This species has an extremely small population and is now known to breed at only one site, where it appears to have undergone an extremely rapid recent decline. Reasons for this recent decline are unclear but a key threat is thought to be fragmentation and degradation of overwintering habitat. It is therefore classified as Critically Endangered. Extinction in the wild has been predicted to take place within 3-5 years, and it is planned for further individuals to be taken from the wild in order to bolster the captive population for captive breeding and eventual release.
Christidis, L.; Boles, W. E. 2008. Systematics and taxonomy of Australian birds. CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood, Australia.
del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N. J.; Christie, D. A.; Elliott, A.; Fishpool, L. D. C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.
Distribution and population
22-25 cm. Slim parrot, grass-green above, and yellowish below. Adult male has prominent, two-tone blue frontal band, green-blue uppertail with yellow sides, conspicuous in flight, orange patch on belly. Adult female similar but slightly duller, orange patch slightly smaller, tail greener. Juvenile similar to adult female, best distinguished at fledging by dull yellow-orange bill and cere. Similar spp. Distinguished from Blue-winged Parrot N. chrysostoma and Elegant Parrot N. elegans by darker grass-green upperparts and narrow dark-blue leading edge to folded wing. Voice Calls have distinct buzzy quality. Metallic buzzing alarm call diagnostic. Hints Contact Orange-bellied Parrot Recovery Team for sighting opportunities.
This species is thought to breed only at Melaleuca and (formerly) Birch's Inlet in south-western Tasmania, Australia
(C. Tzaros and M.A. Weston in litt.
2003). Birds migrate to the mainland after breeding, stopping over on King Island, and overwintering at sites scattered from south-eastern South Australia east to south-eastern New South Wales (C. Tzaros and M.A. Weston in litt.
2003). Annual winter counts in Victoria, South Australia and Bass Strait from 1979 to 1990 varied between 67 and 122, with no significant change in numbers. Numbers recorded in mainland surveys have since declined, for example 48 birds recorded from 19 sites in 2007 (Saunders 2008). The overall population, which was estimated to number around 150 individuals in 2005 (M. Holdsworth in litt
. 2005), has since undergone a rapid decline (confirmed by data from both breeding and wintering sites): surveys in early 2010 found fewer than 50 birds at Melaleuca and no birds at any other historical breeding areas (Sims 2010). The wild population was therefore estimated to contain fewer than 50 individuals in 2010, and extinction in the wild has been predicted to take place within 3-5 years (Sims 2010). Low breeding participation of females appears to be a limiting factor, with some females not breeding every year (Sims 2010). Only 12 and 13 young are known to have fledged at Melaleuca in 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 with 21 of 27 young fledged in 2010-2011 taken to secure the captive population (Garnett et al.
2011). 60-170 birds are now held in captivity in three locations, however annual releases occurring at Birch's Inlet 1999-2009 to establish a second breeding population have not established a viable colony and the release programme is currently on hold.Population justification
Surveys in early 2010 found fewer than 50 birds at Melaleuca and found no birds at any other historical breeding areas. The wild population was therefore estimated to contain fewer than 50 individuals and mature individuals in 2010.Trend justification
The overall population, which was estimated to number around 150 individuals in 2005, has since undergone a rapid decline (confirmed by data from both breeding and wintering sites): surveys in early 2010 found fewer than 50 birds at Melaleuca and no birds at any other historical breeding areas. The wild population was therefore estimated to contain fewer than 50 individuals in 2010, and extinction in the wild has been predicted to take place within 3-5 years (Sims 2010).Ecology
It breeds in a mosaic of eucalypt forest and rainforest bordering extensive moorland plains. It nests in hollows, feeding on the ground on grass and sedge seed from surrounding moorlands. There is some evidence that early in the breeding season birds prefer to forage in areas burnt seven to 15 years earlier, whilst later in the breeding season they prefer areas burnt three to five years earlier (Garnett et al.
2011). After breeding it disperses to saltmarshes, dunes, beaches, pastures and shrublands close to the coast, where there they feed on the ground or in low vegetation, almost exclusively on seeds and fruits, mainly of sedges, and salt-tolerant coastal and saltmarsh plants (Garnett et al
The primary reason for the species's decline is thought to be fragmentation and degradation of overwintering habitat by grazing, agriculture and urban and industrial development. Disease is an important threat to the tiny population. An outbreak of Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease (PBFD) in 2015 was affecting 19 out of 26 wild Orange-bellied Parrot nestlings tested (Anon. 2015). One adult also tested positive for the disease. PBFD can cause high nestling mortality, at this stage the impact on the population as a whole is not known (Anon. 2015). Competition with introduced seed-eating finches may have affected winter food availability, while some former breeding habitat may have been vacated because of a change in the fire regime and competition with introduced Common Starlings Sturnus vulgaris
, which fill nest-hollows with nesting material, rendering them unsuitable. Deaths from random events, such as sea storms during migration, predation by foxes and cats, or disease, are significant threats to such a tiny population. Degradation of remaining saltmarsh habitat on the mainland is a significant threat (C. Tzaros and M.A. Weston in litt
. 2003). A proposed application for a mining exploration licence in Melaleuca could prove highly damaging to the species's breeding grounds (Anon. 2008). Windfarm developments may also kill about one bird per year (Smales et al.
2005). In 2005-2006, 40 young birds bred in captivity died of unknown causes, but a viral disease is suspected. This population was quarantined to avoid releasing a threatening disease into the wild population (M. Holdsworth verbally 2006).Conservation and Research Actions Underway
CITES Appendix I. A recovery team was established in 1980, a wide range of research projects are ongoing, and awareness-raising and education programmes are conducted. Much feeding habitat in Tasmania, Victoria and King Island has been reserved or is managed. Breeding, migration and winter counts are made annually, and over 60% of the wild population has now been colour-banded. A captive-breeding programme has been established with the main centre at Healesville Sanctuary, Victoria; the current captive population of 160-170 birds is derived from only six founders (perhaps leading to low egg fertility as a result of inbreeding depression) and there are plans to capture new founder individuals from the wild (both nestlings and juveniles on the wintering grounds) to improve the genetic diversity of the captive population (Sims 2010)
. Captive-bred birds that have been released have migrated successfully between their breeding and wintering grounds (Loyn et al
. 2005, Anon. 2014). Twenty-seven captive bred Orange-bellied Parrots were released in Melaleuca, Tasmania in 2015 (Anon. 2015).
The South Australian Orange-bellied Parrot Habitat Protection and Restoration Project, funded by the Natural Heritage Trust, has been underway since June 2008, focused on protecting and enhancing foraging and roosting habitat through a range of on-ground management activities. Activities include: erecting fencing to protect habitat and conducting herbivore exclusion trials; revegetation with foraging and roosting plants; implementation of prescribed fire regimes that enhance habitat; control of weeds and rabbits; and erection of information signs at key sites (Le Duff 2009)
. In 2010 the Orange-bellied Parrot Recovery Team prepared an Action Plan to prioritise efforts for the next 18 months, the implementation of which will be underwritten by a grant of $260,000 from the Australian government (P. Garrett in litt.
. Supplementary food provision at both breeding and wintering sites, the provision of extra nest boxes and discouragement of nest competitors, improved management of saltmarsh (winter) and strategic fire management (breeding season) are key short-term priorities (Sims 2010)
. In response to an outbreak of Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease, the Australian Federal Government announced it would introduce a $525,000 rescue package for the species in June 2015 (Anon. 2015).Conservation and Research Actions Proposed
Survey all saltmarsh in wintering range using satellite imagery. Monitor genetic heterozygosity. Model breeding and feeding habitat to assess availability. Re-establish saltmarsh in areas where it is likely to benefit the species. Monitor and manage Psittacine Circoviral Disease in the captive population. Control human disturbance at Victorian sites and Melaleuca, Tasmania. Control predators at mainland sites. Control feral cats at King Island site. Create new winter habitats. Protect key wintering sites in South Australia. Develop and implement a media strategy. Continue to manage wild breeding population including supplementary feeding, an active fire management program and protection of nests from competitors and predators. Capture enough wild parrots to maximise genetic variability in captive population and maintain a healthy, genetically viable, captive population, increasing it from 160 to 400 individuals (Garnett et al.
Related state of the world's birds case studies
Anon. 2008. Project to save rare parrots. Available at: #http://www.abc.net.au/7.30/content/2007/s2169180.htm#.
Anon. 2014. Flight of fancy. Australian Birdlife 3(3): 16.
Anon. 2015. Orange-bellied Parrots and Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease (PBFD). BirdLife Australia Available at: http://www.birdlife.org.au/media/orange-bellied-parrots-and-psittacine-beak-and-feather-disease-pbfd/. (Accessed: 25/06/2015).
ARAZPA. 2004. Orange-bellied parrot (Neophema chrysogaster).
Garnett, S. T.; Crowley, G. M. 2000. The action plan for Australian birds 2000. Environment Australia, Canberra.
Garnett, S. T.; Szabo, J. K.; Dutson, G. 2011. The Action Plan for Australian Birds 2010. CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood.
IUCN. 2015. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015-4. Available at: www.iucnredlist.org. (Accessed: 19 November 2015).
Le Duff, M. 2009. Orange-bellied Parrot. Volunteer: 10.
Loyn, R.H.; Menkhorst, P.; Middleton, D.; Holdsworth, M. 2005. Mainland-bred Orange-bellied Parrots migrate to Tasmania! Wingspan 15: 5-7.
Saunders, D. 2008. Orange-bellied Parrot Winter surveys 2008. The Bird Observer: 6.
Sims, R. 2010. Dispatches from the front line: the fight to save the Orange-bellied Parrot. Wingspan 20(3): 16-19.
Smales, I., Muir, S. and Meredith, C. 2005. Modelled cumulative impacts on the Orange-bellied Parrot of wind farms across the species' range in south-eastern Australia. Biosis Research Pty Ltd.
Further web sources of information
Australian Govt - Action Plan for Australian Birds 2000 - Recovery Outline
Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species
Search for photos and videos, and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection
Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Bird, J., Butchart, S., Calvert, R., Garnett, S., McClellan, R., Pilgrim, J., Symes, A., Allinson, T, Symes, A. & Ashpole, J
Bryant, S., Holdsworth, M., Tzaros, C. & Weston, M.
IUCN Red List evaluators
BirdLife International (2015) Species factsheet: Neophema chrysogaster. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 30/11/2015.
Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2015) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 30/11/2015.
This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000)
Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004)
Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.
To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife
To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.
Additional resources for this species