Only about 4.5% of Sydney’s once-extensive Blue Gum High Forest still remains – some estimates say that’s only about 200 hectares. Of the scattered remnants (the largest is only about 20 hectares), our local patch at Darvall Park, Denistone is a vital environment for birdlife: in particular, King Parrots (Alisterus scapularis).
Part of Darvall’s attraction For the King Parrots is the variety and density of fruiting plants. Native quince, blueberry ash, lilly pilly and cheese tree all grow here, giving the Kings fruit all year round.
More importantly though, it’s the average age and height of the trees that appeals to the Kings. A characteristic of Blue Gum High Forest is the tallness of the trees (the Bush Walk through Darvall is called the “Tall Timbers Walk”). The bluegum, white mahogany, turpentine, rough-barked apple, grey ironbark and blackbutt that form the canopies of the pockets of High Forest can all reach towering heights.
Like a lot of parrots, Kings nest in hollows. They are a relatively large parrot to begin with (approximately 35 – 40cm in length). Add to that fact that they prefer a deep hollow, and trees old enough and tall enough to develop suitable hollows are becoming very rare.
(We have read in various sources that King Parrots like a entrance as high as 10 metres while the eggs may be laid as little as a metre off the ground – 9 metre deep hollows in trees cannot be that common!)
On a recent visit, this male watched on as the female inspected a potential nesting hollow:
She seemed initially happy with it:
Then the male had a look:
They both flew off, but a little while later were back. We took this to mean they were intending to move in and settle down!
There is a healthy population of Kings in Darvall Park. A little further along we spotted this male. We could not see whether he was defending a hollow in the crook of this tall gum, or whether perhaps water had pooled there and he was drinking. But Kings are relatively un-spookable, so he was happy enough for us to approach and let us get some nice close-ups.
The Ryde Bushcare group are doing a truly fabulous job in this small but ecologically important pocket of land – fighting, and making significant headway towards clearing it of lantana and privet, to the very real benefit of local birds, and especially the Kings.
Of course, there are many more bird species that utilize this enclave as well: Laughing Kookaburras, Corellas, Sulphur-crested Cockatoos, Ravens, Magpies, Currawongs, Rainbow Lorikeets, and even Satin Bowerbirds and Eastern Whipbirds. Thanks to the efforts of the Bushcare volunteers, it’s a bit of a birding hotspot.