Counting Parrots- Report on the 2006 Cape Parrot Big Birding Day, the 9th annual count.

Colleen T. Downs

School of Biological & Conservation Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, P/Bag X01, Scottsville, 3209, South Africa. Email: downs@ukzn.ac.za

Member of the Cape Parrot Working Group

Despite the bitterly cold weather, observers braved the conditions and assisted with the 9th consecutive annual Cape Parrot count or Cape Parrot Big Birding Day (CPBBD) as it is known. This was initiated to determine numbers of birds in the wild as they are Endangered and their numbers have declined considerably in the past 30 years. In addition, the count creates public awareness and involves the public conserving South Africa’s only endemic parrot; and highlights the need for the protection of their forest habitat. Various factors have caused the decline in numbers of Cape Parrots. These factors include: forest degradation; food and nest-site shortages resulting in poor breeding success; removal of birds from the wild for the avicultural and pet trade; diseases, especially the beak and feather virus; and predators.

The areas of South Africa that are covered by the count include the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo Provinces. In the latter, there is only a remnant population of Cape Parrots. This year 282 volunteers were posted at 103 observation points in the three provinces. A total of 1108 parrots were seen during the afternoon count while 1322 were seen the following morning. These results are significantly higher than numbers in previous years. Observers saw parrots at 65% and 78% of the localities for the Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning respectively despite the cold and misty weather.

Variability of results between years and discrepancy between the morning and afternoon counts can be a consequence of poor weather, double counting, and missing areas where parrots are on the particular day. Also, when birds are concentrated at feeding sites, they give a false impression of abundance. However, as the count is continued year after year, there appears to be a positive trend of gradually increasing numbers of Cape Parrots, particularly this year. This is positive but I think we cannot get complacent because of the patchy distribution of the parrots and their dependence on yellowwood forests. I think this year I may have over counted birds, particularly in the Creighton area as birds were seen leaving forests and were later observed in large flocks feeding in pecan orchards. Although I checked times of departure and arrival I could not always identify whether they were the same parrots. Furthermore, I think we need to continue with the CPBBD to monitor the trends and hopefully in about 10 years time the population may approximate 10000 parrots but this requires a 25% yearly increase with no poaching which may be over optimistic. On the negative side, this year the parrots were observed feeding at sites away from forests on the CPBBD and in recent months, often in areas where they have not been previously seen or have been absent for many years. Furthermore, this year in many areas the parrots fed on exotic pecan nuts before they ripened and visited orchards earlier than previous years. In some areas they have been feeding on the ground (something they rarely do) on acorns that are high in tannins to discourage animals from eating them. At these non-forest feeding sites the parrots have often congregated in great numbers. All of this suggests that there is little suitable natural fruit available in the indigenous forests.

As mentioned in previous reports, one of the problems of covering the range of the Cape Parrots is that some observers do not see parrots. However, these nil counts are as important as sightings of the birds. The observers in the Byrne Valley near Richmond, KwaZulu-Natal have diligently observed for 9 years and were rewarded with their first sighting of Cape Parrots this year. Historically the parrots were common here as vouched by my grandfather who grew up in the area and who turns 100 years old in September.

Year Weather Observers Cape Parrots am Total Cape Parrots pm Total Number of locations am Number of locations pm % obs. at locations am % obs. At locations pm
1998 Good 136 321 179 47 37 64 38
1999 Poor 155 282 237 53 53 53 47
2000 Good 118 459 460 42 38 69 66
2001 Good 153 356 316 75 69 57 52
2002 Good 339 634 476 144 141 44 41
2003 Mixed 332 885 717 149 148 46 45
2004 Good 336 994 1021 127 125 68 58
2005 Good 339 969 894 125 122 58 56
2006 Mixed 282 1332 1108 103 103 78 65

Table 1. Summary of results of Cape Parrot Big Birding Day (1998-2006).

A summary of Cape Parrots numbers observed in different regions and provinces of South Africa is presented in Table 2. Unlike previous years, the most birds were recorded in KwaZulu-Natal, especially in the Creighton area. As mentioned earlier this may be a consequence of over counting. This total was slightly higher than the total number recorded in the Eastern Cape (the Amatola Mountain area from Alice to Stutterheim. In Limpopo Province, the highest number of birds was recorded compared with previous years here.

I can never express my gratefulness adequately to all those who participated in the CPBBD, particularly for the enthusiasm and continued support of the co-ordinators (Appendix 1) and volunteers, many of whom have participated now for 9 years. This is particularly rewarding. Many of the areas where people observe are remote localities, and again I am grateful that they continue to participate and bear the costs of getting to these sites. Thanks also to Kate Henderson for her assistance. In addition, the contribution of the DWAF, Sappi and Mondi foresters, Indwe Security (especially Gary Harvey and Bertus Bouwer), and E. Cape Nature Conservation and KZN Wildlife officials is greatly appreciated. Special thanks to Jean Pattison and the American Aviculturalists and bird clubs, and Mazda Wildlife for their continued support. This year the cost of students participating in the CPBBD was covered by a donation from the UK Parrot Society Conservation Fund for which I am most grateful.

Table 2. Summary of results of the Cape Parrot Big Birding Day 2006 (afternoon of the 6th and morning of the 7thMay) according to areas and provinces.

Area

Cape Parrots in morning

Cape Parrots in evening

Zululand

0

0

Boston

9

9

Bulwer

21

13

Byrne

0

2

Dargle

17

15

Karkloof

19

6

Creighton (KZN)

315

328

Creighton (Trans)

223

172

Weza

29

13

Glengarry

15

0

Umtata

115

93

Transkei Coast

62

50

Stutterheim

89

60

FF-Hogs-Keis

320

342

Limpopo

88

5

Total

1322

1108

KZN

410

386

Transkei

415

315

E.Cape

409

402

Limpopo

88

5

REMINDER: Next CAPE PARROT BIG BIRDING DAY

The 10th CPBD will be held in 2007 on the Saturday afternoon of the 5th May and the morning of the Sunday 6th May. Please diarise this and contact one of the co-ordinators in the area where you would like to assist (see Appendix 1).

Appendix 1. Contact persons for Cape Parrot Big Birding Day 2007

Area Name Tel Email
Overall co-ordinator Prof. Colleen Downs 033 260 5127; 0829202026 downs@ukzn.ac.za
Zululand (Nkandla & Qudeni) Pat Brenchley 035 474 2629

082 654 3549

pat.brenchley@sugar.org.za
Newcastle (Ncandu) Tony Roberts 034 2125585
082 8217779
trtours@dundeekzn.co.za
Karkloof Caroline Goble 033 3304590

0721399057

triandra@nitrosoft.co.za
Dargle/ Nottingham Rd/ Balgowan Adam Robinson 033 2344484

0726146081

adamjnr@mweb.co.za
Byrne Valley Malcolm Anderson 033 2122744

082 5723455

mmanderson@mweb.co.za
Boston Barbara & Glyn Bullock 033 997 1783
Bulwer Russell Hill 039 8320053 carolhill@futurenet.co.za
Creighton/Donnybrook Malcolm Gemmell 039 8331029

082 7895000

buttonbirding@futurenet.co.za
Weza/ Glengarry Bongani Dzidla

Colleen Downs

039 5530411

0720394679

Mpur/Glengarry Louis Marx

Christie Potgeiter

Stuart Charlton

Dan Dekker

039 6821468

039 553 0401 083 662 1423

039 7479050

jeanmarx@cybertrade.co.za

christiep@hansmerensky.co.za

stuartc@hansmerensky.co.za

dekkerd@xsinet.co.za

Kokstad Pat Lowry 039 7273844 lowry@kznwildlife.com
Mthatha

Langeni / Matiwane

Ngcobo

Gary Harvey 0834520883, 0436422791h, 0406350283w indwesec@mweb.co.za
Hogsback Ingrid Luyt 045-962-1259 ingi@iafrica.com
Stutterheim Neill Harvey 043-6832384 alliedin@eci.co.za
Wild Coast (Port St Johns) Kathryn Costello 047 5641240 outspan@wildcoast.co.za
Mbotyi John Duff 039 253 8822 foodtour@iafrica.com
KWT/Alice Gertie Griffith

Peter Mather-Pike

043 7352195

043 7403566

0829248514

gerken@intekom.com

petcher@freemail.absa.co.za

Northern Province David Letsoala

Cathy Dzerefos

Kobus Pienaar

Coenraad van Zyl

083 568 4678

015 2762704

083 7462239

015 2765003

082 809 8875

082 801 0014 / 015 733 0444

info@krm.co.za

cathy@dzerefos.com

pienaarAJ@ledet.gov.za

Coenraadvz@TelkomSA.net

Report on the 2006 Cape Parrot Big Birding Day

21 July, 2006 (13:45) | Uncategorized | By: Craig (Thor's Dad)

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