The night parrot has been rediscovered and photographed alive for the first time in a century. Photographer John Young announced the discovery last Wednesday at the Queensland Museum in Australia, where the extremely endangered nocturnal bird lives in the harsh Australian outback.
A naturalist and documentary filmmaker, Young told Reuters that he had searched for the ground-dwelling night parrot for 15 years. He found it in the northern state of Queensland on May 25 but won’t reveal the details of the location until he has arranged for a way to protect the habitat:
“I think the worst thing we can do at the moment is to let too many people anywhere near it. In the time I had with the bird the other night, it is the most sensitive bird I have ever seen.”
He used playback (a recording of a parrot call) to draw the night parrot into the open to take the photograph.
Because of the secrecy — and probably also because of its financial value due to its rarity — John Young has maintained tight control of his night parrot photograph. I cannot post it here, but you can see a heavily watermarked version for yourself at The Australian.
The director of the Australian National Wildlife Collection for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) Leo Joseph has confirmed the authenticity of the photograph. Although no one could offer proof that they’d seen the night parrot alive for over a century, several dead ones have been found — most recently in 2006.
There was also a sighting of four living birds in 1979 that the World Parrot Trust found credible enough to cite as proof of the night parrot’s rediscovery in that year.
Over the years, other seekers have occasionally claimed to have seen the night parrot alive. A roundup of some of those claims, along with a rather sad photo of the 2006 dead night parrot find, was collected by Bob Gosford for Crikey.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has redlisted the night parrot, known to science as Pezoporus occidentalis, as an endangered species. Its population crashed in the late 1880s as a result of feral cats being introduced into its habitat.
This video is essentially a slideshow of paintings, museum skins, and other historical records of night parrot sightings:
But those dry images give little taste of the rediscovered night parrot that John Young described as hopping like a small green kangaroo.
[spinifex grass photo by TourismNT via Wikimedia]
[night parrot drawing by Martin Thompson via Wikimedia]