|Conservation status||Critically endangered|
The Orange-bellied parrot (Neophema chrysogaster) is a small species of migratory parrot native to southern Australia. Habitat degradation and introduced competitors have made it one of the rarest birds in the world.
The Orange-bellied parrot is just under 8 inches long, slightly larger than a budgerigar. In coloration the bird is a bright green above and yellow to yellowish green below, with the green seeming to blend in with the yellow in the upper chest. When at rest the shoulders and outer wing coverts are an azure blue; in addition there is a blue band on its forehead. Females and juveniles are somewhat duller in coloration, but both sexes bear a bright orange patch on its lower belly for which the species is named.
Habitat and range
Orange-bellied parrots live in forested areas bordering moorland plains, where they can easily come to the ground to feed on grass and sedge seeds and fallen fruit. A unique requirement that these birds have are two feeding periods during breeding season, and both involving areas which had previously suffered wildfires some years before. The early part involves foraging on ground that has been burned 7 to 15 years previously, and in the later part 3 to 5 years previously. When breeding is over, they are essentially coastal birds, foraging in the dunes and salt marshes, as well as nearby pastures prior to migrating.
Their breeding range is restricted to Melaleuca in south-western Tasmania, Australia; they formerly had a breeding site at Birch's Inlet. After breeding the birds migrate to South Australia (via King Island) in scattered sites as far west as the Yorke Peninsula, and east in Victoria to Westernport Bay.
The Orange-bellied parrot is one of the most endangered birds in the world. Since the late 1970s the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service, after an initial grant from the World Wildlife Fund, has been attempting to keep the birds viable. Winter counts since 1979 in South Australia have determined the birds had a variable population from 122 to a low of 67; surveys in 2010 counted less than 50 wild birds, no birds counted at historical breeding sites apart from Melaleuca. The explanation given for the rapid decline is habitat loss due to grazing, agriculture, and human developement at the South Australian wintering range, combined with competition from introduced seed-eating finches, and Common starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) in the breeding range which have taken over nesting sites and rendered them useless for the parrots. It has been predicted (2012) that the birds will be extinct in the wild within 3–5 years. A captive breeding program is underway in Australia, with a population of about 170 birds in three locations.
A further threat to the bird's survival became apparent during May 2015 with the discovery of an outbreak of "beak and feather disease" (Avian Circoviru), apparently common in parrots and cockatoos, but particularly serious when the breeding population is so small.
There has been, however, some recent good news