Night Parrot. Photo Arianna Urso © Western Australian Museum
Once thought to be extinct, a specimen of the elusive Night Parrot is now on display for the first time at the WA Museum Boola Bardip.
The Western Australian Museum’s recent acquisition of a whole specimen is the best one collected since the 1800s and only the 4th complete specimen collected in Western Australia. It is also the best representation of the Night Parrot in any Museum around the world and will provide a significant opportunity for WA Museum visitors to view the elusive bird up close.
Last year, Traditional Owners in the east Pilbara retrieved an injured parrot caught by its wing on a fence. When the bird subsequently died from its injuries, the Traditional Owners notified the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions who confirmed that it was a Night Parrot.
WA Museum’s Acting Curator of Ornithology Dr Kenny Travouillon says that until this find, only three Night Parrot specimens had been collected in Western Australia with all three in overseas museums.
“This is very exciting for us to be able to receive a specimen of the Night Parrot and are grateful for the assistance given from Traditional Owners in delivering it to us and giving us permission to put it on display.”
“Having a specimen of this quality and its preservation is incredibly important for research and education as we still know little about this elusive bird’s habitat and biology,” Dr Travouillon said.
The combination of reported low numbers of the bird, it being nocturnal and inhabiting some of the harshest climates in the country, is why the medium-sized parrot is one of the nation’s rarest and most elusive birds. They are well camouflaged due to their yellow and greenish colour and markings for hiding in spinifex during the day, and active at night feeding on seeds and communicating through a “ding-ding” or croak sound.
First discovered in 1845 by Europeans, the Night Parrot, or Pezoporus occidentalis is found only in Australia in arid areas of Western Australia, southern Kimberley, Pilbara and Gascoyne regions, Great Sandy and Gibson deserts and the arid zone of eastern Australia.
“The bird is currently registered on the Critically Endangered List and experts have estimated a population of 40-500 individuals remaining in the wild. We are confident that this recent specimen confirms that the species is still around in the Pilbara.” Dr Travouillon said.
Having a quality specimen will allow for further research by the WA Museum, and with little known about this mysterious bird, be critically important for future conservation and protection efforts.
The new Night Parrot display can be found in the Wild Life gallery at the WA Museum Boola Bardip.