Night parrot (Pezoporus occidentalis)

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The night parrot (Pezoporus occidentalis) is a small parrot endemic to the continent of Australia. It is well known as being one of the most elusive and mysterious birds in the world, with no confirmed sightings of the bird between 1912 and 1979, leading to speculation that it was extinct. Sightings since 1979 have been extremely rare and the bird’s population size is unknown, though based on the paucity of records it is thought to number between 50 and 249 mature individuals.

Night parrot (Pezoporus occidentalis)

The first photographic and video evidence of a live individual was publicly confirmed in July 2013. After many hours in the field over 15 years of searching, wildlife photographer John Young captured several photos and a 17-second video of the bird in western Queensland. In August 2015, the tagging and tracking of a live individual was announced on Australian media. Other live individuals were photographed in Queensland in late 2016, and in Western Australia in March 2017.

A relatively small and short-tailed parrot, the species’ colour is predominantly a yellowish green, mottled with dark brown, blacks and yellows. Both sexes have this coloration. It is distinguished from the two superficially similar ground parrot species by its shorter tail and different range and habitat. Predominantly terrestrial, taking to the air only when panicked or in search of water, the night parrot has furtive, nocturnal habits and—even when it was abundant—was apparently a highly secretive species.

Its natural habitat appears to be the spinifex grass which still dominates much of the dry, dusty Australian interior; other early reports also indicate that it never strayed far from water. It may also inhabit chenopod shrublands, eucalyptus woodlands, and mallee shrublands. One of the vocalisations of the night parrot has been described as a croak and identified as a contact call. Other calls, mostly short ‘ding-ding’ whistles, and a more drawn out whistle, have been recorded from Queensland and Western Australia.

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