The night par­rot re­turns

The night par­rot re­turns; a good-news story for Aus­tralian wildlife – a bird thought to be ex­tinct has been re­dis­cov­ered.

Living Now - - Contents - by Bush Her­itage Aus­tralia

When the only known pop­u­la­tion of the night par­rot (pe­zo­porus ac­ci­den­talis) was re-dis­cov­ered in re­mote south­west­ern Queens­land by John Young in 2013, it cre­ated un­prece­dented in­ter­est in bird­ing cir­cles – for many wildlife en­thu­si­asts this is like some­one com­ing back from the dead, as the night par­rot had been thought ex­tinct!

The habi­tat where they were found is now pro­tected within Bush Her­itage Aus­tralia’s Pullen Pullen Re­serve, es­tab­lished purely to pro­tect this in­cred­i­bly rare species.

The night par­rot has been de­scribed as one of the world’s most elu­sive birds. Its habi­tat fea­tures long un­burnt spinifex, sand­stone, clay­stone and silt­stone jump-ups (or mesas), flat gib­ber plains of cheno­pod shrubs, and al­lu­vial flood­plains in­ter­spersed with oc­ca­sional wa­ter­courses lined with gidgee.

The sanc­tu­ary is on tra­di­tional Ma­iawali coun­try, with ‘Pullen Pullen’ be­ing the Ma­iawali word for night par­rot, and is a 56,000-hectare prop­erty in western Queens­land, owned and man­aged by Bush Her­itage. By work­ing closely with re­searchers, in­clud­ing ecol­o­gist Dr Steve Mur­phy, Bush Her­itage is de­vel­op­ing con­ser­va­tion plans; where fire and preda­tors, such as feral cats, pose the big­gest threat to the night par­rot.

Dr Mur­phy and his team have been us­ing acous­tic lis­ten­ing equip­ment to gather vi­tal in­for­ma­tion on core pop­u­la­tion ar­eas and new lo­ca­tions for the night par­rot. So far, they have cap­tured more than 100,000 hours of sound data, and in­stalled 40 cam­eras on the re­serve to

dis­cover more specif­i­cally which patches of habi­tat are most im­por­tant for night par­rots. Dur­ing that time, a GPS tracker was at­tached to a night par­rot over the course of five days, re­veal­ing that the bird trav­elled at least 40kms a night.

Know­ing how this en­dan­gered par­rot uses the dif­fer­ent land­scapes at Pullen Pullen al­lows for tar­geted con­ser­va­tion man­age­ment. For ex­am­ple, the data shows us which are the most sig­nif­i­cant nesting and roost­ing ar­eas that need to be pro­tected, and which are the key feed­ing grounds that need care­ful man­age­ment of the graz­ing pres­sure from both cat­tle and kan­ga­roos.

Now, not only has this enig­matic and iconic par­rot been placed on the list of 20 pri­or­ity bird species, but in Oc­to­ber 2016 the Queens­land gov­ern­ment de­clared Pullen Pullen Re­serve an of­fi­cial na­ture refuge. As well as pro­vid­ing a refuge for this elu­sive bird, the re­gion is of sig­nif­i­cant en­vi­ron­men­tal value and is home to other en­dan­gered and vul­ner­a­ble birds such as the plain­swan­derer, painted hon­eyeater and grey fal­con. The area is also the habi­tat of threat­ened small mam­mals such as the kowari and the dusky hop­ping-mouse, so this is a great achieve­ment for wildlife preser­va­tion in Aus­tralia.

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