New footage of the night parrot

By John Pickrell 11 August 2015
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The first clear images and video footage of Australia’s most elusive bird have been captured in south-western Queensland

THE NIGHT PARROT – Australia’s most elusive bird – was found once more in 2013, after a century of little but fleeting glimpses and even claims of extinction. But the only photos we had were blurry snatches, and scientists were yet to capture a bird.

But on Monday, experts led by Dr Steve Murphy, a Charles Darwin University fellow, announced they had caught, tagged and filmed a night parrot at the secret south-western Queensland site where a small population of parrots had previously been discovered by ornithologist John Young.

Also on Monday, conservation NGO Bush Heritage announced a fundraising campaign that will help them secure donations needed to buy a 56,000ha block of pastoral land surrounding the population of night parrots (Pezoporus occidentalis), estimated at 10–30 individuals.

With support from birders and the public, they hope to turn the land into a reserve which will be protected against future development (watch the video above for more details, and find out how to donate here).

The first images of a night parrot. Credit: Steve Murphy.

Bringing the night parrot back from the brink

“Recovery planning is already under way to preserve the bird’s pocket of natural habitat in Queensland from threats such as fire and feral cats,” reported Bush Heritage, in a statement. “The Night Parrot is also vulnerable to poachers and human intervention, which is why the exact location of this rediscovered population cannot be revealed.” 

Part of the reason the night parrot is believed to have survived in this location is that it has old-growth patches of spinifex, which seems to be the habitat of the bird.

“It is a really unique site. It has very long unburnt spinifex… [which] hasn’t burnt in at least fifty years,” says the NGO’s Rob Murphy. “We’ve got some amazing spinifex in really big clumps. Some of them as big as me, which is just outstanding in such harsh country.”

The Night Parrot Recovery Team includes experts from the Australian National University, CSIRO, the federal Department of Environment and the Queensland Threatened Species Unit in addition to Bush Heritage and Charles Darwin University.

“This is a really critical time for this special bird, that still could be lost forever if we don’t act now,” says Rob.