The enigmatic Night Parrot
The Night Parrot has long been thought to be extinct.
This has been the presumed status of the species for many decades. In fact, the majority of confirmed sightings were in the period 1870 to 1900. Since then, several dead birds have been found on roadsides and there have been tantalising reports of birders getting brief glimpses of the parrot in car headlights. The chance was always there; did it still exist in sustainable numbers – or any numbers at all?
On our many travels I will often challenge my wife to be on the lookout for two species when travelling at night: the Plains Wanderer and the Night Parrot. Sightings of either species would be most unlikely and being a supportive and loving person she agrees to keep a sharp eye on the lookout. We always enjoy this verbal banter with a little laughter.
However, the chances of seeing a Night Parrot have risen slightly in the last year or so. Ever so slightly. From 0% to approximately 0.001% – or thereabouts. Or to put it in Australian slang terms – from Buckley’s to Forget it!
Some facts we know about the Night Parrot:
- It is nocturnal – making it just that bit more difficult to observe.
- It’s preferred habitat in spinifex grasslands in the arid interior of Australia – that big space in the middle where very few travel and even fewer live, limiting chance sightings even further.
- It is small, green and yellow and dumpy, and runs and hops in preference to flying.
- It shelters in the clumps of the spinifex during the day making it almost impossible to find during the day – unless stepped on. Which you wouldn’t want to do to such a rare bird.
- It has never been filmed – until recently.
- Not much is known about the habits of the species, but that is about to change.
After well over 17,000 hours of field work over the span of a decade, this species was rediscovered and filmed by John Young.
In 2013 naturalist and wildlife photographer John Young captured several photos and a few seconds of video footage of a live bird in western Queensland.
After a search spanning many years, John was finally rewarded by an incredibly close-up encounter with a Night Parrot – often considered the ‘holy grail’ for birdwatchers and naturalists.
Global interest in the discovery was so intense that the exact location of this only known population remains a closely guarded secret to protect the birds from disturbance.
Quoted from the Bush Heritage Australia website.
What is interesting about the Bush Heritage article is the 3:34 minute video showing the bird and the habitat in which it lives, plus more information about efforts to conserve the area. There is also an appeal to raise money in this important conservation project.
I am sorry that I do not have a photo of my own to share with you. My wife will just have to keep looking.
- Bush Heritage Australia – read more about this interesting bird, watch a short video and donate to the project to preserve the bird’s environment.
- Looking for a Night Parrot in a Haystack? A recent report in The Australian newspaper.
Colombian hummingbird rediscovered
Blue-bearded Helmetcrest (Oxypogon cyanolaemus)
I don’t feature non-Australian birds very often on this site and I should correct this oversight. I have in the past shown birds photographed in Nepal, Thailand, Ethiopia, Morocco and Spain. (You can search for these using the search facility above.)
For two reasons I would love to go birding in Colombia, South America. First, it boasts the world’s largest list of bird species as well as the largest list of endemic species – that is, birds only found there and nowhere else. Second, I would love to visit the city of Cali, the birthplace of my two grandchildren.
News has come in recently of the rediscovery of a species of hummingbird, the Blue-bearded Helmetcrest (Oxypogon cyanolaemus) which had been thought to be extinct. The last sighting was as long ago as 1946. It must have been an exciting moment for the birders who made the discovery. To then manage to get the first ever photograph of the species must made the discovery even sweeter.
On the downside, the area in the Santa Marta mountains in Colombia where the birds were seen is under severe threat from clearing and burning by local farmers. I hope that provisions can be made to preserve both the birds and the environment on which they rely for their existence.
I can’t show the photo of the bird here for copyright reasons, so go to the link below. This will also take you to an interesting article about the bird’s rediscovery.
World record set by birder
I regard myself as a devoted and keen birder. I am not a twitcher – I usually can’t be bothered going to see a rare bird even if it occurred a few kilometres away from home. I am not a fanatic – I do have other interests (too many in fact). I do not go racing all over the countryside in order to see birds.
But I am a lister of birds seen. I keep day lists, month lists, year lists and a life list. None of them are very big because I do not regard birding some kind of competition or race to see the most species. I do keep all of my sightings on a database stretching back as far as 1977. I guess that is bordering on fanaticism.
I do admire birders who dedicate a whole year to seeing as many species as possible. Even more, I envy birders who have had the opportunity to travel to almost every country of the world in order to make a life list of thousands of species. Their single mindedness to the task is admirable, and I hope that they have fun doing it.
Until a few days ago I had not heard of world record holder for having seen the most bird species on a global scale. I had read about a previous record holder Phoebe Snetsinger, but the name of Tom Gullick was a new one to me. At age 81, this dedicated Englishman is the first person to have seen over 9000 different bird species in a lifetime. You can read about him here.
With a world wide life list hovering around just over 400 species, I have a long way to go to catch up. I haven’t even seen half of Australia’s bird species yet. [Sigh]
Australian Bird Week
We celebrate all kinds of special days and special weeks, so why not a special week just to celebrate the wonderful birds of Australia?
In a way – that is what this site is all about – celebrating the fact that we have an abundance of wonderful birds in this land of ours.
This celebration runs from today until the 25th October 2013. You can find out more about Australian Bird Week by clicking here.
As a part of the week, organisers are asking Australians to vote for their favourite bird (click here).
Which species will you vote for? Below is a photo of my favourite bird.
Welcome to readers of the Murray Valley Standard
Welcome to all of those readers who have come to this site as a result of reading the article in today’s Murray Valley Standard newspaper. I am pleased that you made the effort and hope you enjoy my articles and photos about birds.
This site is about sharing my interest in Australian birds seen in our garden here in Murray Bridge, along the river and other places throughout Australia whenever I get the chance to travel. Some of my articles also include photos of birds seen on various overseas trips, the latest being recently in Ethiopia, Morocco and Spain. Many of these photos will continue to appear over the coming months.
My sites are all interactive, meaning that readers can leave comments. Just click on the link that says “comments” just under the heading of this article (above and to the right of the photo above). I’ll respond to as many as I can.
If you want to find out more about me, click here (the link takes you to my writing site).
If you want to read about my travels, including overseas, click here. That site also includes many photos.