October 12, 2021
OBP wild population update:
- DPIPWE volunteers have been kept busy the last fortnight, confirming the arrival of another eight OBPs to Melaleuca.
- This brings the total number of wild returns to Melaleuca to 12 OBPs: eight females and four males. Seven of these returns are wild-borne, and five are captive-bred birds released in previous breeding seasons (one as an adult in spring, and four as juveniles in late summer/autumn).
Captive insurance program update:
- We have been busy preparing for the upcoming releases of captive-bred adults to Melaleuca, to increase the number of breeding pairs and balance the sex ratio if needed.
- Last week we transferred 10 OBPs from Moonlit Sanctuary and DPIPWE 5 Mile Beach facility to aviaries at Melaleuca, with those birds to be released in the coming days.
- This week we are transferring another 10 OBPs from DPIPWE 5 Mile Beach facility to the Melaleuca aviaries, with releases planned for next week. Another group will be released in early November, with numbers and sexes to be confirmed depending on the composition of the migrating wild population.
We are aiming for weekly updates as birds return this season, so watch this space for news of wild OBP happenings!
The first Orange-bellied Parrot to return to Tasmania for the breeding season has been sighted.
- Green E Yellow, a captive bred bird from Moonlit Sanctuary that was released as part of a juvenile release in 2019 was the first parrot to be recorded at the species’ remote breeding grounds at Melaleuca, in the state’s southwest, this Monday.
- The sighting signals the start of what is hoped to be another successful breeding season. Last season was the most successful season of the recovery effort on record for the critically endangered species.
- The combined success of captive breeding and releases, and successful breeding of the wild population, led to an estimated 192 Orange-bellied Parrots migrating north to the mainland which is the biggest flock recorded since monitoring began in the early 1990s.
- Preparation work, including ecological burns to enhance foraging habitat near nesting sites and provide more natural food, has been undertaken to help build on the success of recent years.
- Additional nest boxes will also be installed to increase the area of available breeding habitat to support the continued increase and expansion of the breeding population.
- It is hoped the population census in December will exceed last season’s adult population record, when 51 individual birds returned in 2020-21. The previous record was 35 in 2014-15.
Orange-bellied Parrots are now migrating to mainland Australia after a successful breeding season in Tasmania.
- In total, 192 Orange-bellied Parrots survived to the end of the breeding season to migrate from Melaleuca
- 137 eggs laid in 31 nests, hatching out 99 nestlings of which 87 fledged. The number of nests, eggs laid, and fledglings produced were the highest since systematic nest box monitoring began in 1994
- The population size, which is determined each December when adult birds return to Melaleuca, was 51 birds
- Five years ago, the population dropped to just 17 birds
- DPIPWE released a total of 81 Orange-bellied Parrots at Melaleuca: 31 adults in spring to increase the number of breeding pairs, and 50 juveniles at the end of the season to increase the size of the migrating flock
- The seven nestlings observed at New Harbour fledged and joined the flock at Melaleuca before migrating, along with the two adult breeding pairs
- Orange-bellied Parrots were seen foraging in the buttongrass plains around Melaleuca
Find out more about the success of this year's breeding season.
The Tasmanian Orange Bellied Parrot Program has reached another milestone in the conservation of the critically endangered species:
- In total 136 eggs were laid in 31 nests at Melaleuca this breeding season
- There were 88 live nestlings counted across 27 nests
- This is the highest number of nestlings recorded at Melaleuca since the nest box monitoring started in 1994
- The average clutch size (eggs laid), and brood size (eggs hatched), for individual nests are higher than they have been since 2014
- For the first time 2 nests were found at New Harbour with a total of 7 nestlings
- This is the first sign of a range expansion of the breeding population since recovery efforts started
Five Mile Beach Facility:
- The Five Mile Beach captive facility recorded a successful breeding season
- 79 fledglings and 40 nestlings were recorded with more eggs to hatch
- The second round of breeding is underway
- Up to 50 juveniles bred at the Five Mile Beach Facility, and at the Moonlit Sanctuary captive facility in Victoria, have undergone health screenings and will be released at Melaleuca to join the wild born fledglings at the end of the season
The Orange-Bellied Parrot (OBP) Recovery Team has confirmed that as of 21 January 2020, 23 OBPs have returned to the last known breeding location, Melaleuca in the last year.
- More than half of these OBPs are females, for the first time in five years;
- Among those returned birds, 16 were born in the wild, six were first year birds migrating successfully for the first time, while the remaining ten successful wild-born migrants were aged up to at least nine years old;
- The other seven of the OBPs that returned were born in captivity and released at Melaleuca as either: juveniles last autumn (four) or the previous autumn (one), or adults last spring (one) or a previous spring (one).
DPIPWE led the release of 34 OBPs (17 males, 17 females) to maximise the number of breeding pairs and young birds born in the wild this season.
Of the 34 OBPs added to the population:
- nine were captive-bred adults released to the wild for the first time.
- the remaining 25 OBPs were released after being captured in the wild last autumn and held in captivity over winter. Three of these were captive-born birds that had been released the previous spring,18 were wild-born birds that fledged last breeding season, and four were wild born birds that had fledged the previous season.
The OBPs (listed above) were either born or held in captivity in the OBP Tasmanian Program's Five Mile Beach facility, Moonlit Sanctuary, Zoos Victoria's Healesville Sanctuary, and Werribee Open Range Zoo.
The OBP is one of Australia's most critically endangered species. Throughout the past decade, the number of individuals that have returned to Melaleuca has ranged between 17 and 35 individuals.
With the best female returns for several years and released birds boosting the small wild population, the OBP Tasmanian Program is hopeful for promising results this breeding season.
A full summary by the Orange-bellied Parrot Recovery Team can be found below:
Volunteers have reported observations of 20 wild return OBPs at Melaleuca – 11 males and 9 females.
8 are wild born birds >1 year of age that have undergone a natural migration;
4 are wild born birds <1 year of age that have undergone a natural migration;
1 is a wild born bird that was previously head-started (at Werribee Open Range Zoo) and released at Melaleuca in Spring 2018 before migrating naturally this year;
2 are captive-bred birds released in previous spring releases (one from DPIPWE, one from Priam);
1 is a captive-bred bird released as a juvenile in autumn 2018 (bred at Healesville) and
4 are captive-bred birds released as juveniles in autumn 2019 (all bred at Moonlit).
A further 34 individuals have now been released at Melaleuca. This supplementation increases the number of breeding pairs at Melaleuca (the only breeding site for OBPs) and balances the sex ratio, which prevents extinction in the wild.
15 OBPs were released at New Harbour (8 male on 30/11/19, 7 female on 31/11/19).
Of these, as of 4/11/19, up to nine have been detected as follows:
Five in one release aviary, with a sixth calling outside;
One is being observed at both Melaleuca and New Harbour and
Two are outside of the immediate release area.
Monitoring at the site is underway using a camera and passive and active radio tracking.
This reintroduction aims to increase the size and extent of the Tasmanian breeding population and trial methods of release at more locations, to allow us to build towards a release strategy that can minimise the risks associated with a single breeding site.