Comparing the foraging behaviour of captive-bred and wild orange-bellied parrots following conservation reintroductions (#341)
Captive breeding for release plays an important role in the recovery programs for a range of threatened species worldwide. Historically, the outcomes of release programs have been limited and variable for a variety of reasons. Because the captive environment rarely replicates conditions in the wild, one of the key challenges for breeding programs is to produce individuals that are physically and behaviourally suitable for life in the wild. In this study, we investigated foraging and vigilance behaviours of captive-bred and released orange-bellied parrots (OBP) and compared these with the behaviours of wild individuals present at the same location in SW Tasmania. At other locations, released OBPs have experienced low survival, so it is important to determine if behavioural differences may compromise reintroduction success. The visits by released and wild birds to supplementary feed tables were observed over several periods during the breeding season and we documented both the frequency and duration of visits and the vigilance behaviour of birds when present at the table. Released birds tended to visit the table more frequently, but there was no difference in the mean duration of stay. Analysis of the vigilance data are underway and will be reported. These findings will allow managers to make adjustments to the breeding program, and particularly the pre-release environment, that may improve the effectiveness of the program and help support recovery of this species in the wild. The study also builds on our general understanding of how captivity can influence wild behaviours in birds.