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Migration Path of Australia’s Rarest Bird Monitored

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Orange-bellied Parrot © Peter Odekerken

News reaches via an online report from The Age, of a monitoring programme which has been established to monitor the rare Orange-bellied Parrot on its migratory path through the Portland region of Australia.  Each year, the entire population of Orange-bellied Parrots makes the perilous run across Bass Strait, from its breeding grounds in southern Tasmania

Numbering fewer than 150 worldwide, these little birds are rarer than the Siberian tiger, says the report. Having been buffeted through the winds of the Roaring Forties, the Orange-bellied Parrots scatter along the mainland coast of Portland, as they once did in their thousands.  Some travel east to Gippsland, others gather on the wetlands of Werribee, but there is concern that those that head for the marshland near the Yambuk wind farm could conceivably fly into the blades of a wind turbine.

For the next three months, observers Ric Ressom and Helen Phillips will be monitoring the numbers of Australia’s rarest bird in this area.

”Despite what some people say, they’re not stupid,” Mr Ressom says. ”They seem to know to stay
clear. Even so, you don’t want to take chances.”

Last year, the turbines at Yambuk were shut down twice, when observers alerted the wind farm operator, Pacific Hydro, that a number of the parrots were feeding in the vicinity. Pacific Hydro, which has established three of four planned wind farms in the Portland region, runs the monitoring program to fulfill its environmental protection obligations to the State Government.

The company is also a funding source for a Greening Australia project to expand the salt-marsh habitat for the Orange-bellied Parrot, one of the most endangered bird species in the world, and the area is now rich with beaded glasswort, the parrot’s preferred food.

Last year, the biggest group of birds - nine in all - was seen near Yambuk 30 times by a network of about 100 volunteers from Birds Australia and observers funded by government and private sources.

”They’re not to easy see,” Mr Ressom said. ”They’re pretty cryptic. Their alarm call - a repeated, hard-edged buzzing - is the best indicator … we flush them to see what numbers we’ve got. Once one bird takes off, the others go with it. They’re easily spooked and will climb to a great height with a tinkling sound … or they’ll fly low across the water with the reeds behind them. They’re very crafty in the way they avoid detection.”

The Orange-bellied Parrot is one of only two parrots in the world which is fully migratory - the other being the Swift Parrot - which is also under threat.


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