Breeding hopes... the critically endangered western ground parrot at Perth Zoo. Photo: Jennene Riggs
Perth Zoo's most recent arrivals are so secretive their keepers are using an elaborate CCTV set-up to figure out what they eat, with the bigger goal of breeding the rare birds.
The Western ground parrot, one of only five ground-dwelling parrots in the world, is on the brink of extinction with fewer than 140 believed to be left in the wild.
Three weeks ago, seven of the birds were transferred from a secluded enclosure on Western Australia's south coast, where they were being studied, to Perth Zoo.
Australian wildlife supervisor Arthur Ferguson said the parrots were highly active in "the twilight zone" before staff were on site but were otherwise very shy, so keepers relied heavily on CCTV to monitor the birds' behaviour.
"So little is known about ground parrots we're having to figure out a lot about them as we go," Mr Ferguson said.
"We haven't really got a full grasp on their entire dietary preferences at this stage.
"I thought they would be pretty similar to your average parrot but turns out they've got a bit of a liking for blossoms and nectar from what we gather, so that's surprised me."
The birds even have a different aviary design to other parrots.
Mr Ferguson said a second soft aviary made from nylon was created inside the metal one to protect the parrots in case they flew into the cage in a panic.
"Typically you wouldn't use that for a parrot species because they're notorious chewers and like to hang onto the wire mesh of an aviary," he said.
"Whereas the Western ground parrots, because they spend a lot of their time on the ground and in low vegetation, they don't come in contact with that external aviary surface.
"They're wrapped in cotton wool in a sense."