Swift Parrot (Lathamus discolor)

Swift Parrot

[order] PSITTACIFORMES | [family] Psittacidae | [latin] Lathamus discolor | [authority] White, 1790 | [UK] Swift Parrot | [FR] Perruche de Latham | [DE] Schwalbensittich | [ES] Periquito Migrador | [NL] Zwaluwpapegaai | [copyright picture] Birdlife


Monotypic species


The genus Lathamus is monotypic and belongs to the subfamily Platycercinae, the broadtailed
parrots which includes the genera Platycercus, Barnadius, Purpreicephalus, Northiella, Psephotus and Neophema. Although the swift parrot superficially resembles lorikeets in habit and form (nectar feeder with brush tongue), it is generally accepted that the similarities between the swift parrot and the lorikeets have arisen through convergence. The swift parrot Lathamus discolor (White) is a small fast-flying, nectarivorous parrot which occurs in eucalypt forests in south eastern Australia.

Physical charateristics

During the winter the birds are semi-nomadic and visit a network of traditional sites in reaction to flowering events and lerp availability. The Swift Parrot is about 25 cm (10 in) long and has long pointed wings and long tapering tail feathers. It is mainly green with bluish crown and red on the face above and below the beak. The adult female is slightly duller, and the juvenile has a dark brown iris and a pale orange bill

Listen to the sound of Swift Parrot

[audio:http://www.planetofbirds.com/MASTER/PSITTACIFORMES/Psittacidae/sounds/Swift Parrot.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 0 cm wingspan max.: 0 cm
size min.: 25 cm size max.: 26 cm
incubation min.: 20 days incubation max.: 22 days
fledging min.: 65 days fledging max.: 75 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 3  
      eggs max.: 5  


Australasia : Southeast Australia. Lathamus discolor breeds during the austral summer in Tasmania, Australia, mostly along the south-eastern coast from St Helen’s to Southport with a small breeding population in the north near Deloraine.


In Tasmania, it is almost always associated with blue gum Eucalyptus globulus or swamp gum E. ovata when breeding. Flowering may be sufficient to support breeding in only three years out of every 10. Most breeding birds are found in remnant forest patches of less than 0.01 km2. They nest in hollows of both live and dead eucalypt trees. The most common tree species they use for nesting are stringybark Eucalyptus obliqua, white peppermint Eucalyptus pulchella and Tasmanian blue gum Eucalyptus globulus, white gum Eucalyptus viminalis, gum-topped stringybark Eucalyptus delegatensis and dead stags. On the mainland, it lives in eucalypt forest and woodlands, mainly box-ironbark habitats on the inland slopes of the Great Dividing Range.


Nests in a hole up a tree, 7-20 meter up. Semi-colonial and sometimes mixed with other species. Clutch size is 3-5 eggs incubated for about three weeks; young flsdge after another 10 weeks.

Feeding habits

Critical food resources are nectar from prolific flowering species such as red ironbark E. tricarpa, grey box E. microcarpa, yellow gum E. leucoxylon and mugga ironbark E. sideroxylon, and lerp (sugary secretions from sap sucking insects on leaves)

Video Swift Parrot


copyright: Geoffrey Dabb


This species is listed as Endangered because the breeding population is very small and declining, as it continues to face a multitude of threats in both its breeding and wintering ranges.
In Tasmania, breeding habitat is significantly reduced and fragmented through clearance of E. globulus for agriculture, residential development, plantation timber, sawlog production and clear-felling for woodchips. Over 50% of the original grassy E. globulus forest in Tasmania has been cleared. Selective logging has resulted in the removal of larger trees from the remaining forest patches. Such patches are typically unfenced and exhibit poor regeneration. Competition for remaining nest-sites with Common Starlings Sturnus vulgaris could be a problem along forest edges. Even with protection of remaining habitat (80% private land), maintenance and recovery may be limited by the dependence of breeding on an irregular nectar supply. It also suffers high mortality through collision with windows, vehicles and fences. On the mainland, clearance and degradation of habitat for agriculture, forestry and residential and commercial development has had the biggest impact5. Much of the preferred lowland habitat on the most fertile and productive sites has been cleared or substantially modified.
Swift Parrot status Endangered


The Swift Parrot migrates across the Bass Strait between Tasmania and the mainland of Australia. They arrive in Tasmania during September and return to south-eastern Australia during March and April. They can be found as far north as south-eastern Queensland and as far west as Adelaide although recent sightings have been restricted to the Eastern part of the state.

Distribution map

Swift Parrot distribution range map

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