On my first bird-walk after coming back from Noosa, I spotted a pair of eyes looking down at me from the roof of the Cammeraygal school in North Sydney. The eyes belonged to an Australian King Parrot (Alisterus scapularis).
I had previously photographed a small group of King Parrots near the school, and perhaps this one recognised me from an earlier occasion. At any rate, it relaxed and flew down to join this female in a nearby tree.
Soon, a second male showed up. He was a handsome bird with deep blue patches on his back and lower neck, and unusually long pale green stripes on his upper wing/shoulders.
There was clearly some tension between the two males, but unlike the honeyeater clash in last week’s post, it didn’t go beyond some gentlemanly chasing. A few minutes later, the group flew off, and I went home to see what other King Parrot photos I had—quite a few, as it turned out.
This is one I took at the same location last year, also of an adult male, and probably one from the same group.
In contrast, this one at Wombeyan was a juvenile, based on its olive-green colouring, part-orange beak and brown irises.
This adult female was similar to the juvenile, but she has distinct red tinging in her green chest feathers, as well as the dark grey beak and yellow iris of a mature bird.
Different again is this piebald young male. His plumage is in the midst of its transition from green-headed juvenile to full adult red, and he already has an adult’s black-tipped orange beak and yellow iris.
The gentle and inoffensive nature I associate with king parrots can be discerned in some of these photos. What they don’t show is that these parrots also like their tucker. In fact the young male in the previous photo spent most of the time I was watching him breakfasting on green berries, like this:
And this one was keen on grevilleas:
The one above was photographed at Pearl Beach. As a minor curiosity, it was at Pearl Beach some years ago that Vincent Serventy noted seeing a King Parrot that had yellow rather than red colouring. Apparently this is a rare variant that lacks melanin.
Australian king parrots are one of a group of three related species – the others are the Papuan and Moluccan king parrots. They are reasonably common in Eastern Australia, but their range doesn’t extend much west of the Divide. They are usually found in forested areas rather than grasslands, and sometimes in city gardens, where they can be encouraged to become quite tame. They mostly eat seeds and fruit, but insects and blossoms also form part of their diet. Like many parrots, they nest in holes in tree-trunks.