Double-eyed fig-parrot (Coxen's)
Common name: Coxen's fig-parrot, double-eyed fig-parrot (Coxen's)
Scientific name: Cyclopsitta diophthalma coxeni
Family: Psittacidae (parrots)
Double-eyed fig-parrot (Coxen’s) subspecies is listed as Endangered in Queensland (Nature Conservation Act 1992) and nationally (Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999). It is ranked as a critical priority under the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection Back on Track species prioritisation framework. In New South Wales, it is listed as Critically Endangered (New South Wales Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995).
Double-eyed fig-parrot (Coxen’s) subspecies is a small, predominantly green parrot with a stout build. The head and bill are disproportionately large. Its tail is extremely short and its total body length is 15-16 cm (slightly smaller than a budgerigar). It is rich green above, yellowish green below and the sides of its breast are yellow. The primaries (the main flight feathers) are deep blue and dark grey. The inner edges of the tertials (the small set of flight feathers on the hind margin of the wing, nearest the body) are red. The bill is two-toned, pale grey at the base and blackish towards the tip. The male has a blue forehead with scattered red feathers surrounding this and on the lores (the feathers between the eye and the bill). The cheeks are orange-red, bordered below by a band of mauve-blue. The female is similar but with a smaller blue patch on the forehead, fewer or no red feathers on the forehead and lores, and a duller, less extensive orange-red cheek patch. Juveniles have not yet been described.
Habitat and distribution
Based on published records, its historical distribution was known to extend from the Mary River (Gympie) in Queensland, south to the Richmond River in New South Wales and west to the Bunya Mountains. Other authors considered the distribution reached Maryborough in the north and the Macleay River in the south. Unconfirmed records strongly suggest the range extends further north in Queensland to the greater Bundaberg area and to locations near Rockhampton. Its population levels may be very low but the double-eyed fig-parrot is by no means extinct, as several confirmed records exist and credible sightings continue to be reported.
The bird’s preferred habitat was probably lowland rainforest, especially in alluvial areas, but little of this remains. Recent records are from a spectrum of rainforest types (Araucarian (coniferous) rainforest, warm subtropical rainforest, cool subtropical rainforest and cool temperate rainforest) from sea level to approximately 1000 m altitude. Birds also use thin strips of gallery rainforest, littoral rainforest and coastal bloodwood, melaleuca and cabbage palm forest where fig densities are high (e.g. near Bundaberg). The subspecies has been reported from riparian corridors through woodland, open woodland and cleared land where fig or other food trees occur, as well as from isolated fruiting trees in gardens and cultivated farmlands.
Life history and behaviour
Its flight is rapid and direct without the twisting and turning characteristic of lorikeets. It tends not to dart and dodge through gaps in the branches and foliage of the treetops (this description relates to Macleays' fig-parrot but is presumably true for Coxen's). As for the other Australian subspecies of fig parrot, the double-eyed fig-parrot (Coxen’s) is notoriously difficult to observe when perched amid foliage because of its small size, colouration providing good camouflage and unobtrusive nature. It is usually detected by its vocalisations. Typical flight calls are short, clipped, two note calls described as a high-pitched 'zeet-zeet'. It may also utter single, thin, high-pitched notes when feeding or resting but is otherwise silent. It can be detected by discarded pieces of fig flesh falling from its feeding tree onto the ground.
The diet of the double-eyed fig-parrot mainly consists of the seeds of figs Ficus spp. when the fruits are ripe or nearing ripeness. Favoured species are F. macrophylla, F. rubiginosa, F. superba, F. virens, F. watkinsiana, and the sandpaper figs F. coronata, F. fraseri and F. opposita. The seeds or flesh of other fruits, as well as nectar, insect larvae and lichen are eaten too. Additional recorded food species are Syzygium corynanthum, Elaeocarpus grandis, Litsea reticulata and Grevillea robusta. The double-eyed fig-parrot is also known to feed on introduced plants, namely the edible fig F. carica, cotoneaster Cotoneaster sp., queen or cocos palm Syagrus romanzoffiana and loquat Eriobotrya japonica.
The nest and eggs of the double-eyed fig-parrot have never been described. It is assumed the bird resembles northern subspecies of fig-parrots in excavating a nest chamber in a dead or decaying tree limb or trunk where two eggs are laid. Nest construction is thought to commence in August, with breeding from October to December or January. No data exist for the duration of incubation or the period until fledging.
The known threats to the double-eyed fig-parrot include clearing and fragmentation of habitat, especially in lowland areas. The loss of all forest types in which figs occur (and these need not necessarily be classical rainforest vegetation types) is also a significant threat. Threats that may also affect the parrot include possible winter food shortages, a discontinuity between breeding and wintering habitats, invasion of gallery rainforests and riparian corridors by weeds (e.g. the exotic vines cat’s claw Macfadyena unguis-cati and blue morning glory Ipomoea indica), inappropriate burning or logging practices in potential breeding areas near rainforest margins, and poaching/nest robbing for the purposes of egg-collecting or aviculture.
The recovery plan for double-eyed fig-parrot (Coxen’s) identifies the following actions for the species recovery:
- Further surveys and compilation of community sighting reports to determine currently occupied localities including those used for breeding.
- Assessment of quantity, distribution and spatial arrangement of remnant rainforest and other forest types with significant food resources.
- Protection of remnant habitat using all available mechanisms.
- Habitat rehabilitation and revegetation, incorporating specially propagated fig species, at selected locations to improve the extent, quality and connectivity of available habitat.
- Research of known sites to increase knowledge of the bird's ecological requirements and reproductive ecology.