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Swift parrot identification

The swift parrot​ (Lathamus discolor) is a fairly small, bright green, fast-flying parrot. From head to tail-tip it is about 25 cm long, with long pointed wings and a long, purplish red tail. While mainly green, it has a colourful face: blue on the top of the head, with bright red above and below the beak, edged with yellow. There are also splashes of red on the bend of the wing, the inside edge of the wing, in a large patch under the wing and and another large patch under the tail near the base.

If you see a swift parrot in flight, you are most likely to notice its loud call, small size, essentially bright green colour with red under the wings and very fast, direct flight. Otherwise you are most likely to see a swift parrot on or fluttering around eucalypts bearing large flowers, such as blue or black gums, again calling loudly. They are often seen in groups.

For an excellent recording of the swift parrot call along with a range of images, see the Listening Earth's swift parrot page​The 'swit swit' call that you hear from the very start of the recording is distinctive of the species. As you become familiar with the call, you will also more easily recognise the chattering. Note however that there are some Wattlebirds and White-naped Honeyeaters in the background of the recording. See also 'More information' below.

Confusing species

The swift parrot can be confused with other bird species in Tasmania.

The musk lorikeet (Glossopsitta concinna) is also green, similarly sized and tends to be seen in groups - sometimes with the swift parrot. However, there are some key differences - firstly the calls are quite different. Both swift parrots and musk lorikeets fly fast and directly, but it's also often possible to distinguish them in flight by wing and tail colours. The swift parrot has very obvious red patches under the wings and under the base of the tail, while the musk lorikeet has brown flight feathers, no red patches under the wing, and a golden tail with only a little red edging (not always visible) towards the base. If you can see the bird in the tree, you may also be able to check the colouring around its beak - the musk lorikeet has a big red patches behind each eyes; the swift parrot has red on its face too, but not in a big patch. 

The green rosella (Platycercus caledonicus) is another green parrot found in Tasmania, but it is distinctly bigger at 32 to 38 cm from head to tail tip. It is also a much duller yellow-green, with brownish black underwings and a mostly blue tail, and a very different set of calls.
Image and call of green rosella (The photo shown on this page indicates a very yellow bird, although they can sometimes look much greener).

The eastern rosella (Platycercus eximius) may make some sounds similar to the swift parrot call, but it looks very different - a larger parrot (29 - 33 cm long) with head and shoulders entirely bright red except for two large white cheek patches.


More information 

Video footage that can help you identify swift parrots, become really familiar with their calls and learn more about them can be found in "Swift Parrots in Tasmania": part 1 and part 2.

This video by the NSW National Parks on swift parrots also provides the mainland perspective.