To the untrained eye, it’s a simple parrot. But to birdwatching enthusiasts, it’s been described as the equivalent of “finding Elvis flipping burgers in an outback roadhouse”.
Birdlife Magazine editor Sean Dooley, who made this bold comparison to the ABC, has every right to be excited.
The Australian Night Parrot (Pezoporus occidentalis) is the world’s most elusive bird; perhaps one of the rarest of any known species due to its near-impossibility to trace. The beautiful green bird all but disappeared in 1912, and has been sighted by only a handful of people since.
Now, after an 18-month hunt by ornithologist Dr. Steve Murphy and his partner Rachel Barr, the tiny, critically endangered Night Parrot has finally been caught and tagged in rural Queensland.
Dr. Murphy spoke to The Australian about the tense experience: “When we had the bird… it was terrible to be honest… there was an enormous responsibility, being the first people to touch one”.
“We really had to focus; we were both shaking pretty madly at the start… We put a tiny little radio transmitter on it and we let it go.”
“But since then we have looked at each other and gone: ‘Wow, we really did it!'”
The parrot has been nicknamed ‘Pedro’, although DNA samples have been mysteriously unable to determine its gender.
Conservation experts are hoping this will help track down more members of the population, which is estimated to be somewhere 50 and 250 birds.
Not only could this shed new light on the Night Parrot itself, but also why it was driven to the edge of extinction without human interference. This, in turn, could help conservationists protect the parrot and nurture it back to safer numbers.
Bush Heritage Australia is now working with bird experts, scientists and private land owners to secure a 56,000 hectare plot of land as a conservation reserve for the Night Parrot.
However, the amateur ornithologists among us will have to wait. With such a high potential value for poachers, the species’ location is being kept a strict secret until the safety of the population can be secured.
Are you excited by this discovery? How far should we go to ensure the future safety of the Australian Night Parrot?