Bush Heritage Australia’s Pullen Pullen Reserve can now claim to protect a breeding colony of the enigmatic night parrot (Pezoporus occidentalis), after scientists recently sighted a fledgling individual there.

Dr Steve Murphy

Dr Steve Murphy surveying for night parrots at Pullen Pullen. Photo: Annette Ruzicka.

University of Queensland scientists Nick Leseberg and James Watson were able to photograph the fledgling after it emerged from a spinifex hummock in the late afternoon.

“It was amazing, and we are privileged because this is the first night parrot fledgling that has been seen or recorded in nearly 100 years,” said Leseberg.

The sighting occurred as part of a night parrot research and recovery program that aims to improve our understanding of the species that was, until recently, feared to be extinct.

The project, led by night parrot expert Dr Steve Murphy, has seen researchers spending 250 days in the field over a three-year span, carrying out GPS tracking and recording the birds’ calls.

Night parrot fledgling

The night parrot fledgling, sighted for the first time in almost 100 years. Photo: James Watson.

“We’ve taken a great leap forward in understanding that the birds use a range of habitats beyond spinifex…we now know they don’t just rely on plants for their water needs and are more vulnerable than we first thought to predation from feral cats along creek lines,” said Murphy.

Priorities for the research team at Pullen Pullen will now shift to discovering what plants the night parrot feeds on, which habitats they prefer throughout the year as well as discovering more about their reproductive biology.