The adult male Orange-bellied Parrot has bright green upper part, a blue frontal forehead band, edged with pale blue, yellowish-green face throat and breast and yellow abdomen with a central orange patch extending to the vent. The orange patch is often not visible when the bird is at rest. The adult female is noticeably duller than the male; she has a much duller frontal band, which lacks the paler blue upper edging. The females orange belly patch is also duller and often smaller than that of the males. The beak is greyish brown and the iris brown. Immature birds of this species show pronounced sexual differences as described, and are relatively easy to distinguish from about 8 months of age.
Habitat and Distribution
The Orange-bellied Parrot is a migratory species which spends spring and summer in Tasmania where it breeds, then departs for mainland Australia in autumn to spend the winter months there. The Orange-bellied Parrot has a single breeding population containing less than 100 mature adults in the wild. When breeding this species occupies an area of approximately 1600km2 but during winter migration it is dispersed widely along the coastline of southeastern . The species breeding range is a narrow coastal strip of southwest Tasmania between Birch’s Inlet, in Macquarie Harbour, and Louisa Bay. The breeding habitat is eucalypt forest and extensive moorland plains dominated by button grass and intersected by wooded tea-tree and paper-bark creeks, and river estuaries within the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.
On mainland Australia the Orange-bellied Parrots current range is through coastal regions as far as South Gippsland district of Victoria and as far west as Lake Alexandrina in South Australia. Seventy percent of the population concentrates at three wintering sites around Port Phillip Bay and the Bellarine Peninsula in Victoria. Its preferred habitat on the mainland is saltmarshes, coastal heath, grasslands and pastures, estuaries and coastal sand dunes all within 10 km of the coast.
This species is classified as Critically Endangered by the IUCN and EPBC (1999).
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. 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
The Orange‐bellied Parrot has been observed feeding on 32 different species of. Of these the key species are within saltmarsh communities and include Beaded Glasswort Sarcocornia quinqueflora, Southern Sea‐heath Frankenia pauciflora, Shrubby Glasswort Sclerostegia arbuscula, Buzzy Acaena novae–zelandiae and
Sea Rocket Cakile maritima. However, in recent years a range of grassy or weedy pastures associated with coastal vegetation communities have increasingly been used by the species.
Breeding and Lifecycle
Birds become sexually at 12 months of age and breed during the summer months (October – February). Females lay clutches of 3-6 eggs and rarely leave the nest during the incubation period (three weeks) relying on the male to feed her during this time. Chicks take 4-5 weeks to fledge during which time both parents will feed them. The average lifespan in the wild is about 2.5 years and in captivity 5.5 years but individuals have been known to live as long as 14 years in captivity.
All information was obtained from the Orange-bellied Parrot Husbandry Guidelines and Birdlife International Website.
The Zoo and Aquarium Association acknowledges
Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment
for providing the factsheet information above.