Further knowledge and urgent action required to save Orange-bellied Parrots from extinction

Date: 16, Nov, 2017
Author(s):   Stojanovic, D., Alves, F., Cook, H., Crates, R., Heinsohn, R., Peters, A., Rayner, L., Troy, S.N., Webb, M.H.
Publisher: Emu

Only three wild-bred female Orange-bellied Parrots returned from migration in the 2016/17 breeding season, representing the lowest point of a long-term decline. In this context of imminent extinction risk we (i) update knowledge of population parameters, (ii) critically evaluate current recovery actions, and (iii) identify new management options. We present new data from the 2016/17 breeding season. Orange-bellied Parrots were only observed at the last known breeding site where fire suppression may have caused shortage of natural food. Recently burned habitat elsewhere support abundant food, but no parrots. Fecundity of captive-bred individuals was significantly worse than wild-bred individuals (0.8 vs. 3 fledglings respectively), mostly due to infertility. Bacterial septicemia due to contaminated food caused mortalities of at least four nestlings. Fostering captive-bred nestlings to the wild showed some potential as a recovery tool, with 2 of 4 nests accepting a foster nestling, and one of these fledging successfully. Captive-bred birds had poorer feather condition than wild birds. Addressing food shortages and the addition of new management actions to improve population recruitment are critical and urgent recovery priorities. We suggest recovery priorities for the species arising from our results, including emergency intervention to prevent imminent extinction.