Carol Moyse's Orange Bellied Parrot

We just came across this photo from Carol Moyse. It’s – for me, at least – one of the most iconic species of bird anywhere in the world.

To call the Orange Bellied Parrot “critically endangered” is an understatement. A couple of years ago news came out that despite a big effort by wildlife expertsthere were only around 40 left in the wild. Since then there have been a couple of good-ish breeding seasons, meaning their numbers might be up a little. More recent news of a vaccine against Beak and Feather disease might help as well, but this is a bird that’s got the odds stacked against it.

Their habit has been, up to now, to spend summer in Melaleuca, on the South West coast of Tasmania, and winter on the West coast of Victoria, sometimes spreading into South Australia. Strangely enough, the juveniles seem to take a different route to migrate from Tassie up to Victoria, and they’re not accompanied by the experienced adults. It just makes things harder for them.

Of course, their biggest threat is habitat loss, mostly development on the Victorian Coast. Former Premier Jeff Kennett once called the bird a “Jumped-up Corella”, when the State was considering moving a chemical storage facility to one of the bird’s winter feeding grounds.

It took me 14 years as a birdo to find an OBP, and pleasingly enough, it turned out to be number 600 on my world list. Of course, I had to be shown one. I was on an OBP survey (see also “search”) at the Western Treatment Plant. A bird was seen several kilometres where I was, so we hopped in the car and got there as soon as we could. I had to crawl up a drain, under barbed wire and through Black Snake habitat to see it. But I got it.

Carol’s photo is brilliant. I’ve no idea how she persuaded the bird to perch so photogenically on a rock in the sun. It just shows who’s the OBP whisperer!