Jonathan Jones: The Land of Parrots

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Australia is often referred to as the land of parrots. We have more than 56 species of parrots, from the smallest, the double-eyed fig parrot (Cyclopsitta diophthalma), to the largest, the palm cockatoo (Probosciger aterrimus).

Parrots have adapted to almost every environment in Australia. The palm cockatoo of Cape York uniquely uses sticks to drum against trees in a territorial display, making it one of the few animals to use tools.

Unfortunately, many parrot species are critically endangered, including the orange-bellied parrot (Neophema chrysogaster), which is one of only three species of parrot to migrate and is down to a wild population of only 14 birds. The orange-bellied parrot breeds in Tasmania and winters on southern mainland Australia, and is in need of urgent attention.

Other parrot species have been able to adapt to urban environments. In Sydney, sulphur-crested cockatoos (Cacatua galerita), rainbow lorikeets (Trichoglossus moluccanus) and little corellas (Cacatua sanguinea) are just some of the birds that make our neighbourhoods special.


Each week Jonathan Jones shares stories of native Australian birds, touching on their importance, the issues they face and what we can learn from them. Jones' upcoming artwork for the 9th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art requires thousands of native Australian bird feathers, which he needs your help to find.

Image 1: Double-eyed fig parrot, photo by Mark Christiansen via National Geographic

Image 2: Palm cockatoos, photo by Martin Willis and Christina Zdenek via Sciencewise Magazine
Image 3: Orange-bellied parrot, photo supplied by Dejan Stojanovic via ABC News