Species back from the brink of extinction

Orange-bellied parrot in the Swan Bay area. (Craig Morley)

By Justin Flynn

The first of 36 orange-bellied parrots were released in two locations this week in a bid to save the critically endangered species.

The birds were released at Lake Connewarre, near Barwon Heads, and Western Port Bay as part of a state government trial.

The five-year program aims to add captive-bred birds to the wild population and give them a better chance of survival. The birds released this week join 100 orange-bellied parrots now part of the wild flock, previously let go from Victorian sites in the Mainland Release Trial.

Supported by the success of the trial, this autumn will see the largest flock of orange-bellied parrots migrate to Victoria in 15 years, with over 140 expected to fly north from their Tasmanian breeding grounds.

The orange-bellied parrots have also benefited from a successful breeding season in the wild, combined with large-scale releases of captive-bred birds at the Tasmanian site in spring and late summer.

The species has gone from being at imminent risk of extinction, with only 50 birds left in the wild in 2017, to a 15-year high.

“Our record investment into biodiversity is helping bring native species from the brink of extinction – the growing flock of orange-bellied parrots is yet another success story,” Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change Lily D’Ambrosio said.

“Orange-bellied parrot releases on the mainland provide an excellent opportunity to trial new tracking technologies that we hope will lead to a better understanding of their movements, habitat needs, and obstacles to their recovery in the wild,” Zoos Victoria Senior Research Manager Michael Magrath said.

The Orange-bellied Parrot Mainland Release Trial is supported by funding from the state government’s Biodiversity On-Ground Action Icon Species Grants program, as well as Zoos Victoria, the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program, and Moonlit Sanctuary.