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Critically Endangered Orange-bellied parrot mystery

21/09/2012 10:58:42
birds/2010 jan/orange_bellied_parrot

There are probably less than 100 wild Orange bellied parrots in existence. Credit Chris Tzaros of Birds Australia

The ‘Orange' Pimpernel? - Disappearing parrot intrigues recovery team

September 2012. With a wild population of less than 50, it's not surprising that the location of a summer hide-out used by a male Orange-bellied Parrot (Neophema chrysogaster) is of great interest to the team trying to save the species from extinction.

Where does the bird go in the breeding season?
In its 2012 update, the Orange-bellied Parrot recovery team has revealed that an eight year old male bird, seen during Winter around Victoria's Port Phillip Bay, has not been seen for several seasons at the only known breeding site for the species at Melaleuca on Tasmania's west coast.

Recovery Team member Peter Menkhorst, from the Department of Sustainability and Environment's (DSE) Arthur Rylah Institute (ARI) said: "We have been aware of this bird since he was banded as a juvenile at Melaleuca in the summer of 2004/05 and he has been seen in Victoria over several winters, but we still don't know where he goes during the breeding season. With such small numbers in the wild it is of great interest to the recovery team to find out if there is another, previously unknown, site where this species breeds," Mr Menkhorst said.

No undiscovered population
"Unfortunately, no matter where he is going, we know from the small numbers coming to the winter feeding grounds in Victoria and South Australia that there is no large undiscovered breeding population of these birds."

Wild birds breeding
"The other news during the 2012 breeding season was encouraging, with all known adult females participating in breeding at Melaleuca and at least 14 young fledging. The team decided it wasn't necessary for any more wild birds to be taken into captivity this year as part of the Captive Breeding program."

Captive breeding
"The successful captive breeding program, based at Healesville Sanctuary in Victoria, as well as at other facilities in Tasmania, NSW and South Australia, now has more than 200 birds and the team is considering the possibility of a release of captive-bred birds in the near future."

The Orange-bellied Parrot National Recovery Team consists of representatives of the Commonwealth, Victorian, Tasmanian and South Australian governments, Zoos Victoria, Adelaide Zoo, Birdlife Australia, the Tasmanian Conservation Trust and threatened species experts.

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