Red Crowned, Cyanoramphus novaezelandai
Yellow Crowned, Cyanoramphus auriceps
Audio Clip is a group of parakeet “socialising
We have two species of parakeet on Stewart Island. Red Crowned and the slightly smaller Yellow Crowned. And in fact neither Iris nor I can ever remember seeing Yellow Crowned anywhere other than Ulva Island, where they are very much in the minority. I have no idea why this should be, Ulva Island is only from half to a mile or so from the main Island and additionally is within Paterson Inlet.
Parakeets have been one of many bird species to have enjoyed much enhanced breeding success since the rate eradication program on Ulva Island in the ’90s, and subsequently the Red Crowned are much more evident around the Village on mainland Stewart Island. A spill over from the Ulva success, but why this has not happened within the Yellow Crowned population is a mystery. The books tell me that Yellow Crowned favour mixed podocarp heavy forest …. which is exactly what Stewart & Ulva Islands are…. while the Red Crowned is more at home in lighter forest and scrub lands. As I said, a puzzle.
Both species are cavity nesters, and generally reasonably low to the ground. They appear to be quite omniverous, taking insects from tree trunks and the forest floor, tender shoots, fruit and I have seen Red Crowned grazing the Kamahi racimes much like lawn-mowers.
When I first started work on Ulva Island I never saw parakeet on the forest floor, now, with the removal of competing rats from Ulva many of our sightings are of birds busily scratching like domestic hens on the paths and amongst the forest litter.
Though generally seen as single birds or as pairs, we do occasionall find large noisy groups socialising and although predominantly Red Crowned, who are of course the more numerous, the groups will often have a lone Yellow Crowned as part of the mix. They will apparently cross mate, although what the progeny look like I have no idea.
As can be seen their beak is more budgie-like than parrot. But it is extremly strong and sharp. We had a PHD student living here working on Tui, catching them in a mist net. Her partner assisted her on Ulva, and a by-catch was several Parakeet. He didn’t have gloves… a serious oversight… and his fingers and hand literally had lumps out of them. As if he had been attacked by a maniacal ticket snapper.
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