Map showing the distribution and migration patterns of the orange-bellied parrot.

Only 77 of these parrots remain in the wild. A wind farm developer says a few deaths are a risk worth taking

A company planning to build a wind farm on Robbins Island in north-west Tasmania has argued that the crash of an orange-bellied parrot would not have a “numerical effect” on the birds’ long-term survival.

ACEN Australia’s proposal for a 100-turbine 720-megawatt island sits in the middle of what is believed to be the parrot’s annual return between Tasmania and Victoria.

But because of the low numbers and high mortality rate of young – four out of five released in captivity fail to complete their first migration – it is rarely seen in the wild, including on Robbins Island.

Map showing the distribution and migration patterns of the orange-bellied parrot.

The map shows the distribution and migration patterns of the parrot based on information from the orange-bellied parrot recovery team in 2012.(Australian Government)

It is estimated that there are only 77 adult orange-bellied parrots left in the wild, but ACEN doubts whether the potential conflict with its wind turbines will affect the species’ survival.

The parrot – one of Australia’s most endangered species – is central to a planning appeal against wind farm approval, with discussions starting in Hobart this week.

Tasmania’s Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has required the wind farm to close for five months of the year to reduce the risk of collisions.

ACEN appealed this provision, arguing that this would invalidate the proposal.

Wind turbines under a cloudy sky in the background

Conservationists say the survival of parrots is more important than the operation of wind farms.

Michael O’Farrell SC, acting for ACEN, told the court that parrots face other risks during their migration, which go beyond the wind farm.

“Unless there is an improvement in the survival rate of the young, the orange-bellied parrot will remain dependent on the release of breeding birds to avoid extinction,” he said.

“There is no clear evidence … that the potential death of an orange-bellied parrot, or any large number of bellied oranges, due to the wind turbine crash on Robbins Island would have a statistically significant effect on orange-bellied survival. species, not to mention leading to death.”

As a condition, ACEN proposed funding a government-funded captive breeding program and providing monitoring if the parrot collides with a wind turbine.

Mr O’Farrell described any death of any orange-bellied parrot as “unfortunate”.

Eating habits at risk, the court said

A green parrot with blue patches sits on a tree perch, next-to-camera

Mature orange-bellied parrots return to Tasmania around October to breed and travel to mainland Australia in late February to mid-March.(ABC News: Loretta Lohberger)

But David Deller – acting on behalf of the Bob Brown Foundation, which is asking for permission for the wind farm – said the death would be “catastrophic”.

He said any changes in the landscape and migration patterns of parrots could have impacts beyond conflict, causing them to find different food sources and harming their chances of survival.

“Orange-bellied parrots are in the prevention and recovery phase,” Mr Deller told the court.

Science is doing everything it can to prevent the extinction of these endangered species, and the difference could not be greater.

“The future survival of these endangered species is more important than the operation of – what is acceptable to be – an important wind farm.”

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