'The Night Parrot: It’s a whitefella thing'

by
October 2019, no. 415

'The Night Parrot: It’s a whitefella thing'

by
October 2019, no. 415

If you google the words ‘Night Parrot’, they come up with a companion set of adjectives, the most common being ‘elusive’, followed by ‘mysterious’, ‘secretive’, ‘enigmatic’, ‘mythical’, and, until recently, ‘thought-to-be-extinct’. Apart from anecdotal claims, there were no confirmed sightings of the Night Parrot from 1912, when one was captured and shot, until a dead parrot was found by a roadside in 1990 and a live bird was photographed by naturalist John Young in Western Queensland in 2013. Controversy, compromised reputations, and accusations of faked evidence followed the re-emergence of the fabled bird, but the parrot prevailed and a conservation reserve was established at Pullen Pullen, the location where Young took the photograph and where a female Night Parrot was subsequently trapped and tagged.

In the winter of 2017, somewhere in the northern part of the Great Sandy Desert, the Paruku Indigenous Rangers and a visiting scientist from the World Wildlife Fund set up a sensor camera at a location where a Night Parrot had reportedly been sighted by a local pastoralist forty years earlier. Returning to the ranger base next morning, the team discovered the camera had captured a flare of yellow-green, which the WWF scientist immediately sent to his brother, a bird expert, who identified it as Pezoporus occidentalis, the Night Parrot. A second attempt to photograph the parrot recorded wild camels, bulls, cats, and dingoes, their grunts, bellows, and howls keeping the rangers awake for most of the night. A photo taken a few months later, accompanied by audio identification of its call, confirmed that the Night Parrot was successfully sharing its habitat with predators and ferals.

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