Posted: Friday, November 12, 2010, 3:30 p.m. EST
Orange-bellied parakeets are critically endangered in the wild.
Only 50 orange-bellied parrots (Neophema chrysogaster) still exist in the wild, and now an unidentified virus is threatening the birds in the captive-breeding program. The virus is unidentified at this point but symptoms include feather loss and weakened immune systems. There are between 160 to 170 birds in three captive breeding programs, two located in Australia and one in Tasmania. The orange-bellied parrot was once common in both those places but has become endangered due to habitat destruction for agricultural purposes and other threats such introduced predators, invasive weeds in the coastal salt marsh habitat and the pet trade.
The orange-bellied parrot is the only Neophema species to be listed as critically endangered under Australia's Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. It was listed in 2006. It is also the only Neophema parrot with a blue frontal band and bright grass-green upper parts. There are six species in this genus. The Neophema genus of parrots are small and green with long tails and are often referred to as grass parakeets. They are not commonly kept as pet parrots in the U.S. The more well-known Bourke’s parakeet used to be in the genus Neophema but was re-classified as Neopsephotus.
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