Golden-shouldered Parrot Psephotellus chrysopterygius


Justification of Red List Category
This species is listed as Endangered as it has a very small, decreasing range, within which changes in the burning regime and the introduction of cattle to the region have resulted in a long-term population decline, which is continuing despite intensive conservation efforts.

Population justification
The breeding population has been estimated at around 2,500 mature individuals (Garnett et al. 2011), roughly equivalent to 3,750 individuals in total.

Trend justification
Historically, there were three confirmed breeding populations: from Coen to Port Stewart where it was last reported in the 1920s, Musgrave-Moorhead River where the population has contracted markedly and continues to decline, and west of Chillagoe where the population persists, but trends have been stable. Overall, the population is currently suspected to be declining (Garnett and Crowley 2000), although the likely rate of decline has not been estimated.

Distribution and population

Psephotellus chrysopterygius is endemic to southern and central Cape York Peninsula, Queensland, Australia. Over the last century this species has vanished from most of its range (Levy 2004). Today, a northern subpopulation comprising 4 locations occurs in the upper catchment of the Morehead River and adjacent headwaters of the Alice River (including parts of Alwal National Park, and Artemis, Killarney and Dixie Stations with a few pairs on Mary River and Imooya Stations) and a southern subpopulation breeds in the south-east corner of Staaten River National Park and adjacent section of Bulimba Station. Historically, there were breeding populations near Coen and Port Stewart, where it was last reported in the 1950s. A further breeding population persisted at Bullaringa National Park into the 1960s. All birds reported outside these areas have been non-breeding. The northern population is estimated at 1,500 mature individuals based on surveys in 2009, and 1,000 individuals are assumed to be in the southern population, based on partial surveys in 1999 and 2004 (Garnett et al. 2011). The overall population has been declining since at least the 1920s and continues to do so (Crowley et al. 2004, Preece et al. 2009).


It nests in termite mounds in grassy areas within ti-tree or shiny-leafed box Eucalyptus chlorophylla savannas. After breeding, it disperses through open woodland, feeding on super-abundant seeds of fire grass Schizachyrium spp. After the first wet-season rains, it forms flocks in association with breeding Black-faced Woodswallow Artamus cinereus, so depredation by Pied Butcherbird Cracticus nigrogularis is less likely (Crowley et al. 2004). Through the wet season the species switches foods continually, feeding through most of the daylight hours. It nests late in the wet season and lay an average of six eggs, which hatch early in the dry season when seeds are abundant (Levy 2004). The species relies on grass seeds for food and open country where there is minimal cover for predators. The species is potentially limited by the availability of nest sites, as they rarely re-use the same mound once the termites have repaired the damage with tougher material, and new termite mounds are very slow to build up (Levy 2004).


The continuing range contraction has been linked to a change in fire regime, with fewer intentional hot burns and lower fuel loads as a result of cattle grazing. This combination has resulted in the invasion of grassland by woodland throughout the species's former range. The increase in woody vegetation may have favoured predators, principally Pied Butcherbird Cracticus nigrogularis. Predation of adults is a major cause of nest failure, with almost one third of nests losing one or more adults. In addition, the availability of termite mounds for nesting may be limiting: monitoring suggests that mounds large enough for the parrots are being lost faster than they are being replaced, largely from damage by cattle and feral pigs Sus domesticus (Crowley et al. 2004).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix I and II. Management actions completed or underway include an analysis of threats, changing fire regimes and vegetation change, annual monitoring and supplementary feeding of the population at Artemis Station, surveys of populations and nests in the remainder of the range, fencing and implementation of favourable fire regimes on leasehold land, signing of a conservation agreement with land-holders, inclusion of conservation requirements for the species in property planning in central Cape York Peninsula and initiation of favourable fire management in National Parks. Research is being carried out to assess whether the fencing-off of areas will prevent feral pigs from damaging termite mounds when they are foraging (Levy 2004).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Monitor populations in remote areas. Monitor effects of landscape management on nesting and vegetation structure. Refine understanding of wet-season ecology. Provide supplementary food during the wet-season. Develop and refine a pastoral management strategy, with reduced grazing and effective fire management. Secure land under conservation agreements. Protect nesting mounds in selected parts of range.


23-28 cm. Slender parrot. Adult male predominantly turquoise with black cap and pale yellow frontal band, and salmon-pink lower belly, vent thighs and undertail-coverts, conspicuously scaled off-white. Grey-brown saddle and upper wing with diagnostic, bright yellow shoulder-band. Adult female predominantly dull greenish-yellow, broad cream bar on underwing, prominent in flight. Juvenile similar to adult female, best distinguished at fledging by orange bill and cere. Voice Generally quiet and unobtrusive with variety of chirruping calls and soft whistles. Hints Contact cattle-stations in range with known breeding populations for permission to visit.


Text account compilers
Allinson, T, Benstead, P., Dutson, G., Garnett, S., McClellan, R., Symes, A., Taylor, J.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Species factsheet: Psephotellus chrysopterygius. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 23/05/2022. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2022) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 23/05/2022.