Plea to save rare native Australian parrot

Ethan James

A rare Australian parrot faces certain extinction if extra funding isn't found to help it survive in the wild, conservationists warn.

The critically endangered orange-bellied parrot migrates from the Victorian and South Australia coast to Tasmania every spring to breed.

Around 35 birds flew north to the mainland earlier this year.

This breeding season, just 12 males and two females have returned across Bass Strait to the forest of Melaleuca in the state's far southwest.

Dejan Stojanovic, conservation biologist with the ANU Difficult Bird Research Group, says the parrot's situation is "critical".

"The effective breeding size of this bird is two pairs, that's the most endangered parrot in the world and arguably Australia's next avian extinction," he said.

"It's as close as you can get to death's door and this bird needs an urgent intervention to be rescued."

Orange-bellied parrot numbers have been in decline for decades, despite millions of dollars being poured into a captive breeding program in recent years.

New techniques are being tried to save the bird, which is slightly larger than a budgie and characterised by a bright orange patch on its lower belly.

Conservationists this season, for the first time, will replace infertile wild eggs with fertile captive-laid eggs in somewhat of a foster parent scheme.

Dr Stojanovic said strategic ecological burning could help make more food available for the parrots at their breeding grounds, something only possible with more funding.

Former Greens leader Bob Brown has written to Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg asking for federal assistance.

"We can't lose sight of the fact that this bird needs to be a wild bird," Dr Stojanovic said.