Making history is not so easy these days, but four Broome-based ornithologists (Adrian Boyle, Nigel Jackett, George Swann and Bruce Greatwich) have had a well-deserved win.
They studied the options, developed a conceptual model of occurrences, chose a site in interior WA to check, organised themselves to get there, camped out, listened for calls and had a great result — obtaining the first confirmed sighting of a Night Parrot in Western Australia for nearly a century.
The Night Parrot looks like a low-flying fat budgerigar. It was not confirmed as still alive in Australia until three years ago. More remarkably, the confirmation photograph in WA was taken in a patch of spinifex (location not being revealed) 2,000 kilometres from where the species was rediscovered in Western Queensland three years ago.
ANightParrotRecoveryTeamwasformedin2015, tasked with ensuring that research and management activities undertaken in support of Night Parrot conservation are aligned and coordinated.
The team has recently launched a website www.nightparrot.com.au which contains photos and information about Night Parrots, including samples of their calls.
Anyone who spends time in spinifex country is encouraged to check out the calls on the website as this is regarded
as the best way to find the nocturnal species. Research in Queensland has revealed that night parrots’ calling rates dramatically increase after significant rainfall, so now is a good time to be looking and listening. The first hour after sunset and last hour before dawn are their main calling times. Stands of long-unburnt spinifex appear to be important for roosting and nesting, so areas of big old-growth spinifex (Triodia longiceps or similar) adjacent to stony habitats that provide natural firebreaks would be good places to look, especially if there are alluvial habitats supporting low succulent vegetation such as Sclerolaena spp. nearby, where parrots can forage.
And if you hear the call, make sure to have your camera ready. Onya Ady, Nigel, George and Bruce!
By Jan Lewis,