Tasmania's Brilliantly-Colored Swift Parrot May Face Extinction in Just 16 Years

First Posted: Mar 27, 2015 08:47 AM EDT

The brilliantly-colored and iconic Tasmanian swift parrot may be on the verge of extinction. Scientists have found the parrot is facing population collapse and could entirely disappear within just 16 years if conditions continue.

"Swift parrots are in far worse trouble than anybody previously thought," said Robert Heinsohn, one of the researchers, in a news release. "Everyone, including foresters, environmentalists and members of the public would be severely affected if they go extinct."

Swift parrots are actually major pollinators of blue and black gum trees. Without these parrots, these trees would also decline. These gum trees are crucial to the forestry industry in the area; however, this same industry continues to log swift parrot habitat and cause the bird population numbers to decline.

In order to better assess the population of swift parrots and their population health, the scientists conducted a five-year study. During that time, they found that swift parrots move between different areas of Tasmania each year to breed, depending on where food is available.

Unfortunately, swift parrots are preyed on heavily by sugar gliders, especially in deforested areas. This means that as logging continues, these birds are put at significant risk.

So how long until this parrot goes extinct without help? The new study predicted that the population of birds will halve every four years and that there could be a possible decline of 94.7 percent over 16 years.

"Current approaches to swift parrot management look rather inadequate," said Dejan Stojanovic, another one of the researchers. "Our models are a wake-up call. Actions to preserve their forest habitat cannot wait."

The findings reveal that there should be a moratorium on logging in swift parrot habitat until population numbers rebound and new plans for their protection can be created.

The findings are published in the journal Biological Conservation.

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