Australia's swift parrot could soon just be a colorful memory. With the species in catastrophic decline, conservationists are urgently trying to get the bird on the list of critically endangered animals.

The swift parrot – now numbering less than 2,000 – could be cut in half in four years and extinct within 16.

In a new study published in the journal Biological Conservation, the Australian National University's Dejan Stojanovic and colleagues found that the population of the endangered bird is declining much faster than previously thought.

Over the course of their five-year study, the researchers discovered that the swift parrot is heavily preyed upon by sugar gliders, and also in danger from deforestation. They recommended that breeding areas for the birds be protected from logging.

Conservationists have released documents showing that logging was approved in the breeding areas of the bird — against scientific advice. This prompted BirdLife Tasmania's Dr. Eric Woehler to call for the suspension of logging in all the breeding areas. He said there is no room to be careless with this species, as they can so easily be lost to extinction. He added that the strengthening the endangered listing of the parrot is an immediate priority.

"This research clearly shows that the conservation status of the swift parrot is significantly worse than previously supposed and based on current land management practices, things are not going to get any better," Stojanovic said.

Woehler said that the federal government of Australia already recognizes that the bird is endangered, but the swift parrot must be listed as critically endangered.

Stojanovic said a complete reassessment on the management of the species is needed. A nomination for the parrot to be immediately included in the critically endangered list has already been submitted to the federal government.

"To prevent total population collapse in swift parrots, we need to urgently reassess how forests are managed in Tasmania," Stojanovic said. "Preventing further deforestation in core swift parrot breeding areas is a basic first step towards avoiding catastrophic population collapse."

Ron Knight | Flickr 

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