Cryptic, enigmatic and elusive – the night parrot is one of Australia’s rarest and most sought-after birds.
A 2005 sighting near Fortescue Marsh in the Pilbara was one of just 4 confirmed sightings in Western Australia this century, the others being in the Goldfields, East Murchison and Great Sandy Desert in 2017. The only other confirmed population is in western Queensland. There are widespread historical records across Western Australia, Northern Territory, South Australia and Queensland, but the current distribution is unknown. Prior to the 1990 discovery of a dead night parrot in Queensland, the species was thought likely to be extinct due to a lack of confirmed sightings for over a century.
This small, dumpy, seed-eating, night-active parrot inhabits remote arid and semi-arid spinifex grasslands and shrublands of samphire, bluebush and saltbush. Little is known of its ecology. Although seen drinking water, it may gain sufficient moisture from foraging on succulent plants. Nests have been found in big old spinifex clumps.
The population size of night parrots in the Pilbara (and elsewhere) is unknown. Threats are also uncertain but likely to include predation by feral cats, adverse fire regimes (frequent or large fires), grazing by domestic or feral herbivores, habitat loss or degradation by mining and climate change. Indigenous rangers have recently been at the forefront of finding and monitoring night parrots.