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Reproductive success in Orange-bellied Parrots
Research Project: Investigating factors affecting reproductive success in captive Orange-bellied Parrots
Conservation efforts for the Orange-bellied Parrot (Neophema chrysogaster) began in the 1980s and since 1994 they have been bred at Healesville Sanctuary, both as an insurance population (in case the species goes extinct in the wild) and for re-introduction to the wild.
Due to very low numbers of adults in the wild (currently estimated less than 50), the captive breeding program is a central element of the overall recovery strategy for this critically endangered parrot.
Currently, the reproductive success of captive birds is lower than that of wild Orange-bellied Parrots, and this limits the potential of the captive population to support recovery in the wild.
To investigate the reproductive behaviour and success of captive Orange-bellied Parrots in comparison with wild birds and new founder birds (i.e. captive birds that are of wild origin). This knowledge should help us improve reproductive output and survival of birds in captivity.
Over three breeding seasons at Healesville Sanctuary, we will collect data on:
- behaviour (including courtship, copulation, incubation and feeding rate of chicks)
- reproductive biology (including sperm counts from males, clutch size, egg size, hatching success and chick survival)
- environmental variables (including nest-box temperatures using data loggers)
We will compare this with data from other institutions in Victoria, NSW, South Australia and Tasmania, as well as with wild populations breeding in south-west Tasmania.
Outcomes so far...
Initial analysis show differences in egg size, clutch size and fertility rates between the captive bred birds, new founders and the first generation of captive offspring.
Primary researcher: Kristy Penrose (MSc candidate - University of Melbourne)
Participating organisations: Zoos Victoria; University of Melbourne; Orange-bellied Parrot Recovery Team