Night parrot: an elusive bird

Posted 27 March 2020.

This project is supported by the SA Arid Lands Natural Resources Management Board through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.

SA Arid Lands NRM staff set up acoustic recorders in the far north-east of the state in the Coongie Lakes Ramsar project site in the hope of detecting the highly elusive parrot. The acoustic recorders captured thousands of hours of sound recordings and through the surveys, two possible night parrot calls were detected. The analysis of acoustic data was done by Nick Leseberg and Steve Murphy from Adaptive NRM and University of Queensland, two experts in night parrot acoustic analysis and detection.

Principal Rangelands Ecologist Rob Brandle said while the initial survey results are promising, follow up investigation will be undertaken to confirm the presence of night parrots in the project area through further acoustic monitoring and habitat assessment.

“Night parrots are rare and extremely difficult to detect and while our current findings are promising and potentially significant, we need to verify any presence through further survey work.”

Listed as endangered under national environmental legislation, the night parrot is one of 20 birds that the Australian Government is prioritising for recovery through its Threatened Species Strategy. It is a priority for investment primarily because of its uniqueness and conservation status.

Until further surveys detect many more night parrots, it is assumed the species is highly threatened, and potentially on the brink of extinction. Any disturbance of these birds could result in failure to breed, subjecting individual birds to high levels of stress, or exposing them to predation. Because of the risks associated with disturbance, the Night Parrot Recovery Team has maintained a policy of minimising disturbance of Night Parrot sites and associated habitat. The key survey method used is passive listening.

While night parrots are extremely difficult to see, their distinctive call allows you to know if they’re present. You can hear the call at nightparrot.com.au/index.php/resources/night-parrot-calls.