Searches for Regent Parrot nesting sites in SA were commenced in 1985. After a number of years conducting selected breeding colony surveys it was decided to concentrate efforts into River Reach surveys in 2014 and 2015. Two sections of river were selected, each covering 30-35 km of river corridor. During the 2014 breeding season the river corridor stretching from Lock 2 downstream to Cadell was surveyed while in 2015, the survey was conducted from Custom's House at Murtho downstream to Heading's Cliff. In 2017, a survey was conducted of the river reach from Lock 2 downstream to Cadell., while other sections surveyed in 2017 included Lock 4 downstream to Loxton, a small section of the Katarapko Creek, and from the Chowilla Homestead downstream to Dix Cutting.
Some interesting observations from these surveys have indicated that the idea that Regent Parrots return to the exact location year after year to breed is actually a myth. The Regent's upstream of Renmark have moved away from nesting in the drowned red gums where they were found in 2003 and established themselves in live trees that previously had no nests in them. Similarly, downstream of Lock 2 almost all of the nests were also recorded in live red gum trees. The Regents appear to choose where they will nest each season depending on the health of the trees and the surrounding floodplain vegetation.
A sharp decline in numbers was confirmed by the 2017 surveys. Four sites known to previously contain nesting colonies were surveyed in the area from Lock 2 to Cadell. Other sections of the river adjacent to these colonies were also searched to determine if the colonies had moved from their previously known locations. All but one of the known nest sites between Lock 2 and Hogwash Bend Conservation Park were surveyed. Time constraints and weather conditions prevented the Southcorp site from being surveyed.
The section of river from Lock 4 to Loxton was thoroughly surveyed resulting in six nests being located in this area.
Despite Regent Parrots being observed often and seen feeding in the area between Dix Cutting and Chowilla Homestead, no nests were located. Regent Parrots were observed flying through the area, but it appears they were on their way to nesting sites further upstream.
A section of River Red Gum woodland adjacent to Katarapko Creek had a number of Regent Parrots lingering in the area, but due to time constraints only two nests were recorded. This is an area warranting close attention in the future as the number of birds present would indicate the presence of a breeding colony.
The objective of this project was to explore the movements of both adult birds and creche flocks at a variety of spatial scales in order to identify key habitats and resources. Initial investigations suggests that movements of Regent Parrots are different to previously thought in that several new colonies of Regent's have been sighted in locations that previously showed little activity. This project involved trapping birds using mist nets and then satellite transmitters were fitted using the attachment method designed by the Regent Parrot Recovery Team which resembles a backpack design. The position of each bird was collected and calculated via the ARGOS satellite and to date, 3 trackers have been deployed. One tracker stayed attached for 460 days and this provided the Team with a good indication of the area traveled over a nine month period.
The Regent Parrot Recovery Team will continue to investigate the movement of Regent's through the landscape using new technologies as they become available and this project will remain a high priority for research.
3. Nest site fidelity and Banding project
This project was a part of the larger disease and tracking project and during the course of trapping Regent Parrots, 91 birds were banded at 11 sites throughout the Riverland. The project aims to address the assumption that Regent Parrots have a high breeding site fidelity (Burbidge, A 1985), however over the 6 year period where whole of river surveys were conducted, it seems there have been dramatic declines in some colonies while others have increased in size and even new colonies have been established where no breeding birds were previously recorded. This has proven to the Team that we simply don't know enough about the Regent Parrots outside of the breeding season where efforts have been focused on determining the number of nests along the river corridor. It is important to understand nest site fidelity to ensure the Regent Parrot monitoring program can adequately detect population changes moving forward and to determine if juvenile birds return to to the same colonies to breed in subsequent years.