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What Is a Ground Parrot?

By Crystal Cook
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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Ground parrots are small, endangered birds that live in dense vegetation and are rarely seen. There are two kinds of ground parrot — the Eastern and the Western. The Western ground parrot lives in heathland along the Western Australia coast, while the Eastern ground parrot, also called the button-grass or swamp parrot, is found primarily in the Australian states of Victoria, Queensland and New South Wales, though a subspecies lives in Tasmania.

The Western variety prefers heathland on white sand with a variety of plants. The bird is about 11 inches (28 centimeters) long and typically stays hidden in vegetation, though it will fly low to the ground in a zigzag pattern for about 300 feet (91.4 meters) if startled. This yellow-green bird has a bright yellow belly; feeds on seeds, leaves and flowers; and only calls at dusk or dawn with high-pitched whistles.

The Eastern ground parrot also is about 11 inches (28 centimeters) long and mainly eats seeds. It has yellow-green feathers with dark bars on its abdomen and tail. It lives in marshy plains where there are no trees, in reed beds that have low bushes, or in button grass. If startled, the parrot will try to run instead of fly, or it will fly a short distance before running to a new hiding place.

Both kinds of ground parrot make nests in the ground. The Eastern ground parrot builds a nest in the ground that is from 6 to 7 inches (15 to 18 centimeters) across and from 1 to 2 inches (2 to 5 centimeters)) deep; it commonly is lined with leaves, grass and twigs. Three or four eggs usually are laid at one time, and the male feeds the female while she hatches the eggs and feeds the young once the eggs hatch. Not much is known about the nesting habits of the Western ground parrot. The last recorded nest sighting was in 1913 and was a depression found dug into the ground under prickly vegetation.

The Western and Eastern ground parrots are considered endangered. Of the Eastern ground parrot, around 4,000 breeding birds are left, though the species is already extinct in South Australia. There are only 110 known Western ground parrots left, the majority of which live in Cape Arid National Park in Western Australia. Predators that were introduced to Australia, such as the red fox and feral cats, have greatly cut the birds' numbers. Fire and human encroachment into the birds' territories also have had an effect.

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