The call of the Twenty-eight Parrot sounds like it is saying “twen-ty eight”
The Twenty-eight is a striking parrot that you are likely to see or hear in bushland around Perth and the southwest corner of Western Australia. It is mainly green in colour, with a black head, yellow ring around the neck, red across the top of the beak, blue cheeks and blue/purple in the wings.
These medium sized parrots have a rather long tail and are about 30 to 40cm in overall length. They have an undulating flight pattern and are often seen flitting rapidly through forests, looking like a flash of green lightning. You may also see them sitting on a branch, well camouflaged by their green plumage, and are quite likely to see them at a barbecue or picnic in parks and bushland. They normally eat seeds, fruit, flowers, nectar and insects, but are always interested in seeing what we humans eat.
Different people have different views about Twenty-eights. They are seen positively by the local Noongar aboriginal people, who consider them to be happy birds that protect the camp by keeping evil spirits away. They also say that these parrots show them which flowers have nectar which can be eaten safely. On the other hand, farmers classify Twenty-eights as pests, since they are rather partial to crops like wheat, oats and apples.
In The Family
Although the Twenty-eight only lives in the southwest corner of WA, it may look oddly familiar to people living in other parts of Australia. That is because this bird is the West Australian version of the Australian Ringneck (Barnardius zonarius). There are four subspecies of the Ringneck, all looking roughly similar, with mainly green colouring and a yellow ring around the back of the neck. However they are different enough that you might think they were different species. In fact, biologists used to classify them as several different species, but then noticed that they interbreed where their territory overlaps.
The four different subspecies are the Twenty-eight (Barnardius zonarius semitorquatus), Port Lincoln Parrot (B. z. zonarius), Cloncurry Parrot (B. z. macgillivrayi) and Mallee Ringneck (B. z. barnardi). The Port Lincoln looks quite similar to the Twenty-eight, but has a yellow belly and no red above the beak. The other two are even more different from the Twenty-eight.
We live in Perth, which happens to be in the overlap of the territory of Twenty-eights and Port Lincolns. So the parrots that we see and photograph here are mostly hybrids, though they are always called Twenty-eights by the locals, never Port Lincolns.
It’s Your Call
Bird experts describe the characteristic call of the Twenty-eight parrot as being its contact call, which is something like the bird equivalent of humans saying “g’day” to each other. None of the other subspecies of Australian Ringneck has the three note “twen-ty eight” contact call of the Twenty-eight, though the Port Lincoln has a two note call that you could think of as being “twen-ty”.
In addition to the contact call, Twenty-eights have several other distinctive calls. One is an excited chatter from a group of birds munching on nuts and flowers in a tree, sounding rather like they are having a party. Other calls include an eerie ringing sound, usually heard in the distance and sounding rather lonely, and an alarm call if the birds are disturbed.
You will see Twenty-eights in Perth and country towns, as well as in the bush. They seem to get along fairly well with humans and will happily set up home in man-made nesting boxes. Their biggest problem is with introduced Rainbow Lorikeets, which compete with Twenty-eights for nesting sites in hollow branches. However Twenty-eights are not classified as a threatened species.
WHERE TO FIND THEM
The Twenty-eight is found in the southwest of Western Australia, in forests, bushland and even in towns. The other three subspecies of Australian Ringneck are found in much of the rest of WA and SA (Port Lincoln parrot); parts of the Northern Territory and Qld (Cloncurry parrot) and western parts of Qld, NSW and Vic (Mallee parrot).
They often sit or feed in tall trees, where they are relatively difficult to see, but may also sit on fencing or power and telephone wires. We often see and hear Twenty-eights in suburban Perth and also in bushland in the greater metropolitan area, and in nearby national parks. They are common visitors at bush barbecue and picnic areas.
For more information about Australian Ringnecks, visit www.birdsinbackyards.net/species/Barnardius-zonarius