New population of the endangered Night Parrot was found in Queensland, Australia

November 13th, 2016 | by Jan Potucek
New population of the endangered Night Parrot was found in Queensland, Australia
Conservation projects
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Just a few months back it has been assumed that the inconspicuous green parrot from remote plains of Australia is extinct. However, at the turn of the second and the third millennium a few dead birds were found. What is more, in 2013 John Young observed live birds of this species again after more than a hundred of years. BirdLife International assumed that there are 50-249 individuals living in the wild, maximally. However, it seems that the population is not so small as it has been expected. Recently, a new population was found in a national park of Queensland.

Until now, the Night Parrot (Pezoporus occidentalis) was known to occur only at one site, reserve Pullen Pullen. What a surprise when scientists from Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC) announced a discovery of a larger group in Diamantina National Park. This was not a result of any aimed search. Biologists found the birds by coincidence when monitoring endangered bird species within that area. In total, the Night Parrot has been recorded for four times in this year. Researchers found three nests and recorded voice of this bird for three times.

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Most likely they occur also at other sites, say researchers

“My immediate reaction was excitement – this is great, there are more birds out there than we thought,” said Atticus Fleming, chief executive of AWC to Guardian Australia.

“But when you start to analyse it, the really significant thing about this is that these birds may be more common than we thought. That is something that we will be developing in the next few years as the study extends into other areas,” he added. The parrots were found in part of the national park which is bordered by Diamantina and Mayne rivers. Queensland government immediately declared this area to be strictly guarded and everybody who wants to break set rules can expect high fine.

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These sanctions should discourage poachers but also many curious ornithologists from searching of this species. The same restriction was established before in natural reserve Pullen Pullen. Besides people, the Night Parrot is also threatened by cattle which makes considerable damage on local vegetation, wild cats and fires which occur there frequently. The fire destroys tufts of Spinifex grass where these parrots build their nests. Nesting on the ground is one of the main reason why this species is so endangered today. Besides above mentioned threats, researchers also found a nest destroyed by snake.

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One of the rarest parrots in the world

It seems that this breeding season could be really successful for the Night Parrot. This is because of frequent rainfalls in Queensland which lead to unsual sexual activity of this species.

“All indications are that it will be a very good year, not just for night parrots but for other birds,” said one of the ornithologists who is involved in the project. “I fully expect that they will be discovered in other places in Australia in time as well, because I don’t think that this can be the only population,” he added.

The Night Parrot is one of two parrot species which is active exclusively during the night. The second one is kakapo (Strigops habroptilus), the heaviest parrot of the world, which is even more endangered than the mentioned Night Parrot. Researchers from the New Zealand had to create special natural reserves for this species which are free of predators like wild cats, rats etc. Because of very successful reintroduction project and artificial insemination the size of population has been increased from critical 50 to 130 individuals. However, kakapo still cannot survive without help of human.

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Title photo: (c) Steve Murphy

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