(TMU) — Great news! The population of New Zealand’s most endangered forest bird species—the orange-fronted parakeet—just doubled. Before the 2019 hatching season, there were only 100-300 individual parakeets and now, though the season is far from over, there are already over 150 new chicks.
GoodNewsNetwork reports that the parakeets are known as kākāriki karaka on the island nation. The species lives in beech forests and was thought to be extinct until 1993, when they were rediscovered in Canterbury.
Wild orange-fronted parakeets primarily live in a unique upland valley habitat of beech trees where they subsist on plants and insects until the beech trees produce seed, which are the budgie’s preferred food.
This year, the trees are fruiting in abundance. They’re producing so much seed, in fact, that conservationists say they haven’t witnessed anything like it in 40 years.
“The birds just keep on breeding, with some parakeet pairs onto their fifth clutch of eggs,” said Eugenie Sage, the Minister of the Department of Conservation.
Because the parakeet has the ability to breed for 18 months straight, the baby boom may not end until the food runs out. That’s excellent news for the endangered parakeets and the conservationists who hope to protect them.
Only with a captive breeding program, put into place in 2003 by Isaac Conservation and Wildlife Trust in Christchurch, have conservationists been able to revive the birds’ numbers. Over the past four years, 191 orange-fronted parakeets have been released into the wild and this year alone, there were 62 releases.
They have been “a lifeline for the tiny Canterbury population, and we’re now seeing the real dividends of all of the Trust’s hard work,” said Sage.