Swift Parrot



The swift parrot (Lathamus discolor) is a small (60-80g) fast-flying, migratory parrot that occurs in eucalypt forests in south-eastern Australia. 

​The swift parrot is bright green in colour, with patches of red on the throat, chin, face and forehead which are bordered by yellow. It also has red on the shoulder and under the wings and blue on the crown, cheeks and wings. Streamlined for fast flight, the swift parrot has angular pointed wings and a long-pointed purple-red tail. 


The swift parrot is one of only two true migratory parrots in the world, and like the orange-bellied parrot, the species breeds in Tasmania in the summer months and then migrates north to overwinter on mainland Australia. 

The swift parrot is known to breed mostly in the east and the south-east of Tasmania, but some breeding has been recorded on the northwest and west coast of Tasmania, and on Flinders Island.

Swift parrots require tree hollows in live or dead eucalypt trees for nesting that are in close proximity to foraging resources such as blue gum (E. globulus) and/or black gum (E. ovata). Swift parrots reuse nesting sites and individual nest hollows but not necessarily in successive years, with the distribution and intensity of blue gum (E. globulus) and/or black gum (E. ovata) flowering dictating whether an area is used for breeding on a year- to- year basis. The flowering patterns of other eucalypt species, including Brooker’s gum (E. brookeriana), could also be important determinants of swift parrot breeding distribution. Where good quality nesting and foraging habitat is found to be available, it is not unusual to find more than one pair nesting close to each other.

Birds return to Tasmania from mainland Australia in early August, with the breeding season occurring from September to January. Swift parrots lay up to six eggs (average three) and produce on average three fledglings. Reproductive success is linked to the quality and quantity of the nectar produced by the blue and/or black gum flowering, and the absence of sugar gliders.

​Non-breeding habitat occurs throughout Tasmania, including forests in the north and north-west, where birds have been observed feeding on the nectar of a range of flowering eucalypt species, fruiting trees and on insect lerps (crystallised honeydew produced by insect larvae).

After the breeding season, in February and March, the entire population flies north, dispersing throughout Victoria, NSW, ACT and at times as far as southern Queensland and South Australia. On the mainland the birds are semi-nomadic, often flying around in flocks.​


The swift parrot is listed as endangered under Tasmania’s Threatened Species Protection Act 1995 (TSP Act) and Critically Endangered under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).  The swift parrot now has the highest threatened species status provided for in both Tasmanian and Commonwealth legislation.

​Swift parrots are very difficult to monitor due to their migratory nature and varied habitat use from year to year. However, the current consensus among experts is that there may be as few as 750 (within a plausible range of 300 to 1 000) mature individuals, with a declining population trend.

Why is the swift parrot threatened?

There are a number of historic and ongoing threats to swift parrots. Since European settlement, conversion of breeding and foraging habitat for agriculture, urban development, timber harvesting, plantations, as well as illegal firewood collection, tree clearing and wildfire have resulted in habitat loss and degradation across the species’ Tasmanian and mainland range. 

Other threats to the swift parrot include: nest competition and/or predation by the sugar glider (Petaurus breviceps, more recently described as Krefft’s glider P. notatus); competition for nest and foraging resources from European honeybees (Apis mellifera) as well as native and non-native birds; climate change effects including variable rainfall patterns that impact on nest success and variability of flowering, and increased frequency and intensity of wildfires. Importantly, these threats may interact with one another, and the repeated and/or cumulative impact of these threats is likely to be greater than the effect of any one threat. in isolation.

The many threats facing swift parrots throughout their distribution requires coordinated action across jurisdictions, landscapes and stakeholders.

What is being done to help the swift parrot?

The Tasmanian Government recognises that the swift parrot faces a range of threats throughout its migratory range and is committed to continuing to work collaboratively to protect this critically endangered species using a coordinated and adaptive approach. 

A range of swift parrot conservation actions are ongoing within NRE Tas.  

These include:

  • finalisation of a Listing Statement to support detailed conservation planning and management;
  • active participation and leadership on the National Swift Parrot Recovery Team, including supporting the development, endorsement and implementation of the revised Recovery Plan;
  • provision of consistent advice and (where applicable) regulatory assessments for activities that affect swift parrots and their habitat, including forestry management, developments, planned burns and illegal harvesting of firewood.

Two new swift parrot conservation management projects have been initiated by NRE Tas in 2022.
The first of these is the four-year NRE Tas Swift Parrot Recovery Project. This project is the result of a $1 million Tasmanian Government funding commitment and is implementing a range of swift parrot conservation management activities in addition to the actions listed above. 

The following activities are a focus for this project over the next few years:

  • Coordination of conservation effort between key stakeholders to ensure management responses are timely and relevant to the swift parrot’s needs.
  • Coordination of priority research to identify and fill critical knowledge gaps in Tasmania to inform our understanding of and confidence in population size, rate of decline, relative contribution of threats, and the urgency and priority of individual recovery measures.
  • Development of tailored monitoring programs to gauge progress of medium and long-term goals, and to support cross-agency management of the species, including increased understanding of sugar glider ecology to inform more effective control measures.
  • The collection, collation and analysis of spatial information to characterise the species’ habitat requirements, and document how their use of habitat changes from year to year to inform habitat retention and restoration measures in Tasmania.
  • The active protection and management of priority swift parrot breeding and foraging habitat under private ownership, through voluntary conservation covenants, and restoration of sub-optimal land in partnership with land management organisations, as a way of balancing other land use.
  • Leading an audit of the genetic diversity, health and disease status of swift parrots held in captivity facilities to inform the establishment of a captive insurance population to assist in preventing extinction in the wild and/or support wild recovery interventions.

The second new project is the NRE Tas Swift Parrot Forestry Management Project. This project is reviewing the effectiveness of the current swift parrot habitat management approach within wood production areas to identify if, and how, the current approach can be improved. 

​The project includes:

  • A review of swift parrot habitat requirements and an evaluation of the effectiveness and performance (environmental, social and economic) of the current management approach under the forest practices system
  • The development of new potential options for swift parrot habitat management in wood production areas, and an evaluation of the effectiveness and performance (environmental, social and economic) of these options

The independent regulator, the Forest Practices Authority, is a key stakeholder in this project. The development of any new management prescriptions for the swift parrot between NRE Tas and the FPA, as an outcome of the project, will be through the processes outlined in the Procedures for the management of threatened species under the Forest Practices System, 2014 (Final signed Procedures for the management of threatened species.pdf (nre.tas.gov.au) Section 3.3)

​Recommended Further Reading


Threatened Species Section - Enquiries

GPO Box 44,
HOBART, TAS, 7001.