The budgerigar-sized orange-bellied parrot

   Parrots that cross the sea to find gum trees
   If the distinctive shape of the trees does not identify thern, the smell of their leaves will. Tall trunks stand in graceful ranks. Narrow, evergreen leaves grow at the tips of branches. Their scent floats on the warm air: eucalyptus. In summer in southwest Tasmania, the remote forests of eucalyptus trees provide homes for one of the rarest parrots in the world-the budgerigar-sized orange-bellied parrot.
   In spring, the birds behaved in an unparrot-like way. They migrated from southeast Austra­lia to their southern breeding grounds, crossing the sea over the Bass Strait, to take up residence in the hollows of Tasmanian eucalyptus trees.
   Now it is early January, and a vivid blue and green female parrot has been incubating her eggs for nearly three weeks, brought meals by her mate. Soon her five chicks will be begging for food. They will remain in their secluded home for about four weeks before they learn to fly.
   Then in March the weather will turn. Tasmania's cool, wet winter is too harsh for the parrots, so they will return to the coastal grasslands and salt marshes of south-eastern Australia, where they feed on seeds. They spend most of the time on the ground, tucking themselves behind tussocks. When disturbed, they fly high into the air, revealing the bright orange patch on their underparts.
   The parrots' seasonal cycle could soon end forever. So endangered are these birds by land development that fewer than 300 remain.