Coxen's Fig-Parrot Cyclopsitta diophthalma coxeni - critically endangered species listing

NSW Scientific Committee - final determination

The Scientific Committee, established by the Threatened Species Conservation Act, has made a Final Determination to list Coxen’s Fig-Parrot Cyclopsitta diophthalma coxeni Gould, 1867 as a CRITICALLY ENDANGERED SPECIES in Part 1 of Schedule 1A of the Act, and as a consequence, to omit reference to Double-eyed Fig-Parrot Cyclopsitta diophthalma coxeni Gould, 1867 from Part 1 of Schedule 1 (Endangered species) of the Act. Listing of Critically Endangered species is provided for by Part 2 of the Act.

 

The Scientific Committee has found that:

 

1. Coxen’s Fig-Parrot Cyclopsitta diophthalma coxeni Gould, 1867 is a small (16 cm), short-tailed, dumpy green parrot with a blue and red face pattern, blue outerwings and a red spot on each upperwing where it joins the lower back. In flight a pale stripe is visible on the underwings. It is similar to the small green lorikeets (Musk and Little Lorikeets), but is distinguished by its face pattern (distribution of red and blue), shorter tail, underwing stripe, red dorsal spots, blue (rather than green) outerwings, and calls which are more disyllabic than those of the Little Lorikeet.

 

2. The Double-eyed Fig-Parrot Cyclopsitta diophthalma (Hombron & Jacquinot 1841) is distributed as three isolated subspecies in north-eastern Australia, with other subspecies in New Guinea (Higgins 1999). The southernmost subspecies, Coxen’s Fig-Parrot C. d. coxeni, is restricted to fig-rich rainforests in coastal south-east Queensland (north to Bundaberg), and the Border Ranges and Big Scrub areas of extreme north-east NSW. Recent claims of records further south, to the Hastings River catchment, are considered erroneous (Schodde 2007). There are believed to be four subpopulations, of which two are in NSW (Garnett & Crowley 2000). These NSW populations are in the Levers Plateau/Koreelah Range/Richmond Range/western Border Ranges area, and in the Mt Warning/Nightcap Range/Big Scrub (Alstonville Plateau) areas, respectively (NSW NPWS 2002). Very few observations have been made in NSW since 1990: two birds at Brunswick Heads in July 1991; two at Huonbrook in April 1992; two at Beaury State Forest, Urbenville in May 1992; one or two at Big Scrub Flora Reserve, Dunoon in September 1993; two at Cambridge Plateau in January 1994; and two at Clunes in April 1995 (NSW Field Ornithologists Club 1990-2007; NSW NPWS 2002). There have been no subsequent sightings in NSW. However, Coxen’s Fig-Parrot is cryptic and likely to be under-recorded (Charley 2000), and so may be still extant in NSW despite the lack of recent records.

 

3. The global population of Coxen’s Fig-Parrot is very low, estimated at about 100 mature individuals, of which a large majority are in Queensland. No known subpopulation exceeds 50 individuals. Although these estimates were assigned a low level of confidence by Garnett and Crowley (2000) due to the species’ cryptic nature, the population in NSW is extremely low.

 

4. Historically, the main threat to the Coxen’s Fig-Parrot has been clearing of subtropical rainforest for agriculture, particularly the parrots’ winter foraging habitat in the coastal lowlands, and degradation of rainforests by logging. Other threats include the decrease in connectivity between populations, with the species’ population and its habitat considered severely fragmented (Garnett & Crowley 2000). Many weed species are invading rainforest remnants, especially in the lowlands, which degrades the parrots’ habitat by suppressing its food trees and hindering access to food (e.g. aggressive vines; NSW NPWS 2002). The Coxen’s Fig-Parrot is likely to be highly sought by egg collectors and aviculturists (NSW NPWS 2002), but there is no documented evidence of attempted poaching. Psittacine Circoviral Disease is also a potential threat. ‘Clearing of native vegetation’, ‘Invasion and establishment of exotic vines and scramblers’, and ‘Infection by Psittacine Circoviral (beak and feather) Disease affecting endangered psittacine species and populations’, are listed as Key Threatening Processes under the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995.

 

5. Coxen’s Fig-Parrot is listed as Endangered in Queensland, federally listed as Endangered (Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act), and is considered nationally Critically Endangered by Garnett and Crowley (2000).

 

6. Coxen’s Fig-Parrot Cyclopsitta diophthalma coxeni Gould, 1867 is eligible to be listed as a Critically Endangered species as, in the opinion of the Scientific Committee, it is facing an extremely high risk of extinction in New South Wales in the immediate future as determined in accordance with the following criteria as prescribed by the Threatened Species Conservation Regulation 2002:

Clause 16

The estimated total number of mature individuals of the species is:

(a) very low,

and

(d) a projected or continuing decline is observed, estimated or inferred in:

(i) an index of abundance appropriate to the taxon

(ii) geographic distribution, habitat quality or diversity, or genetic diversity

Clause 17

The total number of mature individuals of the species is observed, estimated or inferred to be:

(a) extremely low

 

Dr Richard Major

Chairperson

Scientific Committee

Proposed Gazettal date: 31/07/09

Exibition period: 31/07/09 - 25/09/09

 

References:

Charley D (2000) Predator avoidance behaviour in the Double-eyed Fig-Parrot. Australian Bird Watcher 18, 203.

 

Garnett S, Crowley G (Eds) (2000) ‘The action plan for Australian birds 2000.’ (Environment Australia: Canberra)

 

Higgins PJ (Ed.) (1999) ‘Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic birds (Vol. 4).’ (Oxford University Press: Melbourne)

 

NSW Field Ornithologists Club (1990-2007) NSW annual bird reports and rare bird reports, published annually in Australian Birds.

 

NSW NPWS (2002) ‘Approved recovery plan for the Coxen’s Fig-Parrot Cyclopsitta diophthalma coxeni (Gould).’ (NSW NPWS: Hurstville)

 

Schodde R (2007) Fig-Parrot facts—and fictions? Wingspan 17(2), 14-17.

Page last updated: 28 February 2011