August 11, 2015

The Night Parrot: Australian Researchers Catch And Tag World’s Most Elusive Bird


An Australian Night Parrot, regarded as the world’s most mysterious bird, has been captured and held for the first time after an 18-month hunt in the outback. 
The ground-dwelling bird, once thought to be extinct and only ever seen by a handful of people, was found by researchers on a remote and arid 56,000-hectare stretch of land in the state of Queensland. 

The researchers reportedly used camera traps and followed the bird’s calls before finally capturing it, removing some feathers and attaching an electronic tag; they have since dubbed it “Pedro”. 
"When we had the bird … it was terrible to be honest … there was an enormous responsibility, being the first people to touch one,” Dr Steve Murphy, an ornithologist, told The Australian. 
“But since then we have looked at each other and gone: ‘Wow, we really did it.’”
The location of the sighting has been kept secret to prevent poaching or potential damage from an influx of bird watchers. 

"This is the biggest story of conservation in Australia today," Rob Murphy, from conservation group Bush Heritage Australia, told ABC News. 

"For as long as we can, we'll keep it as secret as we can. It's just such a critical thing that we do everything that we can to save this species to bring it back from the brink of extinction."
Environmentalists have described the endangered Night Parrot as the “holy grail” of birds because it is one of the world’s rarest species and has proven so difficult to locate. 

Nocturnal and nomadic, it was first discovered central Australia in 1845 but was barely seen again until a naturalist claimed to have seen it in 2013. Two carcasses of the bird have also been found, both in Queensland, in 1990 and 2006. 

Sean Dooley, the editor of Birdlife Magazine, described the 2013 sighting as “the bird watching equivalent of finding Elvis flipping burgers in an outback roadhouse".
But the discovery proved controversial, with images and the location kept largely secret and some critics claiming photographs had been retouched. 

The latest sighting has prompted a team of experts from several universities and the CSIRO, Australia’s science agency, to form a Night Parrot recovery team to try to locate and protect the species. 

Dr Murphy said Pedro was first spotted at Easter and has been seen only once more but its tracking tag is believed to have fallen off. Initial DNA testing has not been able to verify whether it is male or female. 

Experts estimate the population of the species is between 50 and 250. 

By Jonathan Perlman 

With many thanks to The Telegraph


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