5 min read

People Make 'Security Systems' For Special Wild Parrots To Keep Them Safe

You'll never guess who they're hiding from 🙊

Swift parrots may be small, but the risks they’re facing in the wild right now are anything but.

Native to southeastern Australia, these tiny, endangered birds migrate to Tasmania each year to breed and settle into nests with their babies. But this year, they’ve moved to a different side of the island that is packed with sugar gliders — who love to break into nests for a quick snack.

swift parrot endangered
Dejan Stojanovic

“On average, about half of the adult female parrots that nest in Tasmania are killed by sugar gliders each year,” Dr. Dejan Stojanovic, a conservation scientist from Australian National University, told The Dodo. “This threat is the reason the parrots were listed as critically endangered [two years ago].”

sugar glider swift parrot nest
Sugar gliders might look cute, but they're decimating the swift parrot population. | Shutterstock

In addition to being at risk from sugar gliders during their breeding season, swift parrots have also faced habitat loss in recent years due to the logging industry. Only an estimated 2,000 remain in the wild.

Luckily, some humans are on their side — and have raised over $87,000 to save them.

swift parrot endangered
Dr. Stojanovic with a swift parrot | Dejan Stojanovic

The money, collected through a crowdsourcing campaign that started in October, is being used to build specially-designed, predator-proof nesting boxes for the birds.

By covering the small entry hole in nesting boxes with a solar-powered door, the birds inside are protected once the door shuts at nightfall (when sugar gliders are out prowling for food). With the light of the morning sun, the tiny door automatically opens again and the birds can carry on with their day.

sugar glider swift parrot nest
A sugar glider lingers near the closed door of one of the nest boxes. | Dejan Stojanovic

Because the birds begin laying eggs soon after arriving to their breeding grounds, the efforts to fund the new technology last month were urgent — but over 1,200 donors stepped in to help the scientists reach their goal in just one day.

Between the supplies needed to equip the boxes with the solar-powered doors and the physical work required to install, each box costs around $400.

swift parrot endangered
Dr. Stojanovic checking on a nesting box | Dejan Stojanovic

Stojanovic aims to have 100 of the nest boxes in trees on the Tasmanian mainland where the sugar gliders are most prevalent. Since he and other scientists are constantly tracking the birds, they can adjust the locations of the boxes if needed. Once the parrots are done raising their young, they’ll migrate into the Australian mainland to forage for flowering eucalyptus, one of their favorite nectar-filled foods.

“Swift parrots breed in a new location each year, so we’re aiming to move the boxes around to wherever the birds settle each year,” Stojanovic said.

swift parrot nesting box
Supplies to build the new nesting boxes | Dejan Stojanovic

Any funds collected outside the costs of the boxes will support future conservation projects for the tiny swift parrots — who, without even knowing it, have gathered thousands of fans from across the globe.

“Thanks to the amazing generosity of our supporters, we hit our target in one day,” the scientists wrote in an update on the crowdsourcing campaign. “I don't know if that's some kind of record, but it sure feels like one!”

Which means, with any luck, there should soon be more of these little guys flying around:

To help protect swift parrots in the wild, you can make a donation to Difficult Bird Research Group.