The Night Parrot, seen only as a museum specimen since 1990, is not extinct. A feral cat killed one southwest of Winton in western Queensland, experts said. Noted British ornithologist Guy Kirwan reported the discovery in the online version of Handbook of the Birds of the World (HBW).
By Rex Graham
“The latest twist in the rather secret story of the endangered Night Parrot (Pezoporus occidentalis) is that a cat-killed individual has been found,” Kirwan wrote.
In September 2006, a headless Night Parrot was found under a barbed-wire fence in Diamantina National Park, which also is southwest of Winton. That bird may have struck the fence, wrote Robert Cupitt and Sue Cupitt in Australian Field Ornithology.
Mystery of Night Parrot Deepens
In 2013, Queensland bird enthusiast John Young sent five feathers from a roost site in the Lake Eyre Basin to the Western Australian Museum. The DNA of the feathers matched the DNA of a Night Parrot in the museum’s collection.
Details of the most recent case of a cat-killed Night Parrot are sketchy. In his HBW post, Kirwan said, “Government agencies have been kept in the dark concerning the whereabouts of Night Parrots in Queensland, and the sites where the species occur are on a privately leased grazing property.”
Endangered Night Parrot Cause Celebre
Apparently, private marksmen who had been hired to kill feral cats discovered the cat-killed bird. The cat culling is funded by Fortescue Metals Group, a mining company involved in saving the Night Parrot since the species’ discovery in a mineral-exploration area in Western Australia in 2005.
Night Parrots eat the seeds of hardy tussock grasses, particularly Triodia species, which grow in Queensland, but are stunted due to a prolonged drought.