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Orange-bellied parrot

Current status


The Orange-bellied parrot (Neophema chrysogaster) 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.

Why is it endangered?

The Orange-bellied parrot is endangered because it is so rare and its habitat is quickly disappearing. It is a breeding endemic of Tasmania, which means that it only breeds in Tasmania. In fact it only breeds in one place in Tasmania and that is in our Southwest National Park. It arrives here in summer, nesting in eucalypt tree hollows adjacent to the parrot's feeding grounds of extensive coastal buttongrass plains.

Why then is it endangered if its breeding habitat is wholly protected in Tasmania's Southwest National Park?

The reason is that this bird flies back from Tasmania to overwinter on mainland Australia near Port Phillip Bay in Victoria and in South Australia. These winter sites are well protected but often degraded. Rabbits or stock have damaged areas causing erosion problems. There is no point just protecting one aspect of this bird's habitat. Juveniles stopover on King Island to feed on the coastal vegetation on their way to the mainland. This site is now listed as a Ramsar site (wetland of international importance) and is also protected as a reserve.

What is being done?

A lot of effort has been put into trying to downgrade this species from endangered to vulnerable. It fits the criteria for a critically endangered species and since 1986 there has been a captive breeding program in place to try and increase numbers in the wild. Although birds have been successfully released into the wild, other methods need to be used to ensure its long term survival. Every summer, the birds coming to the southwest are counted and juveniles are banded. Every bird is colour-coded with different bands and also numbered so we can keep track of each bird. This tells us many things such as which birds survive to breed, who they breed with and how old they are. Blood is also taken from birds for genetic testing, so we can work out who their parents are. Genetic diversity is very important for species survival.

Habitat management and protection is also very important for this bird's survival. Recommendations have been made to all relevant State governments to protect existing habitat. To ensure maximum food resources are available, it is necessary to have regular burning of their buttongrass habitat every 3-13 years. It is also important to protect them from predation by exotic species such as cats.

For more information about populations and the Recovery Program check out the DPIPWE web site here

Recommended further reading

Stephenson LH. 1991. The Orange-bellied Parrot Recovery Plan. Parks and Wildlife Service, Tasmania.

Factsheets available from Parks and Wildlife Service, Tasmania

Endangered species: The Orange-bellied Parrot factsheet.