Posted by: Loren Coleman on March 15th, 2009
The (Australian) Night Parrot (Pezoporus occidentalis) is a small broad-tailed parrot endemic to the continent of Australia. The species was originally placed within its own genus (Geopsittacus), but most authors now prefer to place it within the genus Pezoporus together with the Ground Parrot.
The well-known budgerigar (called “parakeet” in America) is a not-too-distant relative of these birds.
The population size of this species is not known. Estimates range from extinct to not threatened at all. It is currently listed on the IUCN Red List as Critically Endangered.
There have been only a few reliable records of the bird since the 1880s, with the last authenticated report dating from 2006, when rangers found a dead specimen which had flown into a barbed wire fence in the Diamantina National Park in south western Queensland.
Prior to this, the last reliable sighting was of three individuals in 2005 near Minga Well, in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. Reliable sightings were made in 1990 when a roadkill specimen was discovered by scientists returning from an expedition in a remote part of Queensland and 1979 when a team of scientists from the South Australian Museum spotted an apparent flock of the birds in the far north of South Australia.
Ornithologists continue to patrol the outback for signs that the species still thrives, even checking the old nests of other birds, such as the Zebra Finch, for fragments of Night Parrot feathers. The Australian night parrot (Pezoporus occidentalis) remains one of the most elusive and mysterious birds in the world of ornithology.
New funding for a new search for this avian cryptid has been granted, according to a London-based article released when I was there.
The Australian night parrot: may or may not still exist
An amateur birdwatcher has been given £5,000 by a charity to go to Australia and hunt for a parrot – which is very likely to be extinct.
Andrew Parnell, a freelance writer, has been handed the cash to fund a six-week trip to the outback to find the Australian night parrot.
But examples of the species have been spotted just twice in the past ten years – and both times the bird was dead.
‘It’s very rare and classified as critically endangered,’ the 35-year-old said. ‘Very little is known about it and my chances of finding it are pretty slim.’ Mr Parnell, from Wymondham, Norfolk, became obsessed with the secretive bird (pictured) after reading about it in a book.
He applied for and won a Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship to go to Australia to research its environment and talk to other experts.
The parrot was not seen at all between 1912 and 1979 and the last sighting was of a dead bird in 2006. Source: Joel Taylor, Metro