Baby boom for endangered parrots at Moonlit Sanctuary!
A record-breaking 60 young birds left the nest this year
Moonlit Sanctuary Wildlife Conservation Park has had a bumper season for breeding the critically endangered orange-bellied parrot. Over 60 young birds left the nest this year which is a record for Moonlit Sanctuary.
Especially satisfying were the first clutch results, which saw an 82% egg fertility rate and an average of 3.2 young birds produced from each nest. This is one of the highest rates yet achieved from captive birds. Mark Holdsworth, an orange-bellied parrot expert, said that this is equivalent to the previous long-term average for wild birds.
Moonlit Sanctuary Director, Michael Johnson said, “These results were achieved because of the outstanding care given by our dedicated staff, and are proof of the methods and facilities we have put in place to help save these parrots.”
Orange-bellied parrots are among the most endangered birds on the planet, with fewer than 25 birds in the wild last September. They are one of three species of migrating parrots, and migrate every year between their summer breeding grounds in south-west Tasmania and the Victorian coast.
Moonlit Sanctuary first became involved with orange-bellied parrots in 2012, and started to make a serious contribution to their recovery with the opening of a modern breeding complex in 2016. Moonlit Sanctuary breeds birds and supports three release programs:
- Spring release: Release of birds at the last known breeding location at Melaleuca, Tasmania to boost numbers for each upcoming summer breeding season.
- Late summer juvenile release: Release of birds as young as 8 weeks old into the flock in Melaleuca prior to the autumn migration. This is done on the presumption that young birds will adapt quickly to the wild, and would be more likely to survive than older birds. The first trial last year was a success with 4 birds completing the migration, including 2 birds bred at Moonlit Sanctuary.
- Autumn mainland release: Birds are released at points on the Victorian coast, where there is a good quality of habitat. This is done to encourage migrating birds to settle there, and to build up flock size which helps increase the number of birds that survive winter.
Moonlit Sanctuary also hosts one of two ranching aviaries for the recovery program. Ranching involves removing some of each wild-hatched clutch from the wild at the end of the breeding season and flying them to the mainland to be housed in our aviary. They are then returned to Tasmania prior to the breeding season. Again, the first trial of this experimental program was last year and 100% of birds kept at Moonlit Sanctuary were returned to Tasmania. This meant that 14 birds that were very likely to have perished over the winter survived to contribute to the wild breeding population again.
Moonlit Sanctuary won the Victorian Premiers Sustainability Award for Environmental Protection for our work with orange-bellied parrots in 2017 and has just won Silver for Ecotourism at the Australian Tourism Awards.