Night Parrot - profile

Indicative distribution


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Key:
known
predicted
The areas shown in pink and/purple are the sub-regions where the species or community is known or predicted to occur. They may not occur thoughout the sub-region but may be restricted to certain areas. ( click here to see geographic restrictions). The information presented in this map is only indicative and may contain errors and omissions.
Scientific name: Pezoporus occidentalis
Conservation status in NSW: Presumed Extinct
Commonwealth status: Endangered
Profile last updated: 07 Sep 2017

Description

The Night Parrot (Pezoporus occidentalis), also known as the Spinifex or Porcupine Parrot, is a medium-sized parrot measuring 22 to 25 cm in length, with a wingspan of 44 to 46 cm. The adults are predominantly bright green in colour, with black and yellow bars, spots and streaks over much of the body. Bright yellow colouring is apparent on the belly and vent, and black colouring on the upper surfaces of the periphery of the wings and tail. In flight, a prominent bar, off-white to pale-yellow in colour, becomes visible on the underside of each wing. The sexes are alike in appearance. Little is known about the plumage of juvenile Night Parrots, but they are assumed to be quite similar in appearance to the adults, although with a duller and more olive colouring.

Distribution

The distribution of the Night Parrot has not been well documented, but it is known to be restricted to arid and semi-arid Australia. Twenty-two museum specimens existed prior to 1990, all but one taken in the 19th century. Of the specimens, three were collected in north-west and north-central Western Australia (including the only 20th century specimen in 1912) and the remainder in South Australia. A specimen was apparently taken in south-west New South Wales in 1897 and a number of recent sightings, including a carcass by the roadside in 1990, came from north-western Queensland. Prior to the discovery of the 1990 specimen, the Night Parrot was widely considered to be extinct.

No specimens of the Night Parrot have been found in the Northern Territory, however sightings were made up to 1923 at Alice Springs.

Habitat and ecology

  • The Night Parrot is known to occur within Spinifex grasslands in stony or sandy areas and samphire and chenopod associations on floodplains, salt lakes and clay pans. Suitable habitat is characterized by the presence of large and dense clumps of Spinifex, and it may prefer mature spinifex that is long and unburnt.
  • The Night Parrot is a nocturnal bird that forages on the ground, becoming active during dusk and, generally flies to water to drink prior to foraging. During the day it rests within clumps of spinifex.
  • The Night Parrot appears to be highly nomadic, moving in response to availability of food and water. After periods of heavy rain with abundant seeding of spinifex, the species was often locally common. However, during droughts, the species would disappear from formerly suitable habitat.
  • The Night Parrot is said to feed on the seeds of grasses and herbs, particularly those of Spinifex.
  • The Night Parrot builds its nest which consists of a few small sticks at the end of a 'tunnel' that is formed in a Spinifex tussock or a small bush. Up to four white eggs are laid in this nest. Some unconfirmed reports have claimed that the Night Parrot may nest or roost in caves, and one unverified source claimed that it may also excavate burrows in sandy soils.
  • The age at sexual maturity and the life expectancy and natural mortality of the Night Parrot are not known. However researchers have estimated the generation length to be 10 years. The generation length is the average age of parents of the current cohort, and therefore reflects the turnover rate of breeding individuals in a population.
  • The breeding biology of the Night Parrot is largely unknown. Breeding is said to take place after heavy rainfall. Actual breeding records are few, but young have been recorded in August, and there are unverified reports of breeding activity in April, July and August.
  • Reliable sightings have recorded the Night Parrot singly and in pairs, as well as occasionally in small groups of up to eight birds.


Threats

Recovery strategies

Activities to assist this species

IBRA Bioregion IBRA Subregion Known or predicted Geographic restrictions region