Close up of an Orange-bellied Parrot sitting on a branch

Hope for one of the world's rarest birds

Published 28 November 2023 28 November 2023


The migratory, Orange-bellied Parrot (Neophema chrysogaster) is critically endangered. It also happens to be one of the rarest birds in the world.

The main threats to the Orange-bellied Parrot on the mainland include habitat loss and the increase of predators and noxious weeds. 

Each autumn, the wild population of migratory Orange-bellied Parrots start the 500-kilometre trip from their summer breeding grounds in Tasmania to coastal saltmarshes in South Australia and southern Victoria (including the Bellarine Peninsula and Greater Geelong area).

The Orange-bellied Parrot is one of only 3 migratory parrot species in the world.  

The recovery of the Orange-bellied Parrot includes protecting and restoring critical saltmarsh habitat, predator control, mainland release trials and monitoring programs. This work is supported by:  

  • Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action (DEECA)  

  • Zoos Victoria

  • Moonlit Sanctuary

  • BirdLife Australia

  • Corangamite Catchment Management Authority (CMA)

  • and funding from the Australian Government

The work of these organisations and the National Recovery Team has been associated with a recent and marked improvement in wild population numbers for the Orange-bellied Parrot.
Image credit - Margot Kiesskalt

In 2017 there were only 50 birds left in the wild, but that has nearly tripled in the past 5 years.

In 2022, 140 birds were recorded migrating from their breeding grounds in Tasmania to the Australian mainland. 

On the Bellarine Peninsula, southeast of Geelong is Lake Connewarre. The eastern section of this wetland, encompassing the delta islands and associated areas of significant saltmarsh, is currently grazed.

In 2020, the Corangamite CMA developed a grazing trial. They worked with landholders around the Lake Connewarre and Swan Bay areas to implement appropriate grazing regimes.

The aim of the trial was to ensure the structural and floral diversity of the saltmarsh was optimised for the Orange-bellied Parrot. This project is supported by the Corangamite CMA through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program. 

This grazing trial complemented an Orange-bellied Parrot Mainland Release Trial, which was developed by:  

  • DEECA 

  • Zoos Victoria 

  • Moonlit Sanctuary 

With the support of: 

  • Birdlife Australia 

  • Melbourne Water 

  • Parks Victoria 

  • Corangamite CMA 

  • the Australian Government 

  • and Adelaide Zoo. 

The hope of the trial is to once again have flocks of Orange-bellied Parrots visiting our coastal habitats.

In May 2022, 20 Orange-bellied Parrots were released on the east shore of Lake Connewarre as part of the Orange-bellied Parrot Mainland Release Trial.

Orange-bellied Parrot Mainland Release Trial

This release builds on results from the first 5 years of the Mainland Release Trial, which saw more than 100 captive-bred birds released from Victorian sites. Every year so far, the released birds have been joined by wild migrants from Tasmania.

This has created the largest flocks of Orange-bellied Parrots seen in Victoria in the last 15 years.  

The joint effort to protect coast saltmarsh habitats, manage known predators of the parrots, and to invest in critical research into their movement, feeding habits and threats is bringing hope for the future of this unique little parrot. 

"The success of the Mainland Release Trial is not possible without all of the agency partners and private landholders who allow this work to be carried out on their properties,” says John Riddiford, CEO of Corangamite CMA.  

“The Orange-bellied Parrot is an iconic, but sadly now rare, species of the Corangamite region. The Corangamite CMA’s on-groundwork to improve coastal habitat is helping boost the chances of survival for these critically endangered birds”

Cath Jenkins, Chair of Corangamite CMA.