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Drones Help Track Endangered Swift Parrots in Australia


Drones Help Track Endangered Swift Parrots in Australia


The swift parrot, which is one of the most critically endangered species in Australia, has been tracked by drones in the NSW Riverina – all in order to protect the remaining parrots left and ensure the survival of the species.

Nowadays, there are less than 1,000 breeding pairs of this parrot. On top of this, it is important to note that the parrot migrates to the Australian south-east region between March and October, which is why tracking is more than needed.

Wildlife Drones successfully track Swift Parrot flocks

Wildlife Drones successfully track Swift Parrot flocks

Wildlife Drones’ Debbie Saunders as the Chief of the Operation

The entire tracking process is carried out by the organization named Wildlife Drones. In a recent interview with ABC Australia, one of the chief researchers from the organization named Debbie Saunders is confident that this is a great way to prevent extinction of another important type of species.

“The swift parrot is in dire straits with numbers having declined below a thousand pairs. In order for us to have any chance of reversing that decline, we need more information on their movements, so we can better protect them,” Dr. Saunders said.

She also pointed to the fact that future prospects for the species were grim. However, the good thing right now is that drones are able to radio-track multiple birds at the same time and carry out the results live on a base station.

As a researcher at the Australian National University on the recovery team for the critically endangered swift parrot, Saunders said that the reason the drone was developed was to track the parrot species.

“Over the past month a large flock of about 60 swift parrots have been gorging on the nectar of winter flowering white box and mugga ironbark forests (Eucalyptus sideroxylon) in the Tarcutta area and we’ve been keeping track of their movements for Riverina Local Land Services,” she said.

Drone Technology Plays a Vital Role in Saving Threatened Species Globally

When asked about the actual and beneficial use of drones, Saunders said that they are being used because the birds are renowned for their fast flight and ability to move across different landscapes. This is why traditional handheld antennas fail in their tracking – and why drones are the perfect technology for this purpose.

Dr. Saunders confirmed this and said that drone technology was a huge help in the efforts to save any type of endangered species globally.

According to her:

“Until now the tracking of wildlife has relied on researchers walking for hours on end with their arm in the air searching for the signal of one animal at a time before moving onto the next animal tag. Wherever you can launch a drone, you can create a high point and maximise the chances of picking up that signal and search big areas very quickly.”

Meanwhile, the swift parrots flew from Tasmania, where they breed, into Victoria, the NSW Riverina and as far as the NSW Central Coast to feed – and then on the coast where they relied on trees in the suburbs to survive.

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Cite this article as: Stefan Tasevski, "Drones Help Track Endangered Swift Parrots in Australia," in, September 14, 2018,

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