The night parrot returns

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The night parrot returns; a good-news story for Australian wildlife – a bird thought to be extinct has been rediscovered!

by Bush Heritage Australia

 

When the only known population of the night parrot (pezoporus accidentalis) was re-discovered in remote south-western Queensland by John Young in 2013, it created unprecedented interest in birding circles. For many wildlife enthusiasts this is like someone coming back from the dead, as the night parrot had been thought extinct!

The habitat where they were found is now protected within Bush Heritage Australia’s Pullen Pullen Reserve, established purely to protect this incredibly rare species.

Close up of Night Parrot © Photo by Steve Murphy

Close up of Night Parrot © Photo by Steve Murphy

The night parrot has been described as one of the world’s most elusive birds. Its habitat features long unburnt spinifex, sandstone, claystone and siltstone jump-ups (or mesas), and flat gibber plains of chenopod shrubs. It also has alluvial floodplains, interspersed with occasional watercourses lined with gidgee.

The sanctuary is on traditional Maiawali country, with ‘Pullen Pullen’ being the Maiawali word for night parrot, and is a 56,000-hectare property in western Queensland, owned and managed by Bush Heritage. By working closely with researchers, including ecologist Dr Steve Murphy, Bush Heritage is developing conservation plans; where fire and predators, such as feral cats, pose the biggest threat to the night parrot.

Steve Murphy performing surveys © Annette Ruzicka

Steve Murphy performing surveys © Annette Ruzicka

Gathering important data

Dr Murphy and his team have been using acoustic listening equipment to gather vital information on core population areas and new locations for the night parrot. So far, they have captured more than 100,000 hours of sound data, and installed 40 cameras on the reserve to discover more specifically which patches of habitat are most important for night parrots. During that time, a GPS tracker was attached to a night parrot over the course of five days, revealing that the bird travelled at least 40kms a night.

Knowing how this endangered parrot uses the different landscapes at Pullen Pullen allows for targeted conservation management. For example, the data shows us which are the most significant nesting and roosting areas that need to be protected, and which are the key feeding grounds that need careful management of the grazing pressure from both cattle and kangaroos.

Now, not only has this enigmatic and iconic parrot been placed on the list of 20 priority bird species, but in October 2016 the Queensland government declared Pullen Pullen Reserve an official nature refuge. As well as providing a refuge for this elusive bird, the region is of significant environmental value and is home to other endangered and vulnerable birds such as the plains-wanderer, painted honeyeater and grey falcon. The area is also the habitat of threatened small mammals such as the kowari and the dusky hopping-mouse, so this is a great achievement for wildlife preservation in Australia.

 

Bush Heritage Australia is a national non-profit conservation organisation, dedicated to protecting Australia’s unique and threatened animals, plants and their habitats by buying and managing land with significant environmental value.

Donate now by calling 1300 NATURE (1300 628 873) or visit www.bushheritage.org.au

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