After last being sighted in the region in 1883, researchers have found evidence that one of the world’s rarest and most elusive birds is still clinging on in the state of South Australia. This is the first time in over 100 years that the night parrot has been confirmed to be living here, and radically expands the known range of the plump creatures.
The existence of the night parrot had long passed into birding legend. Officially, the squat green-and-yellow striped bird from Australia had not been seen for over a century, although hints that it still survived in the remote outback occasionally filtered through.
That was until 2013, when to the astonishment of ornithologists and conservationists alike, researchers revealed that they had not only seen and filmed the night parrot for the first time ever in Queensland, but that they had even managed to catch and tag one. This was followed by even more incredible news earlier this year that another population of the little birds had been discovered in Western Australia.
Now, the same researcher who made the initial rediscovery of the parrot in Queensland has done it again, and confirmed that the bird also still survives in the state of South Australia. A blurry camera trap image tipped John Young and his colleague Keith Bellchambers off to the possibility that the bird was sneaking around. When they found one small green-and-yellow feather woven into the layer of insulation at the bottom of a zebra finch nest, they were both shocked and stunned.
“Zebra finches just love to build their nests in the base of a Wedge-tailed Eagle’s nest, so we walked over to investigate,” recounts the Australian Wildlife Conservancy's John Young. “Keith and I looked at many zebra finches’ nests before finally an unmistakable small green feather appeared within the fresh base lining of one of the nests.”
According to Young, there was “no doubt" that it belonged to the rare night parrot, and confirmed this by sending the feather to an expert at a museum. The fact that these birds have been secretly carrying on their lives unbeknownst to us is truly incredible.
This extraordinary discovery radically shifts what we thought we knew about the elusive bird’s ecology. Previously, it was thought that the night parrot only lived in regions blanketed with spinifex, a low-lying type of grass that forms a thick layer on the ground. However, the population living in South Australia seem to be living in an area covered with samphire. This could widen the number of environments in which the birds may still be surviving.