Swift Parrot
PO  Box 126 Mitcham Vic 3132 ( Victoria, Australia )

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. swift parrot
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  • An Australian Parrot
  • Scientific Name:  Lathamus discolor.  Only member of the genus Lathamus.
  • Sub Species:  No
  • Origin / Distribution:  Migratory species that breeds in summer in Tasmania and some offshore islands and flies to mainland Australia for the winter.
  • Habitat In Wild:  Mostly forested areas and savannah woodlands.  Frequents urban parks and gardens.
  • Status In Wild:  Rare. Now on the endangered species list in Tasmania.  Probably declining due to loss of suitable habitat and suitable tree nest hollows.  Loss of suitable habitat is a problem in Tasmania and their winter homeland of Victoria and New South Wales.  There are more birds in European aviaries than Australia has in the wild and in captivity.
  • Status In (Australian) Captivity: Very rare.  Numbers appear to be on the increase.
  • Age To Sexual Maturity:  About 12 months.
  • Adult plumage:  attained at about 6 months of age.
  • Best breeding years (estimate):  2nd year onwards.
  • Lifespan (estimate):  approx. 15 years
  • Sexing:  Monomorphic / Dimorphic
  • Mutations:  None in Australia.  Colour mutations occur in overseas aviaries.
  • Availability:  Rare. Very few available. Specialist breeders.
  • Temperament:  Wild Swift Parrots are migratory capable of flying long distances e.g. Tasmania to New South Wales.  Generally not an aggressive bird.  As their name implies, Swift parrots are fast fliers.
  • Cost (Victoria) Per Pair: - Normal colour (Approx) $2000
  • Description Of Adults:  They resemble lorikeets and can feed on pollen and nectar.  Swift Parrots have a brush tipped tongue.
  1. Length: Approx. 250 mm (or approx. 10 inches)
  2. Colour ( "normal" colour ): Refer photo/s above if available.
  3. Weight: Approx. 50 - 75 gms (or approx. 2 ozs)
Aviary Notes:

Level Of Knowledge Required: Beginner / Intermediate / Advanced / Specialist Breeders Only.

Government Regulations & By-Laws: Refer to " Government Laws " web page.

Housing Requirements: Refer to " Housing Birds " web page for general details on the housing of Australian Parrots or read on for specific details for this parrot.

Best housed in a large aviary in cooler climates. Swift Parrots are very accomplished fliers and it is a good practise to have leafy branches, shade cloth, hessian or some other suitable material at the open end of the aviary to alert the birds to slow down and not hit the wire mesh and injure themselves.  Juvenile birds, or birds unfamiliar to their new cage can fly at top speed into the wire and can result in the bird's death or permanent injury.

More than one pair can be housed in the same aviary providing the aviary is large enough.

Minimum aviary size is about 3 metres (10 feet) in length and one metre (3 - 3.5 feet) wide and 2100mm (7 feet) high.

Non-toxic leafy branches, such as eucalypts, can be placed in the aviary for the birds to chew up. This will entertain the birds, help minimize boredom and give the birds some beak exercise. Natural branches of various diameters, and placed at various angles, can be used for perches. These natural perches may be chewed by the birds and may need to be replaced regularly. The birds may chew any flowers and fruiting bodies on the branches.

Diet / Feeding:  Refer to " Feeding Birds " web page for general details on the feeding of Australian Parrots or read on for specific details for this parrot.

The Swift Parrot has a tongue similar to lorikeets and lories and uses this adaptation to obtain pollen and nectar from flowering trees and plants.

Natural diet includes nectar, pollens, small insects, as well as some seeds, fruits, berries and greens.

Aviary diet includes lots of fruits, berries, flowering tree blossoms as well as a typical parrot diet. Vegetables including green leafy vegetables should be offered.  The amount of sunflower seed consumed must be monitored to avoid the birds becoming overweight.  Apple and pear are the preferred fruits.  Corn on the cob is a favourite.

Some birds will consume insects such as mealworms, especially around breeding season.  Insects will provide the adult birds and young with a good source of easily digestible protein.  Insects can be fed to these birds on a daily basis.

Some breeders use a wet or dry mix that resembles a Lorikeet mix.  Ingredients include products such as Farex baby cereal, raw sugar, honey, cereal and milk powder.  Care must be taken when feeding these "home made" mixes to ensure the adult and young birds obtain a balanced nutritional intake.  Vitamin, calcium and mineral supplements should only be added on advice of an avian veterinarian.

Seeding grasses should be offered, subject to season availability.  Blossoms and flowers from trees and shrubs can be offered, subject to season availability.  Check with local bird breeders or plant experts to ensure these items are from non-toxic grasses, trees and shrubs etc.

Nesting: A basic overview only. Dimensions are typical / average and can vary widely, influenced by the owner's preferences and the birds preferences.  Parent bird's preferences can also be influenced by the size and type of nest-box / log in which the bird was hatched and reared.  If space allows, offering a choice of sizes and types of logs or nest-boxes, and placed in various locations within the aviary, can allow the parent birds to make their own choice.  Once a pair has chosen a specific nest-box/log and been successful in it, offer that one to them each breeding season.  Try and keep that one for their exclusive use.  Once a pair has chosen its log or nest-box, the other ones can generally be removed.  If the "spare" boxes are to be removed and moved to another flight, ensure the log / nest box is cleaned to ensure the receptacle has the minimal contamination of mites, parasites and pathogens.

All Australian parrots will breed in hollow logs.

  • Nesting months: September/October to December
  • Log / Nest-box:
    • Length / depth  350 - 400 mm (or approx. 14 - 16 inches)
    • Log internal diameter approx. 175 mm. (or approx. 9 inches)
    • Nest-box internal dimensions approx.170 mm square (or approx. 9 inches square)
    • Diameter of entrance hole approx. 70 mm (or approx. 2.5 - 3 inches)
    • Inspection hole (square or round) 100 mm (or approx 4 inches)
    • A removable top / lid can be a useful access point for inspections and for cleaning.
    • Location and height of log / nest-box = in a sheltered part of the aviary and at about 1.5 - 1.8 metres height, but not too close to the roof to cause heat problems in the hotter months.
    • Angle of log or nest box =  45 degrees through to vertical
  • Nesting log / nest-box material: Decomposed non-toxic saw dust, wood shavings or other suitable material/s.
  • Who incubates the egg/s: Hen / cock / both share.

In the wild Swift Parrots use hollows high up in eucalypt trees and more than one pair may use the one tree if suitable hollows are available in that tree.

Swift Parrot nests are generally much drier and cleaner than those of Lorikeets.  They generally do not require the nest box/log to be cleaned while the young are in the nest.

More details on parrot nestboxes/logs and a selection of parrot nestbox/log photos can be found on the "nests", "parrot nests" and "parrot nestbox photos" web pages.  Click on "Up" then "Nests" then "parrot nests" and "parrot nestbox photos" in the navigation bars.

Breeding: Egg Colour White.  Clutch/s per year 1, sometimes 2.  Eggs per nest 3 - 5.  Incubation approx. 20 days.  Fledge approx. 6 weeks.  Independent approx. another 3 weeks.

Best results are achieved when bred in its natural environment of Tasmania. Warmer environments (mainland Australian States) may be too warm to have good regular breeding results.  High humidity and temperatures over 25 Celsius can be detrimental to good breeding.

Hens that are allowed to mature fully and allowed to start breeding in their second year, generally achieve better results than those that are allowed to breed earlier.

A Swift Parrot Breeding Recovery Program has been established to help prevent the population decline of these birds.  Zoos and Sanctuaries on the Australian mainland now have breeding pairs and are adding to the captive population held by private breeders.

Artificial incubation and hand rearing or fostering will not be covered on this web site. It is too complex and diverse in nature to be attempted here.

Health Issues: Refer to "Avian Health Issues" web page for information and references.

  • Worming and parasite control and Quarantine requirements of new bird/s or sick bird/s are considered to require veterinary advice and therefore not covered on this web site. Refer "Avian Health Issues" web page option.
  • Avian medicine is advancing at a rapid pace. Keep updating your knowledge and skills.

General References: Refer to references listed on "Book References" web page.

Specific References:

  • Australian Aviculture
  • A/A Vol 59 No. 8 Aug 2005 Page 168-171 (Bill Boyd, 45 years with the Swift Parrot).
  • A/A Vol 54 No. 4 Apr 2000 Page 85-86
  • A/A Vol 52 No. 4 Apr 1998 Page 73-75 (Inc photo)
  • A/A Vol 50 No. 4 Apr 1996 Page 94
  • A/A Vol 38 No. 11 Nov 1984 Page 269-271
  • A/A Vol 32 No. 12 Dec 1978 Page 191
  • A/A Vol 32 No. 6 Jun 1978 Page 90-93 (Inc photo)
  • A/A Vol 30 No. 6 Jun 1976 Page114-119
  • A/A Vol  4 No 2 Feb 1950 Page 26-27.
  • Australian Birdkeeper
  • ABK Vol 15 Issue 5. Oct-Nov 2002 Page 253-254.
  • ABK Vol 14 Issue 11. Oct-Nov 2001 Page 649-650 (In Adelaide Zoo).
  • ABK Vol 10 Issue 8. Apr-May 1997 Page 399
  • ABK Vol  8 Issue 12. Dec-Jan 1996 Page 592-593

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