Orange-bellied Parrot

Neophema chrysogaster

CONSERVATION STATUS

Critically Endangered

In September 2018 there were fewer than 20 orange-bellied parrots still in the wild. They breed in south-west Tasmania over summer then migrate every winter to the southern coastline of Victoria, including the shores of Western Port Bay, 500 metres south of Moonlit Sanctuary.

Moonlit Sanctuary has constructed a breeding facility capable of holding up to 20 pairs of birds with the support of Zoos Victoria and the Aviculture Society of Australia. Since 2014, we have bred over 140 birds of which more than 40 have been released into the wild.

In addition, Moonlit Sanctuary has a “ranching” aviary capable of holding up to 40 wild birds. Many orange-bellied parrots are lost over the winter migration period so we hold genetically valuable wild birds over this period in a facility where they experience wild climatic conditions and a natural diet. They are then released back into the wild in the breeding grounds the following spring.

Orange-bellied parrots are seen almost exclusively in coastal and sub-coastal areas, preferring peninsulas and islands. Saltmarshes, littoral (shore) heathlands and low scrublands are preferred habitats as well as grassy areas, which can include golf courses. They breed in forests on the west coast of Tasmania dominated by Smithton Peppermints, Eucalyptus nitida, but tend to avoid extensive tracts of temperate rainforest.

WHAT THEY EAT

The orange-bellied parrot feeds on the ground or on low-growing shrubs, with food consisting of seeds, fruits, flowers and berries of sedges, herbaceous plants and plants that grow in salty or alkaline conditions such as saltmarshes.

BREEDING

The orange-bellied parrot nests in tree-hollows, both knot-holes in trunks and holes in dead branches, but usually not in dead trees. The female cleans out the nest hollow then lays the eggs about two days apart. She incubates the eggs and broods the nestlings, while being fed by the male every two to three hours. The male may feed up to 5 km away from the nest site. When the nestlings are about ten days old, the female leaves them during the day and helps the male in feeding them. The juvenile birds leave the nest four to five weeks after hatching and may be fed by their parents before becoming independent. Juveniles form small foraging flocks and depart for the mainland about a month later than the adults.