Spring marks the official beginning of Superb Parrot Polytelis swainsonii breeding season in Boorowa. This internationally renowned parrot has been the pride and joy of the region for many years. Its bright green plumage, mysterious migratory behaviour and threatened species status makes it one of Australias most recognised and loved parrot breeds.
Clearing of pastoral lands for cropping and grazing, habitat fragmentation and bird strike by vehicles threaten the existence of the Superb Parrot. However a new danger threatens to put even more pressure on the survival of this most sensitive of birds.
A proposal to build 50 wind turbines by the Indian wind developers Suzlon/REPOwer between Rugby and Boorowa has raised concerns with local residents and bird lovers as to the impact the industrial wind turbine power station will have on the species. The project has also come to the attention of the Commonwealth Minister for the Environment, Tony Burke, who has declared that the Rugby Wind Farm is likely to significantly impact threatened species, ecological communities and migratory species, under the EPBC Act. One of those threatened species is the Superb Parrot and it utilizes all three threatened ecological communities declared by Minister Burke.
However the problem does not stop there. Two other wind turbine projects are proposed for areas to the South East of Boorowa. Between the three proposed wind farms, involving approximately 300 wind turbines, hundreds of thousands of hectares of Superb Parrot habitat will be under threat from potential fragmentation and destruction. Given that the science underpinning current habitat protection strategies needed to ensure its survival require landscape scale conservation and management, landscape scale industrial wind turbine power stations built in these fragile areas pose the biggest threat to this already dwindling species.
Local residents and council have embraced this species and worked tirelessly to ensure its survival. Hundreds of thousands of trees have been planted, areas of remnant vegetation fenced off, nesting boxes distributed throughout the region and millions of dollars of government funds have been allocated to ensure the protection of the Superb Parrot and its habitat.
The Superb Parrot appears on a number of international and national threatened species lists including;
COMMONWEALTH: Vulnerable (Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999) AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY: Vulnerable (Nature Conservation Act 1980)
NEW SOUTH WALES: Vulnerable (Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995)
VICTORIA: Threatened (and listed under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988)
INTERNATIONAL: World Wildlife Foundations Red List as a vulnerable species whose population trend is decreasing.
Further, this Superb Parrot habitat falls within an area identified as of international importance for bird conservation- an Important Bird Area (IBA). Independent environmental consultants have identified major flaws in the assessment techniques and findings of consultants employed by Suzlon/REPOwer, noting their inaccurate and misleading Superb Parrot vegetation usage conclusions, critical in identifying potential impacts on this threatened species.
Pat Thompson, local Superb Parrot breeder with 40 years of field experience is concerned for its future. No one is entirely sure why the Superb Parrot has chosen Boorowa to breed and rear its young. What we are sure of is that if there is disturbance of this scale to the fine balance and combination of factors that attract them to the area, we can expect disastrous results.
The construction of the Rugby Wind Farm if built will take two years to construct, involve carving 6m wide roads in its foraging habitat; removal of some timbered areas and the destruction of the rare hollow logs the parrots uses during breeding season. During operation, blade strike, widespread avoidance of turbine areas and possible low frequency noise disturbance could upset the fragile relationship the parrots have with the Boorowa environment.
We cant afford to run the risk of driving this special bird into extinction. Pat highlighted.
Aerial bushfire control near wind turbines is compromised due to aviation safety risks for support aircraft, effectively creating no fly zones around wind turbine clusters. With Boorowa in one of the most bushfire prone areas in Australia, complete habitat wipeout is a very real risk during this period.
The Superb Parrots main breeding ground is the Boorowa district. It arrives in September, breeds and nests in hollow standing dead timber, brings up its fledglings as the warmer months of November and December arrive then being ready to take to the wing again in early January to continue foraging in areas in the North of NSW.
Whilst the ecology of the Boorowa has changed significantly over the last 150 years, and its numbers have dwindled into the mere thousands, it has managed to survive by using all of the available habitat around Boorowa. To disrupt the habitat in which they breed and forage in such a way could spell disaster for this treasured vulnerable species.
Charlie Arnott-0412623422, Mike Inkster-0438269671, Sam McGuiness-0263855241
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