The Weekend Australian - Review - - Books - Robert Adam­son

‘‘ beau­ti­ful’’ parrot had been sent abroad for aviaries; they were known to bird deal­ers in Bri­tain and the Con­ti­nent un­der the name of Par­adise Paro­quet. They grad­u­ally died out in cap­tiv­ity, and in Europe it was not known that th­ese birds from par­adise had a habit of nest­ing in ter­mite mounds. In fact even in Queens­land there was not much more known about them, other than that they nested in mounds and lived in pairs, not flocks. In Aus­tralia they were known var­i­ously as the ground parrot (as dis­tinct from the green ground parrot), the ground rosella, beau­ti­ful parrot, el­e­gant parrot and the anthill parrot. The last pho­to­graphs taken of th­ese birds are re­pro­duced in this book.

Chisholm dis­cov­ered the Nor­we­gian author Carl Lumholtz was at the No­goa River near Rock­hamp­ton in 1881, where he wrote up an ex­pe­ri­ence with a pair of th­ese del­i­cate birds that de­served to be ‘‘ re­vived from the semiob­scu­rity of his book’’. Here’s Chisholm’s quote from Lumholtz in full; in ret­ro­spect it be­comes metaphor­i­cal: An hour be­fore sun­set I left the camp with my gun, and soon caught sight of a pair of th­ese Par­rots that were walk­ing near an ant-hill . . . Af­ter I shot the male the fe­male flew up into a neigh­bour­ing tree. I did not go at once to pick up the dead bird — the fine scar­let feath­ers of the lower part of its belly, which shone in the rays of the set­ting sun, could eas­ily be seen in the dis­tance. Soon af­ter the fe­male came fly­ing down to her dead mate. With her beak she re­peat­edly lifted the dead head up from the ground, and walked to and fro over the body, as though to bring it to life again; then she flew away, but im­me­di­ately re­turned with some fine straws of grass in her beak, and laid them be­fore the dead bird, ev­i­dently for the pur­pose of get­ting him to eat the seed. As this, too, was in vain, she fi­nally flew into a tree as dark­ness was com­ing on. I ap­proached the tree, and a shot put an end to the faith­ful an­i­mal’s sor­row.

Chisholm placed an ar­ti­cle in news­pa­pers through­out Queens­land ti­tled ‘‘ Is it lost?’’ Fi­nally, in the south­ern Bur­nett River dis­trict, he got to see a pair of par­adise par­rots. Af­ter this, there were only two more con­firmed sight­ings, the fi­nal one in 1927.

Mate­ship with Birds has been out of print for too long and Melbourne pub­lisher Scribe is to be con­grat­u­lated for pro­duc­ing this new edi­tion. Chisholm’s work en­cour­ages a dif­fer­ent way of re­lat­ing to birds, a way of shar­ing their world with­out de­stroy­ing it. If you take the time to live with this clas­sic bird book, it will en­rich your life.


An un­dated pho­to­graph from

The cap­tion reads: Happy Aus­tralians. Do­mes­ti­cated Cock­a­too.

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