Latest Updates

​March 16, 2022

With the 2021-22 Orange-bellied Parrot breeding season coming to an end, the Orange-bellied Parrot Tasmanian Program has collated the data on population numbers, breeding and survival. The season has shown mixed results: a record number of Orange-bellied Parrots migrated south to Melaleuca in Spring, but the number of nests and the proportion of birds remaining at Melaleuca to the end of the season were both lower than average.

We had a promising start to the season, with 70 adult Orange-bellied Parrots (34 males and 36 females) returning to their breeding grounds at Melaleuca from the Australian mainland. This was the highest adult population size in at least 15 years. Between October and November, we released 24 captive-bred adults (14 males and 10 females) in three groups to supplement the wild population and increase the number of breeding pairs. 

Observations from Melaleuca suggest that of the 70 wild birds that returned to Melaleuca this season, 38 (54%) remain in the population in the area. Three of the 24 captive-bred adults (12.5%) released in Spring are still being observed. This is very different to previous seasons: since 2013, the majority of wild returns (more than 70%) and spring release adults (more than 50%) have continued to be recorded at Melaleuca until the end of the breeding season.

Data on occurrence, survival and persistence of individual Orange-bellied Parrots is gathered through daily observations at three feed tables at Melaleuca. Orange-bellied Parrots are attracted to the tables using supplementary seed, and volunteers identify and record each bird seen at the table. The data show that in November and December some birds were only being seen sporadically at the tables, less regularly than in previous seasons. A number of birds were not seen at all after November or December. There are a number of potential reasons for birds not being recorded at the feed tables, and at this stage we don’t know for sure whether they:
  • have dispersed away from the area and are inhabiting or nesting in other habitats
  • are exploiting abundant wild food sources resulting from planned burns in the Melaleuca area, and therefore visiting the feed tables less often
  • are being missed at the feed tables: with more birds crowding onto the tables, it can be difficult to record every bird every time
  • have not survived the season
  • a combination of any of the above.
There were no signs of predation or bird health issues during population or nest monitoring during the period these birds stopped being seen, but we cannot rule out an unusually high rate of mortality from some unknown cause or causes. If individuals that were not seen in monitoring at Melaleuca are detected during monitoring or surveys in the migration and mainland range, it will confirm that these birds left Melaleuca this season. Sightings of unbanded juveniles would indicate that some Orange-bellied Parrots are nesting away from the monitored nest boxes at Melaleuca. If unbanded juveniles or the individuals no longer sighted at Melaleuca are not seen by the December 2022 population census, we will conclude that their disappearance is a result of mortality.

The number of breeding pairs and nesting attempts was lower than we initially expected, most likely because of the decline in female numbers prior to the onset of nesting. However, the success of each nesting attempt was high: 18 nesting attempts resulted in up to 60 fledglings. Despite the low number of nests, this would be the second highest number of fledglings produced at Melaleuca since 2004. Additionally, the average number of fledglings per nest, at 3.33, is the highest in over a decade. 

In late Summer, 50 captive-bred juvenile Orange-bellied Parrots from Moonlit Sanctuary, Healesville Sanctuary and the Department of Natural Resources and Environment Tasmania Five Mile Beach captive facility were released into the Melaleuca population to increase the size of the migrating flock. With 41 returned or released adults that have persisted at Melaleuca, the 50 released juveniles, and up to 60 wild-born juveniles, we expect about 140 Orange-bellied Parrots to migrate from Melaleuca at the end of the 2021-22 breeding season.

Although the outcomes this season were mixed, we know that survival and breeding success for this critically endangered species will vary from year to year. The past five years have seen steady improvements in the size of the wild population. We are confident that our ongoing management actions such as population monitoring, release of captive-bred birds to supplement the wild population, habitat management through planned burning, and management of threats such as predation and disease, which all led us to the recent improvement in population size, will continue to assist recovery of this species in the wild. 

Efforts to recover such an imperilled species as the Orange-bellied Parrot are necessarily adaptive, and the Orange-bellied Parrot Tasmanian Program will continue to build on our collective knowledge and experience at every step.

​​December 22, 2021

The OBP Tasmanian Program are excited to report that the final census count of birds confirmed to have returned to Melaleuca in 2021-22 is …. 70!

The successful migrants include 34 males and 36 females. 48 of the returnees were wild-born, and 22 were captive-bred and released in previous seasons.

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.

This increase in population size is the result of a huge amount of coordinated and sustained effort from the members of our National Orange-bellied Parrot Recovery Team and the staff and volunteers within their organisations.

We know we still have a long road ahead of us with a lot of work to do for this critically endangered species, but we are very encouraged by this result, and eager to see how it translates to breeding success this year. We'll be back in the new year with further updates.


​December 6, 2021

OBP Wild population update:

​With less than two weeks until the official Melaleuca census date of December 15, Orange-bellied Parrot arrivals have tapered off. The number of confirmed returns now sits at 62, after a bird first seen in early November was finally confirmed last week. Although the odd late arrival may still turn up, it's likely that any further increase in numbers will be through resighting of the remaining OBPs seen once but yet to be confirmed.

In total, 81 OBPs are known to be alive at Melaleuca: 41 females and 40 males. Our volunteers are being kept very busy trying to identify individual birds on crowded feed tables!

The nesting season has kicked off for the OBPs at Melaleuca, with some pairs regularly seen together at the feed tables. A number of females have stopped coming to the tables altogether; as nesting females are fed on or near the nest by their mates, this suggests they have laid and started incubating. OBP Program staff will be checking nest boxes and starting to band chicks in January.

Stay tuned for next week's OBP update from Melaleuca.

November 29, 2021

OBP wild population update​:​​​​​

We’ve passed 60! As of November 29th, 61 OBPs have returned to Melaleuca for the breeding season. With the 19 OBPs successfully released in Spring, this takes the total number of OBPs known to be alive in the wild population to 80.

Of the 61 returns, 32 are female and 29 are male, with just over half (31) being first year birds born in early 2021. Twenty of the 61 returns are captive-bred birds released in previous season, with the remaining 41 having been born at Melaleuca.

Orange-bellied Parrot returns to Melaleuca have been slowing down, with only one new arrival since our last update. However, this week our intrepid volunteers have confirmed the presence of two OBPs that were first seen nearly four weeks ago but hadn’t been seen since. These two can now be included in the list of returns, having been seen independently by two people – our criterion for confirming returns. Although we still have a few OBPs to be confirmed as returnees, we only expect a handful of new birds to arrive at Melaleuca between now and the annual census date of December 15.

We’re excited to see what the final number will be, so stay tuned for further updates from Melaleuca!


​November 22, 2021

OBP wild population update​:​​​​​

The OBPs continue to arrive at Melaleuca, with 58 OBPs having now returned from migration (31 females, 27 males). 39 of the 58 are wild-born, and 19 are captive-bred birds released in previous seasons. 29 are first year birds, and 29 are birds in their second year or older. 
 
The 58 returnees plus resightings of 19 OBPs that were released in spring brings the total number of OBPs at Melaleuca to 77. With 39 females and 38 males in the population, we are pleased to see that the sex ratio is balancing out, and that most females will have the opportunity to find a mate for breeding. With the breeding season now well underway, we expect the first eggs are now down in wild nest-boxes and are looking forward to our January field trip to monitor reproductive output. In the meantime, there are still a number of birds to be confirmed as arrivals to Melaleuca, and a couple of weeks for the last returnees to show up, so keep an eye on our page for updated numbers next Monday. 


Novem​ber 15, 2021

OBP wild population update​:​​​​​

They did it! Great news from Melaleuca, with a total of 52 OBPs now confirmed to have returned to Melaleuca so far this breeding season. Last season, 51 OBPs returned, resulting in the largest wild adult population size in over a decade. Exceeding last year's record and having two good years in a row are both encouraging signs of OBP recovery, and along with recent releases, makes for a great start to this breeding season.

The 52 wild returns are comprised of 29 females and 23 males. 18 are captive-bred birds released in previous seasons and 34 are wild born birds. 24 are birds in their first year, and 28 are in their second year or older. ​

​​​​Even better, there are still a number of OBPs at Melaleuca that are awaiting a second resighting for confirmation of return, and there are still a few weeks for new birds to return ahead of the final census date of December 15th. 

Keep watching this space for further updates!​​​​​

November​​​ 8, 2021

OBP wild population update:

Thanks to some warm northerlies over the past week we have had a big week of new Orange-bellied Parrot arrivals, with 45 Orange-bellied Parrots now confirmed to have returned to Melaleuca so far this breeding season: 27 females and 18 males.
Thirty-one of the 45 are wild-​born birds, and 14 are captive-bred birds released at Melaleuca in previous breeding seasons. Eighteen of the returns are first-year birds, and the remaining 27 are in their second year or older.
The most exciting return last week was that of Silver Red P, a wild-born male who was resighted south of Adelaide over the winter. He was the first confirmed sighting in that state for eight years and has travelled more than 1000km from one end of the species distribution to the other to return to Melaleuca for breeding.
The 45 returnees are joined by 15 captive-bred Orange-bellied Parrots from our first two spring releases, bringing the total number of Orange-bellied Parrots known to be alive at Melaleuca to 60: 35 females and 25 males. A further four males were released at Melaleuca yesterday morning, and their survival will be assessed in the coming fortnight.
Migration returns typically slow in the last week of November, and the final adult population count is taken on December 15.
There are still a few more weeks for Orange-bellied Parrots to return to Melaleuca, and we are starting to get pretty excited about the prospect of exceeding last year’s decadal-plus record of 51 returns – we are quietly confident that they might just get there! Keep an eye on this page for our next update.


November 1, 2021

OBP wild po​pulation update:​​

​We are pleased to re​​port that 31 OBPs are now confirmed to have returned to Melaleuca this breeding season; 19 females and 12 males. 
Twelve of the 31 are captive-bred birds that were released at Melaleuca in 2020 or earlier, and 19 are wild-born birds. Six of the returns are first-year birds, and the remaining 25 are in their second year or older.
The 31 returnees are joined by 15 captive-bred OBPs from our first two spring releases, bringing the total number of OBPs known to be alive at Melaleuca to 46: 27 fem​​​ales and 19 males.
​​We've been keeping an eye on the sex ratio for a few weeks now, waiting and wishing for more males to arrive. It's worth remembering that on the 1st of November last year, 28 OBPs had returned to Melaleuca: 18 females and 10 males. By the census date, 15th of December, there was 24 male and 27 female OBP returns to Melaleuca, which was supplemented by 17 male and 14 female OBPs released to the wild from the captive population
​​The third group of captive-bred birds were transferred to Melaleuca this morning: four males from the DPIPWE captive breeding facility. While it would be ideal to release more males to correct the female bias in the breeding population at this point of the season, despite 33 males (and 31 females) being placed in pre-release quarantine, only 14 males passed health screening. All 14 were or will be released at Melaleuca. To avoid worsening the female bias DPIPWE will not release any further females this season.

At the end of the 2020-21 season, the departing population had a fairly equal sex ratio, so we are hopeful that as occurred last season, more males will arrive at Melaleuca in the coming month.  

​​

October 25, 2021​

OBP wild population update:​

 27 OBPs are now confirmed to have returned to Melaleuca this breeding season; 17 females and 10 males. 
Nine of the 27 were captive-bred birds released at Melaleuca in 2020 or earlier, and 18 were wild-born birds – including the arrival of three first year birds over the last week.
​​These 27 returnees are joined by 10 captive-bred OBPs from our first release event, and 5 of the 10 captive-bred OBPs from our second release event, with the other 5 still to be resighted. This brings the number of OBPs known to be alive in the wild population to 42: 25 females and 17 males.
A third group of captive-bred birds will be transferred and released in early November, with numbers and sexes to be confirmed depending on the composition of the returning wild population.

We are expecting further wild returns over the coming month.

​​​​

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). ​

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!


Septem​ber 2021

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.

​​​​​​April 2021

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.

​​

January 2​021

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
New Harbour:
  • 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

January​ 2020

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. ​​

Of these:

  • ​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:

​November 2019

Volunteers have reported observations of 20 wild return OBPs at Melaleuca – 11 males and 9 females.

Of these:

  • 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.


New Harbour

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.