Elusive night parrot photographed in Western Queensland

Nicholas Leseberg took this photo of a baby Night Parrot almost camouflaged by the ground cover around it.
Nicholas Leseberg took this photo of a baby Night Parrot almost camouflaged by the ground cover around it.

Bush Heritage Australia has announced that another young Night Parrot has been spotted and photographed on their Pullen Pullen reserve in western Queensland.

Nicholas Leseberg, a PhD student from the University of Queensland, whose Night Parrot research is funded by Bush Heritage donations took the photo of the elusive bird.

“It’s estimated that this Night Parrot is two or three months old; which indicates a laying date of early September,” Mr Leseberg said.

“This suggests that Night Parrots are still breeding at least seven months after the last substantial rain, and following a very dry year.

Mr Leseberg said the discovery reinforced the importance of Pullen Pullen Reserve as critical Night Parrot habitat, and Bush Heritage’s efforts to manage the reserve for the benefit of this rare Australian bird.

Bush Heritage CEO Gerard O’Neill said this sighting was a sign of a successful conservation strategy.

“It’s vindication that our science works, and that is hugely satisfying for the dedicated people we have working on the ground and doing everything they can to safeguard and protect the Night Parrot,” Mr O’Neill said.

“Sightings like this make our jobs all the more worthwhile; and show that the generous contributions of our donors are making a real impact, today and for future generations.”

The beautiful photo of sunset at Pullen Pullen is by Annette Ruzicka.

The beautiful photo of sunset at Pullen Pullen is by Annette Ruzicka.

Pullen Pullen is named after the Maiawali word for Night Parrot, in recognition of the traditional Aboriginal owners of the land and is the only known habitat of Night Parrots in the world.

The reserve is south of Winton but the exact location of this 56,000-hectare property has not been revealed.

Bush Heritage bought the site in April 2016 with the help of a significant donation from a group of supporters called the Pullen Pullen Founders Circle.

Pullen Pullen is protected by a Nature Refuge Agreement, in a partnership between Bush Heritage and the Queensland Government, who also provided financial support.

Minister for Environment and Science, Leeanne Enoch said the Queensland Government was committed to protecting the Night Parrot and its ecosystem.

“Last year the Government provided $440,000 from the NatureAssist program for conservation works at Pullen Pullen,” Ms Enoch said.

“The funding will also be used to protect the Night Parrot from predation by feral animals, fencing and fire management.” 

Famous for avoiding detection, the ground-dwelling Night Parrot is nocturnal and sedentary and described by the Smithsonian Institution as “one of the planet’s most elusive birds”.

The last living specimen was collected in Western Australia in 1912 and was rediscovered in 2013 – a century later – in western Queensland.

The Night Parrot is now one of the top 20 priority bird species in the Federal Government’s Threatened Species Strategy.