New tactics for orange-bellied parrot survival going into 2018 migration season

A new method of management will be trialled this year in a bid to protect the critically endangered orange-bellied parrot’s last wild fledgelings from the tough migration to Victoria.

At the end of the bird’s breeding season in Melaleuca, in Tasmania’s far South-West, half the wild juvenile birds and all the captive-bred adult female parrots released in 2017 will be recaptured and transported to Victoria.

At Moonlit Sanctuary and Zoos Victoria aviaries, those birds will be kept, or ‘ranched’, through winter and flown back to Melaleuca for the next spring breeding season.

Parrot expert Mark Holdsworth originally suggested the drastic plan in December after just three wild females returned to Melaleuca from Victoria in November.

The increasing loss of female birds through the migratory season, Mr Holdsworth said, was placing the bird more and more at risk of total wild extinction.

A statement by the Orange-Bellied Parrot Tasmanian Program confirmed the plan, and said the captive-bred adult male birds will also be captured at the end of the season and released in Victoria rather than risking their migration.

“Combining juvenile releases and ranching balances the need to have a population that knows how to migrate with the capacity to maintain and increase the size of the wild population,” the statement said.

Juvenile birds bred by the conservation program’s partners in Victoria were recently released into Melaleuca to boost the wild population of adult birds and the fledgelings from this year’s breeding season.