Night Parrot

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image: NightParrot.jpg

Common Name: Night Parrot
Scientific Name: Pezoporus occidentalis

Size: 8 ½ to 10 ¼ inches (22-26cm)

Habitat: Australia; found throughout inland Australia. Arid areas where there is dense, low vegetation, which provides shelter during the day.

Status: Presumed extinct. Global Population: 0. It's decline was due to habitat loss from land clearance, loss of water and predation.

Diet: Porcupine grass (Triodia), saltbush, bluebush, Mitchell grass (Astrebla) seeds.

Breeding: Nest is a layer of small sticks in an expanded cavity at the end of a tunnel under a clump of Triodia or a samphire bush. A four to six egg clutch has been reported.

Cool Facts: This is one of four ground-dwelling parrots in the world. This species closely resembles the Ground Parrot (Pezoporus wallicus) of coastal southeastern and southwestern Australia and Tasmania. It differs by lacking the orange band on the forehead across the base of the upper mandible, a noticeably shorter tail, and shorter, straighter claws on the toes.

The first known specimen of the Night Parrot was collected by John McDouall Stuart in October 1845, north of Coopers Creek, far northern South Australia, as part of an expedition led by Charles Sturt. The Night Parrot was not formally named until 1861, when John Gould described it as Geopsittacus occidentalis with a specimen found six years earlier.

During the period between 1870 and 1890 the sightings of this rare bird were reported as well as the most specimens collected for museums. By the mid 1890’s, there was a marked decline in confirmed sighting. Of the few sightings of Night Parrots between 1890 and the 1930s, the only identifiable specimen was one accidentally shot in Western Australia in 1912.

There were a number of reported sightings in the 1960s and early 1970s, but none could be confirmed. In 1979, a team from the South Australian Museum saw a several birds in the far northwest of South Australia.

In 1990, the last identifiable Night Parrot was found—road kill in southwestern Queensland. Since then, sightings have been claimed, but none substantiated. Publicity campaigns in several states have gathered awareness, but despite organized searches, no birds could be found. The species was secretive and almost all confirmed sightings of feeding or drinking birds have come after dark. In the 1800s, Aboriginal people familiar with the bird referred to its nocturnal behavior, and early observers reported birds flying to water once night has fallen. A number of reports have been of birds flushed by traveling stock at night. A captive bird in a London zoo was active throughout the night. Sightings during the day almost always have been of birds flushed from hiding places by herds of stock, dogs or fire. A bird would sit tight, flushing only if the disturbance was very close, actually affecting the clump of vegetation in which it was hiding. Early observers stressed the dependence of the parrot upon dense spinifex or samphire for daytime roosting spots and for nesting. Although the Night Parrot is capable of flight, it prefers to spend most of its time on the ground. Some reports indicated that it runs between shelters when possible, in preference to flying. When it flies, it usually goes only a short distance, flying close low, before landing and escaping on foot.

Found in Parrots of the World and Songbird ReMix Australia Volume III

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