Researchers from The Australian National University (ANU) have conducted a study on the critically endangered orange-bellied parrot, shedding light on the factors that contribute to the survival of their first migration. Led by Ph.D. candidate Laura Bussolini, the study compared the juvenile survival rates of both wild and captive-bred orange-bellied parrots. Surprisingly, the study found that both groups had an equal likelihood of surviving their initial migration. However, the key factor influencing survival was the weight of the birds as nestlings, irrespective of whether they originated from the wild or captive population.
The research utilized extensive data on chick growth and observed some variation in chick body condition among the wild population, which is expected due to various factors such as food availability, predators, and weather conditions. Nevertheless, wild-born nestlings consistently exhibited better body condition compared to captive parrots. This finding highlights the need to improve the quality of captive-reared parrots and serves as a significant research objective.
Given the importance of the orange-bellied parrot breeding program, which involves several hundred birds in captivity, the selection process for releasing individuals into the wild becomes complex. However, nestling body condition has emerged as a valuable tool for identifying individuals with higher chances of survival after release and pinpointing those that may require additional support. It is worth noting that individuals with lower physical condition still hold value for the overall population.
These findings emphasize the importance of strategic thinking in breeding programs and the utilization of available evidence to enhance the survival prospects of critically endangered species. The study has been published in the journal Animal Conservation.
Source: Australian National University