This year’s winter conservation count for one of Australia’s rarest birds has returned the lowest number of sightings since counting began.
It is estimated there are only about 50 orange-bellied parrots left in the wild.
About 20 parrots were seen in last year’s winter counts across South Australia and Victoria, but this year only one bird was spotted.
Count coordinator Bob Green says there could be a number of reasons for the decline.
“Numbers were down generally this year. The birds were a lot harder to find,” he said.
“Conditions were pretty good so there was a lot of seed out there and I think that just because of that, the birds had a lot bigger areas they could choose to feed in.
“We’ve always found it really hard to get a good population estimate from the winter counts.”
Mark Holdsworth from the Orange Bellied Parrot Recovery Program says the focus is now on bolstering the insurance population in captivity.
Once that happens birds will be released into the wild, but he says the wild population needs to hold on.
“Those captive birds need to learn from the wild birds, learn how to migrate, learn how to forage,” he said.
“We’ve got over 200 birds in captivity at the moment and ultimately those birds will be used to repopulate the wild.
“So we’ll be building the population up to 350 over the next year or two and we’ll be releasing hopefully large numbers of birds back into the wild.”
Wild birds are due to migrate to Tasmania for the breeding season within the next few weeks.