals (marked and unmarked) using high resolution photographs.
4.    Swift parrots will be tracked using 2g GPS loggers deployed using tape on back feathers for up to 3 weeks. Birds will be retrapped to retrieve loggers, but birds that evade capture are expected to shed their tags naturally within 1 week.
5.    New Forty spotted pardalote nest boxes will be experimentally deployed at a range of heights to investigate box height effect on fly infestation. We will trial the use of insecticide-impregnated cotton wool/sterilised bird feathers (as sold in pet stores) deployed at ‘self serve’ stations for padalotes in areas where fly infestation is a problem. Insecticide soaked cotton will be deployed in forests so that pardalotes can collect the material to line their nests, and thereby protect against flies.
6.    We will deploy sugar glider exclusion devices on swift parrot nests on the Tasmanian mainland (if possible) or at least undertake a trial on swift parrot nests on islands. Depending on where swift parrot nesting occurs we may deploy devices on mainland tree martin nests (if swift parrots do not nest in glider infested forest) or also at sugar glider dens (after breeding is complete so that gliders are unaffected by exclusion from dens.
7.    We will deploy GPS tracking devices on rainbow lorikeets (n=15) in the Kingston/Dodges Ferry areas using Teflon backpacks or tape (as described above).
8.    We will use call playback to survey forty spotted pardalotes both as part of structured surveys and to attract birds to mist nets. We will play calls in accordance with ethics guidelines. Other species will be recorded without the use of call broadcast in other surveys.
9.    Parasites from all birds handled will be collected
10.    Orange-bellied parrots bred and housed in captivity will be handled to record morphometric information (body measurements, mass, feather lengths). Both adult parrots and nestlings will be handled, wherever possible, during routine management. Nestlings may be handled in addition to routine management to determine growth rate and body condition

Fate of animals: The animals will be left alone once sampling is completed other than monitoring of nests using cameras, radiotracking or retrieval of GPS loggers. Both radiocollars and GPS tags contain weak links and are expected to fall off animals within 1 year.

Likely impact on species involved (including any by-catch): Our previous work has shown that these techniques have negligible impacts on animal welfare. Sample collection involved temporary discomfort (eg. blood and feather collection), but experience has shown that this discomfort is temporary and has no lasting ill effects on survival. Nest boxes are known to provide important habitat for a range of wildlife, and our boxes on islands are likely to increase local carrying capacity of habitat where tree cavity abundance is low. 

The same is likely on the mainland where gliders occur, but birds that nest in parrot boxes on the mainland may be exposed to similar predation as when they nest in natural cavities. Pardalote boxes are too small for gliders to enter, so pardalotes nesting in boxes on the glider-infested mainland are likely to have better survival than in natural cavities. 

Gliders are likely to be most strongly impacted by the nest box deployment on the Tas mainland because gliders that utilise the boxes will be incorporated into our study (i.e. sample collection, tracking, marking), but these techniques have been used on the Australian mainland with few recorded ill effects on the species. The risk of bycatch is very low in our study because most cavity nesting animals are already listed in our program. 

The species that are not are either too big to use the nest boxes we deploy, or in the case of pygmy possums, are likely to benefit from the provision of additional nesting places.

Contact

Scientific Research Permits
Natural and Cultural Heritage
Level 8, 59 Collins Street
Hobart TAS 7000
Email: Scientific.Permits@dpipwe.tas.gov.au

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