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News from the colony

News from the colony | Tuesday, 17 January 2023

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News from the colony

Good numbers of Orange-bellied Parrots return to Tasmania to breed

There’s plenty of good news to start the new year on the Orange-bellied Parrot front.

The number of birds which returned to Melaleuca, in Tasmania’s South West, has exceeded expectations, with the highest number of parrots recorded here since 2008. Melaleuca is the species’ last remaining breeding site.

All up, 74 parrots returned this breeding season, comprising 43 males and 31 females, being a mixture of wild-bred and captive-bred birds (the latter had been released at Melaleuca as juveniles). And their numbers have already been boosted by another release of yet more captive-bred birds at the site (13 males and 13 females).

Although exactly where most of these returning birds were hiding last winter remains unknown, several of the parrots which arrived back at Melaleuca had previously been recorded on the Australian mainland. These included five natural migrants which had joined a flock of captive-fledged birds at Lake Connewarre, in southern Victoria (the captive-bred birds had been released on the mainland earlier in the year, so had never migrated). Another three (two wild-fledged birds and one fledged in captivity) which were seen at a surprisingly busy site in South Gippsland in early October. All three arrived back at Melaleuca in mid-November. Another four natural migrants were recorded at Melbourne Water’s Western Treatment Plant (a site used for mainland releases in previous years).

Breeding is now well underway at Melaleuca, with the first eggs found in nest-boxes in mid-December. Breeding is also in full swing in the various aviaries as well, with a combined total of 55 pairs, 233 eggs, 86 nestlings and 13 fledglings being cared for in captive-breeding facilities at Five Mile Beach, Healesville Sanctuary, Moonlit Sanctuary, Priam Psittaculture Centre and Adelaide Zoo.

NRE Tasmania will soon be busy banding wild nestlings, while the breeding facilities will be busy preparing juveniles for another release into the wild before the migration season. Their release will allow the captive-bred juveniles to mingle with their wild counterparts and, importantly, learn survival skills from wild adults — so vital with the imminent approach of their northward migration from Melaleuca in the autumn.

The Orange-bellied Parrot Recovery Team comprises 28 government, non-government and community groups, including representatives from BirdLife Australia.