Orange-bellied parrot (Neophema chrysogaster)

Spanish: Loro Ventrinaranja, Periquito Ventrinaranja
KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderPsittachiformes
FamilyPsittacidae
GenusNeophema (1)
SizeLength: 20 cm (3)
Weight45 - 50 g (2)

The orange-bellied parrot is classified as Critically Endangered (CR) on the IUCN Red List 2007 (1), and listed on Appendix I of CITES (4).

The orange-bellied parrot is a small, brightly coloured parrot found in Australia (5). Their underparts are yellowish, the head and back grass-green and the wings are blue and green (3). Males have a bright blue band on their forehead and an orange patch on the belly, which is particularly conspicuous in flight (6). Females and juveniles are slightly duller in colour with smaller orange patches (3). When alarmed, these parrots give a distinctive metallic buzzing call (6).

The orange-bellied parrot  was previously widespread and abundant in Australia, the breeding population is today restricted to a narrow coastal strip of southwest Tasmania (5).

The orange-bellied parrot overwinters in saltmarsh habitat in central Victoria in Australia, migrating to eucalypt forest and moorland within the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area for the breeding season (2).

Orange-bellied parrots are monogamous and begin breeding in their first year (2). Nests are made within the holes of eucalypt trees and the female incubates the clutch of four eggs (2). Most adults leave the breeding range for their winter migration in February, with juveniles following later, and take many months to reach the coast of mainland Australia (2). Having spent the winter in central Victoria and the coast of South Australia, the first adults begin the return journey in September, making the crossing in a matter of days (2). In the wild, orange-bellied parrots have a life expectancy of less than four years (2).

These parrots eat a range of seeds and fruits of grasses, sedges and herbs by foraging on the ground or climbing on food plants (2).

This previously abundant species has suffered a precipitous decline in numbers since the 1920s, primarily due to habitat loss at the overwintering grounds caused by both urban development and farming practices (5) (6). Competition with introduced species for both food and nest sites, together with predation by red foxes and feral cats, have further depleted populations of orange-bellied parrots (6).

An Orange-Bellied Parrot Action Plan has been running since 1980, aiming to improve the conservation status of this species so that it is no longer classified as Critically Endangered (2). Populations are regularly monitored and areas of habitat, particularly in the winter grounds, are protected as reserves (2). The control of predators occurs in some areas, and in the moorland habitat of Tasmania controlled burning is used to increase food productivity (2). A captive breeding programme has also been set up to augment wild population numbers, and by 1999, 72 birds had been released into the wild, with some successfully completing the return migration (2). To date, the success of the Action Plan has been mixed; some intensively managed populations are showing encouraging increases in numbers whilst others continue to fall (6). There are still fewer than 200 individuals (6) in the wild and intensive conservation work will be vital for the future of this colourful bird.

For further information on the orange-bellied parrot see:

Thank you to Yves de Soye (11/7/02), Director, Loro Parque Fundacion for revising the text.
http://www.loroparque-fundacion.org

  1. IUCN Red List (March, 2008)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org
  2. Erritzoe, J. (1993) The Birds of CITES and How to Identify Them. The Lutterworth Press, Cambridge.
  3. The Orange-Bellied Parrot Recovery Team. (1999) The Orange-bellied Parrot Recovery Plan, 1998-2002. Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment, Tasmania. Available at:
    http://www.dpiw.tas.gov.au/inter.nsf/Attachments/SJON-5AD4KF/$FILE/OBPRecoverPlan.pdf
  4. CITES (October, 2002)
    http://www.cites.org
  5. Birds Australia (March, 2008)
    http://www.birdsaustralia.com.au/threatened-bird-profiles/orange-bellied-parrot.html
  6. BirdLife International. (2001) Threatened Birds of the World. Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, Barcelona and Cambridge.