The Orange-bellied Parrot Program Tasmania is thrilled to announce that the final census of birds confirmed to have returned to Melaleuca in 2023 is 81! This includes 24 wild born and 6 captive-bred juveniles from last season.
This is a new census record for Orange-bellied Parrots in the wild and is a testament to the immense hard work and dedication by the Orange-bellied Parrot Recovery Team, partner organisations, staff, and volunteers.
So far this season, we have released 19 captive-bred birds and early nest inspections suggest a promising beginning to the breeding season.
We would like to thank you for your continued support through this journey and we will provide further updates into the new year. Wishing everyone a safe and happy holiday season!
We are into the last week before our official census date and the number of OBPs that have returned to Melaleuca remains at 81 with no new confirmed returns since our last update. Our volunteers are observing a higher presence of males on feed tables in comparison to females, suggesting an increase in nesting activity. OBP Program staff will begin checking nest boxes in the field this week.
As the census date approaches on Friday, stay tuned for the final update scheduled for Monday!
Orange-bellied Parrots are continuing to trickle in to Melaleuca, with two more confirmed to have arrived at the breeding grounds since our last update. This takes us to 81 confirmed returns.
Along with the captive-bred adults we released at Melaleuca earlier in the season, these successful migrants should now be pairing up, establishing nests and starting to lay. OBP Program staff will conduct the first nest box checks next week.
Stay tuned for our final weekly update next Monday!
With 79 confirmed returns, we have a new record for Orange-bellied Parrots!
The program is ecstatic to announce that we have reached an enormous milestone in the program's history, with another two OBPs returning to the last known breeding site, Melaleuca. So far, this is the largest number of returns in over 15 years. However, with our census date not until the 15 December we are all on the edge of our seats to see what the final number will be.
We also have some fantastic news from the NRE Tas captive program, who are delighted to report that the first nestlings have hatched at the Five Mile Beach Wildlife Management Facility!
Eyes not yet opened, weighing less than 10g, and with only the faintest hint of developing plumage, these nestlings will spend the next month eating, resting, and growing. Their parents, both experienced breeding birds, can expect to be busy! Wildlife Officers will be hard at work, ensuring all birds are well looked after and growing into fledglings able to assist in the recovery program.
We'll report again once the first nestling has fledged!
Another seven Orange-bellied parrots (OBPs) have been confirmed at Melaleuca since our update last week. This brings the total of returns to 77, which means we have reached last year's census record!
The census record was the largest number of returns in over 15 years, and we still have 25 days until the 2023/24 census date. Will we break the record this time?
The last 11 confirmed returns are parrots that were born in the wild last year.
The NRE Tas captive breeding facility have also recorded another 31 eggs laid, bringing the total to 114.
We value your support during this exciting time! Stay tuned for another update next week.
We have reached 70!
Our volunteers have confirmed another 15 Orange-bellied Parrots have arrived at Melaleuca. This includes two captive-bred birds that were released as adults last spring, one from the Five Mile Beach Wildlife Management Facility and the other from Healesville Sanctuary. Spring release birds are generally less likely to return to Melaleuca than wild birds or captive birds released as juveniles, so it is great to see these two back again, having successfully completed a full migration.
Last season, the total number of confirmed returns was 77 and so with just over a month to go until our 15 December 2023 census date, we are very excited to see how many more will return.
Another 34 eggs have also been laid at the NRE Tas captive breeding facility bringing the total to 83. No nestlings have been observed yet, however our staff are keeping a close eye on them so stay tuned for updates.
Another eight Orange-bellied parrots (OBPs) have been confirmed at Melaleuca, bringing the total to 55!
The final six spring release birds will spend their last day in the aviary at Melaleuca today and are set to be released tomorrow.
Along with the 12 OBPs already released this season, these birds from the NRE Tas Five Mile Beach Wildlife Management Facility and Healesville Sanctuary will supplement the population with the intent to increase the number of breeding pairs.
Our new couple of volunteers are settling in at Melaleuca and our captive team are also happy to report that 49 eggs have been laid at the Five Mile Beach Wildlife Management Facility.
We will provide an update when the first nestling is sighted.
Last week we reported that returns were slowing down…but in the past week the Orange-bellied Parrots have been making up for lost time! 15 birds have been confirmed at Melaleuca since our last update, taking the total to 47. With the 12 captive-bred adults released so far, another group scheduled for release next week, and plenty of time for more arrivals, we're hoping a good number of breeding pairs this season to further bolster the population of this threatened species. We'll be back next week with another update.
The arrival of the Orange-bellied Parrots has slowed this week however we are happy to report that another five have been confirmed bringing the total to 32!
On Tuesday last week, another six captive- bred birds were released at Melaleuca. We will have an update next week on the final group of birds that will make up the spring release cohort for this season.
The first eggs have also been laid by an experienced five-year old female in our Five Mile Beach Wildlife Management Facility, with many more expected to come soon. We will be back with an update after the first nestling has hatched.
The recent strong winds have favoured the Orange-bellied Parrots with another 12 returning to Melaleuca bringing the total to 27!
Our spring release is well underway with 12 captive-bred adult birds being transported to Melaleuca from the NRE Tas Five Mile Beach Wildlife Management Facility last week. The first six birds were successfully released on Sunday and the remaining six are set to be released tomorrow.
Excitingly the breeding season has also officially kicked off at the Five Mile Beach Wildlife Management Facility. Thirty-one breeding pairs are established, and many females are already starting to build their nests. Wildlife Officers are seeing courtship behaviours and expect the first eggs later this month. We will keep you updated once the very first egg is spotted.
More Orange-bellied Parrots (OBP) continue to arrive!
This week, our NRE Tas OBP team is happy to report that five new OBPs have arrived at Melaleuca, bringing the total confirmed to 15. This includes a captive-bred juvenile from Healesville Sanctuary, released last season. As well as being busy with observations, our dedicated volunteers have also been setting up pre-release aviaries at Melaleuca, ready for this season's first group of captive bred birds which will be released in the next couple of weeks.
Spring has arrived and the season is well underway for the Department of Natural Resources and Environment Tasmania (NRE Tas) Orange-bellied Parrot (OBP) Tasmanian Program. The first OBPs have returned to their Melaleuca breeding grounds after spending the winter on the Australian mainland. OBP Program volunteers have recorded 10 individual OBPs at the Melaleuca feed tables so far.
Of the 10 returnees, five were captive bred juveniles that were released between 2019 and 2022, and five were born in the wild between 2019 and 2022. At the end of last season, we estimated that around 139 OBPs migrated north and we're excited to see how many will return this season.
NRE Tas OBP Tasmanian Program staff are refreshing and replacing OBP nest boxes at Melaleuca and surrounding areas. Our annual volunteer monitoring program has also begun and will run until April. Our volunteers play a vital role in supporting the OBP Program, providing supplementary feed to the parrots and feed tables for monitoring every day to obtain critical information on the wild population. In the next few weeks, captive-bred adult OBPs from NRE Tas and Healesville Sanctuary will be released at Melaleuca to supplement the number of potential breeding pairs in the wild population.
The NRE Tas OBP team is dedicated to providing regular updates on OBP numbers and program activities throughout the season here and on the Orange-bellied Parrot Tasmanian Program
Orange bellied parrot
They just keep coming! Over the last week seven more birds have arrived in Melaleuca, bringing the total number of confirmed returned birds to 67. We're really close to last year's total of 70 birds which is really exciting to see.
Thirty of the birds that have returned so far are female and 37 are male. There are 40 wild born birds, and 27 birds that were released as juveniles in previous seasons (between 2019 and 2022).
With still ten days until the census date, we're excited to see what the final number will be, so stay tuned for further updates from Melaleuca!
We’ve reached 60! This morning, Orange-bellied Parrot Tasmanian Program volunteers confirmed the 60th wild Orange-bellied Parrot to return to Melaleuca this season. This is only the second time in more than a decade that we have reached this milestone.
So far, we have 34 wild males and 26 wild females, plus released birds, so we are looking forward to a good number of pairs breeding in the coming months.
We thank all our hard-working volunteers who, braving everything the south-west Tasmanian weather can throw at them, spend hours watching OBPs visiting feed tables. Their dedicated efforts help us keep track of the birds and provide the latest information for our weekly updates.
It's been an exciting week at Melaleuca. On Thursday, OBP Program volunteers recorded the 50th return for the season – a male that was born at Melaleuca last season, and had been seen in Gippsland in October. Since then we've had a few more birds trickling in, bringing the current tally to 53 confirmed returns: 25 females and 28 males. At the end of last season we estimated approximately 54 OPBs would return in 2022, so with a month to go until the census date we are well on track to exceed expectations. We have already surpassed the 2020 season (51 returns), making this the second-highest number of returns in the past decade.
Last week also saw the successful release of six captive-born adult Orange-bellied Parrots into the wild at Melaleuca. This was the final of three Spring Releases planned for this season. In total we have released 26 adult OBPs (13 male, 13 female) from Moonlit Sanctuary, Healesville Sanctuary and the NRE Tas Five Mile Beach Wildlife Management Facility. Spring Releases are a significant collaborative effort so our sincere thanks go to everybody involved in the breeding, care and selection of OBPs for release.
Orange-bellied Parrot (OBP) numbers at Melaleuca are still increasing, with 12 new birds returning since our last update. This brings us to 39 returned birds so far: 18 males and 21 females. A further six captive-bred OBPs from Healesville Sanctuary and the NRE Tas Five Mile Beach Wildlife Management Facility are being held in an aviary at Melaleuca and will be released later this week.
This is the third and final Spring Release for this season, just in time for these birds to join the breeding population; the other OBPs are already busy staking their claim on nest boxes. OBP Program staff are out this week putting up additional nest boxes to expand the opportunities for OBP nesting in what we hope will be another successful breeding season at Melaleuca.
It's been a week of heavy weather in Melaleuca with strong southerlies and plenty of rain. This has slowed the returns of Orange-bellied Parrots to Melaleuca somewhat. One new bird arrived last week, Orange D Black, a female from Healesville Sanctuary released as a juvenile in February 2022.
This takes the total number of returned birds so far this season to 27, 14 females and 13 males. With some northerlies on the way hopefully we'll have a few more birds more arriving this coming week and continuing into mid-December.
Since our last update a further eight Orange-bellied Parrots (OBPs) have returned to their breeding grounds at Melaleuca, bringing the current total to 26 confirmed returns. The new birds comprise four females and four males, and all but one were hatched at Melaleuca – the other was a captive bird released at Melaleuca as a juvenile last season.
With 26 returns and 20 captive-born OBPs released over the last couple of weeks, the Melaleuca feed tables are getting busy, and OBP Tasmanian Program volunteers are being kept on their toes identifying OBPs by their unique leg band combinations.
OBPs at the Five Mile Beach Wildlife Management Facility usually start laying eggs in late October, and this year is no different - we can confirm the first eggs of the season have been laid! The first eggs, laid by a five-year-old female, were found by Wildlife Officers five days earlier than last year. Here's hoping for a successful breeding season!
Eight more Orange-bellied Parrots (OBPs) have been recorded at Melaleuca since last Monday, bringing the number of confirmed returns to 18: nine females and nine males. So far they are a good mix of wild-born birds and captive-born birds released as juveniles in previous seasons, with ages ranging from first-year birds to birds hatched in 2018.
Two of the returned birds were seen on the mainland over winter: Silver Black S and Silver Orange W, both wild-born birds from the 2020-21 season. While we had more wild returns this time last year, at this early stage the numbers are looking good, and we can't wait to see how many more will arrive by the December census date.
Ten more captive-bred birds were released at Melaleuca on Sunday morning as part of the Spring Release program.
Meanwhile, love is in the air at the Department of Natural Resources and Environment Tasmania's Five Mile Beach Wildlife Management Facility, with parrots there also getting ready for the breeding season.
OBP Tasmanian Program wildlife officers have been busy cleaning and adding fresh branches to breeding aviaries.
Twenty breeding pairs have been established, females have started building their nests, and wildlife officers are seeing some courtship feeding so we expect the first eggs later this month. We will provide an update once the first eggs have been seen.
After a quiet start to the week, the northerly weather over the past few days has seen three more Orange-bellied Parrots return to Melaleuca from their mainland wintering grounds.
The number of confirmed returnees now stands at 10: five wild-born and five released from captive institutions as juveniles in previous seasons.
All three of this week's arrivals are male, giving us a nice even five males and five females seen at Melaleuca so far.
One of the new returns, Purple Green B, was seen in Victoria over winter. Knowing where the birds are spending their time when they're not at Melaleuca gives us valuable information on the species' ecology – and knowing they have successfully migrated back to Melaleuca is great news for the mainland survey teams who see these birds in their non-breeding range.
In other news, the annual spring release of captive-bred OBPs is underway. Ten birds are being held in aviaries at Melaleuca ready for release tomorrow, with another 10 birds due to arrive at Melaleuca this afternoon. We'll post more details on these releases in the coming days.
Gold Y Yellow feeding up after his long migration to Melaleuca
After the first bird was confirmed at Melaleuca last week, birds have continued to return to their summer home. Over the past week, Department of Natural Resources and Environment Tasmania (NRE Tas) volunteers have reported six more Orange-bellied Parrots at Melaleuca, bringing the number of returned birds to seven - five females and two males.
It's still early days as we expect birds will continue to return throughout October, November and into early December. Of the seven returned birds, four were captive-bred birds released as juveniles, two from Moonlit Sanctuary Wildlife Conservation Park and two from Healesville Sanctuary. The remaining three birds were wild born at Melaleuca.
This week the team is gearing up to take captive-bred birds, including birds bred at NRE Tas's Five Mile Beach facility and Moonlit Sanctuary Wildlife Conservation Park, to Melaleuca for the first release of the season. Two further releases are planned in October in early November. Stay tuned for further details on these events!
Spring has arrived, bringing a flurry of activity in the NRE Tas OBP Tasmanian Program. The first Orange-bellied Parrots have returned to their Melaleuca breeding grounds after spending the winter on the Australian mainland. OBP Program volunteers recorded the first OBP of the season this week: Green E Yellow is a captive-bred female from Moonlit Sanctuary, who was released at Melaleuca as a juvenile in 2019. She was also the first OBP seen at Melaleuca last season!
At the end of last season we expected around 140 OBPs to migrate north. This was the second highest number in over 15 years, with only the 2020-21 season having a higher number of northward migrants. We're excited to see how many will return for the 2022-23 season.
The season started with OBP Program staff refreshing or replacing OBP nest boxes at Melaleuca and surrounding areas. The annual volunteer monitoring program kicked off this week and will run until April, with volunteers providing supplementary feed and monitoring feed tables every day to provide critical information on the wild population. In the next few weeks, captive-bred adult OBPs from NRE Tas and partner institutions will be released at Melaleuca to supplement the number of potential breeding pairs in the wild population.
We'll provide regular updates on OBP numbers and program activities throughout the season here and on the Orange-bellied Parrot Tasmanian Program Facebook page.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
OBP wild population update:
We are pleased to report 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 females 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.
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.
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!
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.
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.