Night parrot recordings released online for first time

By Ellen Rykers 3 February 2017
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The public can now listen to the calls of the elusive night parrot, presumed extinct until its sensational rediscovery in 2013.

RECORDINGS OF THE night parrot’s suite of calls have been released online for the first time ever. Until now, only a handful of people have ever heard the sweet bell-like ‘ding ding’ of these critically endangered parrots, which were presumed extinct for nearly a century.

Leading night parrot researcher Dr Steve Murphy made the recordings over several years in Pullen Pullen Reserve in western Queensland. Conservation organisation Bush Heritage Australia established this reserve to protect a surviving population of night parrots, rediscovered there in 2013. A second population has recently been found by the Australian Wildlife Conservancy in Diamantina National Park, in a Restricted Access Area.

“From the beginning, we had the view that we should release the calls, so that anyone – amateur observers or professionals – will know what to listen for when they’re in night parrot habitat,” said Dr Allan Burbidge, chair of the Night Parrot Recovery Team.

The team hopes that releasing the call recordings may spur the discovery of new night parrot populations. According to Allan, a couple of people have already contacted them, believing they have heard night parrots in other places.

The call recordings have proved invaluable for night parrot research. “Sound recordings are the most effective way of surveying the night parrot,” said Allan. “Before we had these recordings, we were all just kind of guessing what they sound like.”

But the recordings were not released immediately for fear they could be improperly used, or even for nefarious purposes such as poaching.

“There was concern that playback could be used to disturb birds, or for illegal activities,” said Allan. He also explained that it could interfere with important research into the ecology and conservation of this mysterious parrot, which involved placement of sound recording devices.

“But we are confident now that the sites are much more secure, and the basic research is now done,” he said.

Those hoping to catch a glimpse of the elusive night parrot are encouraged by the Recovery Team to follow their guidelines for appropriate night parrot spotting.