The Orange-Bellied Parrot (OBP) is the most endangered bird in Australia – there are less than 70 OBPs left in the wild. This species is very vulnerable to extinction from a number of threats including habitat modification, disease, predators and competitors, climate change, and loss of genetic diversity. FNPW funding assisted implementation of critical management actions at the breeding site at Melaleuca in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area to support the survival of the species, with benefits that extend many years beyond the life span of the project.
This project was funded through generous donations from FNPW supporters across Australia and beyond.
The Backyard Buddies website has information about Australian native species, including the Orange-Bellied Parrot.
OBP’s only breed in a small place called Melaleuca in south-western Tasmania. Breeding takes place in the the warmer months and then the parrots migrate north to southern Australia’s coastline in winter. With fewer than 70 birds remaining in the wild, under the Australian Government’s species recovery plan, there is an actively managed captive breeding population of around 330 birds. The project funded by FNPW will assist with the survival of the species by carefully introducing some of these captive bred birds into the wild over several years.
Funding provided specifically designed artificial nest boxes, which reduces competitors and predators accessing the nests and are also able to be cleaned after each use to appropriately manage diseases and threats. The nest boxes are vital to the parrot’s survival. An installation of a large aviary at the breeding location was also funded by FNPW to allow the captive birds to undergo gentle releases, as well as food and shelter to the birds after their release while they acclimatize to their new environment. Previous experiences have shown that having this access immediately after their release significantly improves the chance of survival for the newly released captive bred birds. Accurate, modern signs and education material was also installed at Melaleuca to increase awareness and engagement with the volunteers and visitors in the hope of helping this critically threatened bird survive.
ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF COUNTRY
FNPW supports projects across Australia. In the spirit of reconciliation we acknowledge the Traditional Owners of Country and recognise their continuing connection to land, waters and culture.
PROGRESS OF THIS PROJECT
The project was completed in 2015.
This project was funded by FNPW in 2014.
Wildcare Tasmania was the lead organisation for this project, with support from the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service.
Further information about our project partner can be found on their website: https://wildcaretas.org.au/
During the 2014 winter months in Hobart, a new design of nest box that has a removable inner sleeve to assist biosecurity protocols was developed and prototypes were constructed. Materials for a second aviary were also sourced and all materials transported by sea to the remote site in South West Tasmania. The design of the aviary was such that all released birds could access the aviary following their release.
Before the birds arrived back from wintering on the Australian mainland in late September 2014, a team travelled to Melaleuca to build and build and install a second release aviary, install the new artificial nest boxes, remote cameras and climate data loggers, snake proof nesting trees, and to set up the supplementary feeding arrangements for the birds during the season. A manual outlining the monitoring protocols for the volunteers who observe the birds daily from October 2014 to April 2015 inclusive was also revised and completed. This manual forms the basis of the volunteer’s observations at the feed tables, as well as the requirements for provision of seed, and cleaning of the feed tables. Each pair of volunteers undertake two weeks of monitoring, with inductions prior to their departure for Melaleuca, and daily call-in arrangements to ensure their wellbeing and also to report progress with the program.
In November 2014, 27 captive bred birds were transported in three groups to Melaleuca, and held and monitored in the aviaries for several days whilst they recovered from transport and acclimatised to the environment. Cameras on both the aviaries and the feed tables were deployed to monitor the use of these facilities by both released and wild birds.
During November and December, observations of bird behaviours and occupancy of nest boxes were undertaken to determine identity of breeding pairs, as well as to monitor other species that may compete with, or predate on, OBPs.
During January – March, repeat visits were made to Melaleuca to assess the annual OBP breeding effort, measured by the number of eggs and nestling in nestboxes, as well as banding chicks for future identification.
At the end of the breeding season, cameras and data loggers were retrieved from the field and data downloaded. Throughout the breeding season, each day volunteers document the identification of individual OBPs visiting the feed tables by noting the unique combinations of bands on the OBPs. This information is then entered into a comprehensive database for analyses of intra and inter survival rates, daily activity records, and patterns of persistence at the feed tables.
At least 35 OBPs returned to Melaleuca for the 2014/15 breeding season. This is a notable increase from the numbers of returns in recent years as no more than 25 birds have returned each year since 2010.
This number included four of the 24 captive-bred birds that were released at Melaleuca in 2013— a great result. The release of captive bred birds into the wild aims to decrease the extinction risk for the small wild population.
27 captive-bred birds were released at Melaleuca in November 2014. 18 of these birds remained in the area for the length of the breeding season, a survival rate of 67%, greatly exceeding the 42% survival rate observed the previous season.
Unrestricted access to release aviaries is thought to have been a contributing factor to this success. Captive-release birds were observed to participate in breeding, with some pairs raising nestlings, and contributed to the season’s productivity. 30 young were recorded at Melaleuca this year, which is comparable with recent years.
Further information on the status of the OBP numbers can be found here.