Crowdfunding to save one of the world’s rarest birds

Dr Luis Ortiz-Catedral with a Norfolk Island green parrot

Conservationists protecting the endangered Norfolk Island green parrot are looking toward the public to fund a new colony on Phillip Island.

Massey researchers have been working with organisations in Australia to increase the number of birds with incredible success over the past few years. The numbers are now healthy enough to transport fledgling green parrots to nearby Phillip Island where an insurance colony can be established.

The Norfolk Island green parrot has twice come close to the brink of extinction only to be pulled back by remarkable conservation work in accordance with best-practice models from Massey University researchers.

Timing is critical because the Philip Island colony must be established before winter kicks in. BirdLife Australia and the Norfolk Island National Park are aiming to raise $77,000 through a crowdfunding campaign to make this possible.

Since 2013, Massey University’s Dr Luis Ortiz-Catedral has worked with the team developing training sessions with Norfolk Island National Park staff to cater for the conservation needs of the green parrot, specifically on procedures for population monitoring, nest monitoring, radio-tracking and interpretation of field data. 

“Carrying on from the excellent work on Norfolk Island, the move to Phillip Island is another vital step ensuring these beautiful birds have the best possible chance of population recovery,” Dr Ortiz-Catedral says.

Norfolk Island green parrot

From the brink of extinction

In 2013 the green parrot population was estimated at less than 100 birds after they were decimated by black rats and feral cats. This new project will ensure that the population cannot be threatened like this again.

In response 80 rodent-proof nest sites were developed to enable the green parrots to breed successfully and sometimes chicks were fostered to parents with fewer young to improve survival rates. Recent surveys indicate there is now between 350 and 400 birds.

Norfolk Island National Park manager Craig Doolan said these nest sites, developed with support from Massey University researchers, were the cornerstone of an amazing recovery that’s seen parrot numbers more than quadruple.

“Now we’ve got a chance between April and June to move about 30 fledgling green parrots to Phillip Island to create an insurance population,” Mr Doolan said. 

Dr Luis Ortiz-Catedral said the developed sites were adapted from best-practice models in New Zealand with closely related parakeet species. 

“Norfolk Island green parrots have flirted with extinction on many occasions but have shown a remarkable resilience to survive and are now actively bucking a trend that had seen their numbers decline. This is no small feat, only possible thanks to the alliances with multiple agencies that Parks Australia has developed over the years.”

Phillip Island has recovered gradually since the 1980s after it was ravaged by introduced pigs, goats and rabbits. It has transformed from a barren island almost without vegetation to a feral-free sanctuary with lush native regrowth ideal for birds.

BirdLife Australia chief executive officer Paul Sullivan says there is a small window of opportunity to move the fledgling population of endangered green parrots to this safe haven. 

“This species has not once, but twice, been on the brink of extinction in my lifetime,” Mr Sullivan says. “This is a remarkable story of determination, cooperation and great science to ensure the survival of a wonderful and very rare bird.”

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