The Orange-bellied Parrot breeds only in summer in Tasmania, with most of the population migrating to spend winter in coastal Victoria and South Australia. Adult Orange-bellied Parrots return to Tasmania around October to breed, and leave for mainland Australia in late February to mid-March. Juveniles depart for mainland wintering grounds a little later, towards the end of March to early April. It is thought that they mostly travel at night.
The Orange-bellied Parrot is just bigger than a Budgerigar, with an average size of 23cm. The male and female vary slightly in appearance but both have a greyish-black bill, a dark-brown eye and greyish-brown legs. The male is a bright grass-green on the head, back and most of the wings, fading to a yellowish-green on the throat and breast, to bright yellow to the vent and under the tail. The belly has a bright orange patch, and there is a deep blue band between the eyes, bordered above by a faint blue line. The male also has bright blue on the bend of the wings. The female is duller, with less blue and a smaller orange belly patch.
Soft warbling sounds when feeding, and the contact call uttered in flight is a sharp ‘tzit’ repeated every few seconds. Most distinctive is the alarm call it makes when flushed, a unique ‘buzzing’ described as ‘metallic’ and ‘explosive’.
Orange-bellied Parrots are migratory birds. They breed in Tasmania in the summer months and migrate to the southern coast of mainland Australia, as far west as The Coorong in South Australia, and east in Victoria to Westernport Bay. Occasionally the Orange-bellied Parrot is seen out of this range.
Orange-bellied Parrots live in coastal and sub-coastal areas, preferring peninsulas and islands. They live in low scrublands, shore heathlands and salt marshes as well as grassy areas. Sometimes they can be seen living in golf courses. They breed in patches of woodland dominated by Smithon Peppermints, Eucalyptus nitida among coastal heathland and button grass plains.
Other plants associated with this species, include:
Juveniles form small foraging flocks and go to the mainland about a month later than adults. The Orange-bellied Parrot feeds on the ground or on low-growing shrubs.
Their food includes the seeds, fruits, flowers and berries of herbaceous plants, sedges and plants that grow in salty or alkaline conditions such as saltmarshes.
Orange-bellied Parrots nest in the hollows of eucalypt trees near button grass plains in southwest Tasmania. The female lays 3 to 6 eggs and incubates and broods the nestlings while being fed by the male every 2 to 3 hours. The male may then feed up to 5 km away from the nest site. Once the nestlings are about 10 days old, the female leaves them during the day and helps the male in feeding them. The juvenile birds leave the nest 4 to 5 weeks after hatching and may be fed by their parents before becoming independent.