NEWS

Island Rescue Mission To Save One Of The World's Rarest Birds From Extinction

These Norfolk Island parrots have been on the brink of extinction -- twice.

02/03/2017 8:59 AM AEDT | Updated 02/03/2017 3:17 PM AEDT
Norfolk Island National Park
In 2013 the green parrot population was estimated to be less than 100.

Authorities are planning to transplant chicks from one of the world's most endangered bird species from their Australian island home to a nearby island in a bid to stave off extinction.

This so-called "insurance colony" for the Norfolk Island green parrot is the latest in a series of attempts to save the species, which has already staved off extinction twice.

Fledgling green parrots from the Island, located 1700km off Australia, could be relocated to neighbouring Phillip Island by mid-April.

"We have 12 active nests and two of those have the first chicks of the season," Norfolk Island National Park manager Craig Doolan told The Huffington Post Australia.

"One of the reasons we're transferring chicks not adults is because our site is under 6km away and we need to make sure those birds don't try and fly (back to Norfolk Island)."

"We've got a chance between April and June to move about 30 fledgling green parrots to Phillip Island."

Norfolk Island National Park
Phillip Island is a feral-free sanctuary just 6 kilometres from Norfolk.

Once there, they will be kept in an aviary and hand-fed until they are ready to be released into the wild.

The new home of the parrots was once a barren island ravaged by pigs, goats and rabbits in the 1980s. It's now however a feral animal-free sanctuary which has been described as a conservation marvel.

"The Norfolk Island green parrot has a safe haven, free from feral cats and rats, ready and waiting for it," Threatened Species Commissioner Gregory Andrews said.

Crowdfunding by BirdLife Australia and the national park has garnered a total of $36,500 to fund the project. Doolan said the method of fundraising was an effective way to create new community partners.

Norfolk Island National Park
The first chicks will be relocated to Phillip Island in mid-April.

The green parrot has struggled to maintain a colony on Norfolk Island under the threat of rats and cats. Crimson rosellas are also known to invade nests and crush eggs.

In the 1970s, the species had its first brush with extinction. It is believed there were no more than 12 pairs of birds left on the island, but the removal of cattle from its centre and the establishment of a national park saw the recovery of habitat and protection of nesting sites.

Numbers remained low and in 2013 a survey confirmed that there were only 11 known breeding females. In a second attempt at conservation, 80 potential nest sites were set up with protective covering to stave off predators.

"Rats get into the nests and will eat the eggs and very young chicks," Doolan said.

"Cats predominantly predate on the adults, particularly females in the nest while they are sitting. During winter, the parrots feed on the ground a lot more and are particularly prone to attack."

The island authority developed 80 rodent-proof nest sites, which helped population numbers quadruple, but number have fluctuated under the threat of other predators.

Once the fledgling chicks are transferred across to Phillip Island, it's estimated that they will spend three to four weeks housed in an aviary where they will be hand fed before eventually being weaned onto natural foods.

More On This Topic