Orange-bellied parrot numbers on the rise

By Candice Marshall 12 April 2022
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Record numbers of critically endangered orange-bellied parrots have been spotted in Tasmania’s wilderness.

In the wild and rugged southwest corner of Tasmania, deep in the remote World Heritage Area, a group of volunteers gather, taking shelter in the few buildings at Melaleuca, a tiny settlement only accessible by air or boat.

Why are they here? Because this is the only place in Australia where the critically endangered orange-bellied parrot (Neophema chrysogaster) breeds.

The volunteers are part of the Tasmanian Department of Natural Resources and Environment’s OBP Tasmanian Program which conducts a yearly census of the number of orange-bellied parrots that return to Melaleuca after migrating for the winter to coastal Victoria and South Australia.

In December the group announced “we are excited to report that the final census count of birds confirmed to have returned to Melaleuca in 2021–22 is… 70!”

“Just five years ago, the wild OBP adult population size was 17 birds, including only four females. Ten years ago, there were only 22 adults in the population. Now, in 2021, we have the highest number of birds in the Melaleuca wild population in at least 15 years.”

A group of rare orange-bellied parrots (Neophema chrysogaster), Melaleuca, remote southwest Tasmania. Image credit: Cameron Blake

Just last month volunteers were treated to an amazing show when the usually elusive birds were seen gathered in a large group.

Luckily, photographer Cameron Blake was there to capture the spectacular event.

Orange-bellied parrot (Neophema chrysogaster), Melaleuca, remote southwest Tasmania. Image credit: Cameron Blake

“It only lasted about five to 10 minutes,” says Cameron.

“These birds are notoriously flighty and very hard to bunker down into one spot.

“It was magnificent to see them in the wild and in such an abundance of numbers.”

Tasmania’s remote southwest World Heritage Area – prime orange-bellied parrot habitat. Image credit: Cameron Blake