John Young and the Night Parrot

Just home from John Young’s presentation on his discovery of Night Parrots. These points struck home to me. 1. Night Parrots are unbelievably hard to find. You might spend a month within 10m of a Night Parrot and never see or hear it. John Young regards them as the hardest bird in the world to see. 2. Night Parrots appear to have extremely specific habitat needs: they live and breed inside clumps of old spinifex, only in unburned areas. They do not seem to visit waterholes. 3. The biggest threat to Night Parrots is almost certainly feral cats – it’s not only these parrots at risk, but many species of birds and small animals. e.g. several cats destroyed nearly all of the 20+ nests in a Letter-winged Kite colony. Some sort of biological control to remove cats is urgent – but we have to ensure that it only attacks felids and no other critters. 4. I’d heard the hype about John Young spending 15 years and hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to find a Night Parrot. That didn’t really sink in until half way through his presentation. He had shown many photos of the desolate Queensland outback: some beautiful but inhospitable places. One photo showed Young leaning on his 4WD – that photo marked 8 years’ searching through the outback, without a single sighting, not even a discarded Night Parrot feather. EIGHT YEARS! He’d spent months at a time searching, often alone, methodically working his way through every possible type of likely habitat – and not a hint of success. Yet – and this marks him as passionate beyond belief, or mad, or both – HE KEPT LOOKING! 5. Night Parrots redefine the term “shy.” They rarely respond to playback, and go completely quiet if disturbed. Rather than helping searchers locate the birds, Young believes that using playback – he currently has the only recording – makes individual birds even more secretive, and possibly even may cause them to abandon nests. 6. John Young presents a convincing argument for maintaining the secrecy surrounding his discovery: opening up this area to more groups of searchers is not necessarily going to find any more birds; it may make those he’s found even harder to relocate, and it is critical to find out as much as possible about their dietary and habitat requirements so an action plan can be developed to try to save the species. There is also the risk of poaching. 7. John Young is incredibly passionate about the Night Parrot and is agitating action against feral cats, as well as pushing for sufficient funds to protect the leasehold land where he found the Night Parrots. I really don’t know if we’ve already missed the tiny window of opportunity to save the Night Parrot. But John Young is determined to try, and he presents a thoroughly convincing argument: Address the feral cat problem Protect the habitat Learn as much as we can about the Night Parrot – though the bird itself isn’t going to cooperate! Russell Woodford Birding-Aus List Owner

Birding-Aus mailing list
To change settings or unsubscribe visit:

1 comment to John Young and the Night Parrot