Avian Expert Articles

The Night Parrot: Nocturnal Rarity

In an age where miracles seem to be rare, it’s always great to witness one unfold and the steps taken to create a happy story about them. Until recently, it was thought that the Night Parrot, indigenous to Australia, was a long gone bird lost to the tragedy of extinction. Since that assumption (made because the bird had not been authentically sighted for many decades from the early 1900s until not long ago), official verified sightings of the bird have been incredibly rare leading to the idea that they may not exist in sufficient numbers to even count. In fact, the Night Parrot is considered the rarest of all birds listed as endangered.

The Night Parrot is approximately 9-10 inches in height with a yellow and green feather covering. Its habits are predominantly nocturnal, which gives the Night Parrot its distinctive name. It’s said that the main source of food is the seeds of the grasses that help shelter it.

The Night Parrot has been the subject of strong interest by wildlife photographer John Young, who has spent more than 15 years and an estimated 17,000 hours in an attempt to discover a living Night Parrot in the wild. Young was able to provide photos of the mysterious bird along with a short video, thereby giving validity to their continued existence. But he is far from the only interested parties in the elusive bird.

Capturing The Night

An ornithologist by the name of Steve Murphy, along with his partner, Rachel Barr, was able to capture and electronically tag one. It wasn’t long before the installed tracker sent back data showing that the bird flew long ranges in a short period of time. Using the received data, Murphy and Barr were able to locate a roost where they discovered the tagged bird well hidden from the outside world. After night fell, the parrot emerged to fly with others of its kind. The couple’s current plan is to catch two more and attach more sophisticated trackers for future evaluation of the shy and quiet species.

Recently, scientists Nick Leseberg and James Watson from the University of Queensland made news when they were able to photograph a young Night Parrot, thereby helping to further document the realization of the difficult to find bird.

Between them all, there are extraordinary hopes that not only will the once abundant Night Parrot thrive yet again, but that they can be visually enjoyed in the wild. Thus far, the actual locations of the Night Parrots discovered by both John Young, and the duo of Steve Murphy and Rachel Barr, have been kept a closely guarded secret in order to keep potential poachers from utilizing the locations to capitalize on the rarity of the bird. All of the previously mentioned interested parties have been respectful of the needs of the bird. When necessary, they have retreated to allow the bird its spacing.

Safe Zone

Fortunately, Queensland (in Australia) has established a safe zone for the Night Parrot. Its location is kept secret. In addition, strict fines are levied by the government to discourage illicit curiosity and ill-intended visitors. The landscape is covered with the sort of vegetation that helps to keep it hidden. In addition, because fire is considered one of the decimating factors in the declining numbers of the Night Parrot, there are plenty of natural land gaps that would naturally help to stop the advancement of fire. This would give the birds a short distance to safety within their comfortable and familiar safety zone.

As the limited investigations continue, it is hoped that we can become assured of the Night Parrot and its efforts to remain a viable part of our ecological system. For now, it’s a grand thing to know that a once thought extinct parrot is still with us. They’re just well hidden.

Donations to the effort to help save and give a fighting chance to the Night Parrot can be done at the site of Bush Heritage (here).

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