Orange-bellied Parrots will be released near Geelong today, as part of an innovative bid to save the species from extinction in the wild.

The Orange-bellied Parrot Mainland Release Trial, led by the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) and Zoos Victoria, will see 15 Orange-bellied Parrots released across today and tomorrow.

With less than 50 Orange-bellied Parrots remaining in the wild, the trial is designed to boost the critically endangered population.

The Orange-bellied Parrot is a migratory species, and each year makes a round trip of more than 1,000 kilometres between south-west Tasmania and mainland Australia, covering the rough oceans of the Bass Strait.

DELWP Natural Environment Program Officer Rachel Pritchard said: “The release of captive birds near Geelong is expected to establish a flock in the area, attracting wild Orange-bellied Parrots migrating from Tasmania.”

“This ideal habitat and the opportunity to flock with other birds will provide wild birds with the best chance of surviving winter and returning to Tasmania for another breeding season.”

“It’s hoped that these birds and their offspring, will fly back to Victoria next Autumn, and eventually flocks of Orange-bellied Parrots will live on our coasts during the non-breeding season.”

“This week’s actions will build on last year’s results of the Mainland Release Trial, which saw wild parrots join captive-bred parrots released near Geelong, creating the largest flock of Orange-bellied Parrots seen on the mainland in nearly 10 years.”

“The program involves the release of birds flown by plane from Tasmania, and captive-bred birds from Moonlit Sanctuary, Healesville Sanctuary and Werribee Zoo.”

“As part of broader recovery efforts, this ground-breaking project is giving hope that the Orange-bellied Parrot can be saved from extinction.”

“It’s exciting to think that Victoria could once again have flocks of Orange-bellied Parrots living on our coasts.”

DELWP and Zoos Victoria have been working with Melbourne Water, Parks Victoria and BirdLife Australia to prepare for the releases this week at the Spit Nature Conservation Reserve and nearby Western Treatment Plant.

The project team will be monitoring the Orange-bellied Parrots at these sites through radio tracking, camera monitoring and the old-fashioned observation of birds.

The Victorian Government is providing $200,000 of funding for this four-year project, as part of a national program aiming to safeguard the future of the Orange-bellied Parrot.