“Where are the orange-bellied parrots?”
Some people haven’t even clambered out of the plane before they ask this at Melaleuca.
I’d guess about one in ten visitors to Melaleuca comes at least partially to see the birds, and by the birds, I usually mean the orange-bellied parrot, a.k.a the OBP. Yes, they’re super rare, and cute’n’all, but I think ground parrots (Pezopus wallicus) are actually way more betterer.
Although orange-bellied parrots are technically rarer, more people see OBPs at Melaleuca than see ground parrots. In my experience, ground parrots are most abundant and visible early in the morning, as you walk to clean the loos near the bushwalkers’ huts, or when you’re running down to the airstrip to meet the first plane of the day. After that, they seem to vanish until everyone else leaves.
But that’s ok – ground parrots have a right to be exclusive if they want to. I totally support them in this, and present you with six reasons why ground parrots are better than OBPs:
1. Ground parrots are modest. While the orange-bellied parrots are usually busy posing for visitors packing impressive camera equipment, the ground parrots prefer to keep a low profile, bashfully lurking in the buttongrass, showing themselves only when you’re actually about to tread on them.
2. Ground parrots are more hygienic. Look at this ground parrot explaining the importance of clean boots inside the (erstwhile OBP) observation hut – selfless!
3. Ground parrots are hard-working sound artists. Whilst orange-bellied parrots can sound not unlike cranky budgies, ground parrots pipe a mournful, ascending minor scale, twice daily, an hour before the sun has bothered to rise, and an hour after it drops below the buttongrass plains. It is beautiful, and so are they, man.
4. Ground parrots have a smaller carbon footprint. While OBPs are frequent flyers, clocking up innumerable miles between Tasmania and mainland Australia on an annual basis, the ground parrot appreciates local comforts, rarely straying outside a modest 10 hectare territory. If flushed from cover, they shoot out of the scrub and fly low and fast, usually not especially far, before burying themselves in the buttongrass again. Oh, and they’re committed locavores, though I’m yet to see one eating kale.
5. Ground parrots are closely related to famed Lazarus-bird, the night parrot. Recently discovered to not actually be extinct, this bird has been accused of causing more deaths of obsessive Aussie birdos than any other. As such, don’t you think you should be a little nicer to its apparently mild-mannered cousin?
6. Ground parrots have stripy tail feathers. I don’t think I need to explain this further.
Of course, there will be people who disagree with me – as is their misguided right – some of them congregate at this Facebook page, which has excellent information on what those marginally less awesome birds, the orange-bellied parrots, have been up to.