The last wild population of an Australian parrot on the brink of extinction has been hit with a potentially deadly disease, leading to a disastrous breeding season and fears the orange-bellied parrots’ annual migration from Tasmania to Victoria and South Australia this winter could be its last.
While the human population grapples with ways to counter the effects of climate change, Deakin University research has discovered that birds might have been working on their own solution for the past 145 years – grow bigger beaks.
The scientists, led by Dr Matthew Symonds, have discovered a pattern between increased climatic temperatures and an increase in the size of the beaks of parrot species in southern and eastern Australia.
"Birds use their beaks to keep themselves cool. Just as an elephant's ears help to act as a fan to keep the animal cooler, birds can pump blood to their highly vascularized bills, enabling them to lose excess heat when they get hot," Dr Symonds said.
Amorentia Estate has been testing different kinds of artificial parrot breeding boxes for the last few years to see if they can get the highly endangered Cape Parrot to breed in the Politsi Valley near Tzaneen in Limpopo.