THE Bass Strait is one of the world’s most treacherous waterways, but one small species of parrot migrates across it every year to take up residence in south-east Australia.
The swift parrot has traditionally spent winter in the flowering box-ironbark forests near Castlemaine after its long flight from south-west Tasmania.
But their numbers have drastically reduced in recent years due to habitat destruction caused by deforestation in Tasmania, Victoria and New South Wales.
Castlemaine’s swift parrot is now classified as critically endangered and there are fewer than 1000 breeding pairs left in the wild. The CSIRO predicted the swift parrot had a 31 per cent chance of extinction in the next 20 years at current rates.
The Australian National University predicted 94 per cent of the swift parrot population would be lost within 16 years.
To raise greater awareness for their cause, a new group will be established in Castlemaine to lobby governments to strengthen national environmental laws.
BirdLife Castlemaine District will be launched with a forum in Castlemaine on Saturday.
BirdLife Australia members and Environment Justice Australia chief executive officer Brendan Sydes said action needed to be taken now before it was too late.
“These are amazing birds, they nest in blue gum forest hollows in south-west Tasmania and then migrate across the dangerous Bass Strait before following flowering and nectar in Victoria,” he said.
“It’s clear that much stronger and more comprehensive national environment laws are needed – the current laws are weak and inadequate.
“There is still logging in their known habitat, which are currently exempt from regulations.”
Mr Sydes said stronger habitat recovery frameworks and a new national institution – possibly a national EPA – was essential to protect the swift parrot, and other endangered species.
The group will push for a national approach, rather than an ad hoc state-based approach.
Castlemaine resident Chris Timewell, who runs the Woodland Bird project, said the swift parrot was an icon of Castlemaine.
“This is an urgent issue,” he said.
“We love seeing them around the Castlemaine district in winter when they come to feed in the flowering box-ironbark forests, but its numbers are rapidly declining and we are extremely concerned that despite efforts by local conservation groups we will never host these visitors again because our current legal framework allows for ongoing devastation of their habitat.”
The BirdLife Australia forum will run from 12.30pm to 3pm Saturday at the Botanical Gardens tearooms on Walker Street, Castlemaine.