(Photo by Dave Watts)
On the brink of extinction the Orange-bellied Parrot has been ranked as one of the world's rarest and most endangered species. Full details can be found on our threatened species pages.
For bushwalkers and those who are able to fly into the Tasmanian
south-west, there is a good chance of seeing Orange-bellied Parrots. At
Melaleuca, in the Southwest National Park,
a bird hide has been built especially for observing the birds. From
mid-October until the end of March, the birds are regular visitors,
coming and going throughout the day. However the best times to see them
are in the early mornings or late afternoons. There are two
bushwalkers' huts with room for up to 20 people.
The Orange-bellied Parrot is approximately 200 mm long, a little larger
than a budgerigar. Its plumage is bright grass-green above and mostly
yellow below with a bright orange patch in the centre of the lower
belly. It has a bright azure blue patch on the outer wing and a blue
bar across the forehead above the nostrils.
The Orange-bellied Parrot is a migratory bird, which breeds only in coastal south-west Tasmania and spends the winter in coastal Victoria and South Australia. In Tasmania it occurs in buttongrass moorland interspersed with patches of forest or tea tree scrub.
It feeds on the seeds of several sedges and heath plants, including buttongrass. Its main food preferences are found in sedgelands which have not been burned for between 3-15 years. Also included in the diet are seeds of three Boronia species and the everlasting daisy, Helichrysum pumilum.
After breeding, migrating birds move gradually northwards up the west coast, through the Hunter Group and King Island in Bass Strait and on to the mainland. On the journey the birds usually feed on beach-front vegetation including salt tolerant species such as sea rocket, Cakile maritima. They also eat various coastal native and introduced grasses.
It nests high in hollows in eucalypt trees that grow adjacent to its
feeding plains. In early October the birds arrive in the south west and
depart after the breeding season usually in March and April. Four to six eggs are laid.
The alarm call is given when the bird is disturbed or upset. It is a harsh, rapidly repeated 'zit-zit-zit', usually given whilst the bird is rising from a perch or the ground.
In level flight, a single 'tseet' note is given each time it dips. The call is one of the surest methods of identification as the appearance of the plumage often varies according to the light.
Fewer than 70 individuals of this rare and endangered species occur in suitable habitat in the far southwest of Tasmania. Birds migrate following the breeding season, and may be seen along the northwest coast and King Island.
The Orange-bellied parrot is listed as endangered under the Tasmanian Threatened Species Protection Act 1995. It is also listed as critically endangered under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 and has the dubious honour of being one of the most endangered birds species in Australia.