Night Parrot (Pezoporus occidentalis)

Night Parrot

[order] PSITTACIFORMES | [family] Psittacidae | [latin] Pezoporus occidentalis | [authority] Gould, 1861 | [UK] Night Parrot | [FR] Perruche nocturne | [DE] Hohlensittich | [ES] Perico Nocturno | [NL] Nachtpapegaai | [copyright picture] Birdlife

Subspecies

Monotypic species

Genus

The genus Pezoporus contains three Australian species: the Night Parrot (Pezoporus occidentalis) and the cryptic ground parrots, the Eastern Ground Parrot (Pezoporus wallicus) and the Western Ground Parrot (Pezoporus flaviventris). The night parrot was previously separated in a distinct genus, Geopsittacus. The genus is considered part of the tribe Platycercini or, if this is considered a subfamily, the monotypic tribe Pezoporini. The phylogenetic position of the genus Pezoporus within the parrot family remains unclear

Physical charateristics

Short-tailed, dumpy parrot. Sexes alike. Adult predominantly green, grading to yellow underparts, with extensive fine black markings. Mainly dark grey upperwing with narrow, pale yellow wing-bar. Grey-green underwing with broad wing-bar. Juvenile probably similar but duller. Distinguished from Budgerigar Melopsittacus undulatus by larger size, shorter tail, terrestrial nature and furtive nocturnal habitshabits – but note that quite a few records of Night Parrots are from the day time, especially if flushed. Superficially similar Ground Parrot Pezoporuswallicus has longer tail and different range and habitat.


wingspan min.: 0 cm wingspan max.: 0 cm
size min.: 23 cm size max.: 24 cm
incubation min.: 0 days incubation max.: 0 days
fledging min.: 0 days fledging max.: 0 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 2  
      eggs max.: 5  

Range

Australasia : Central Australia

Habitat

Most specimens have been obtained from hummock grasslands Triodia-Plechtrachne or chenopod shrublands. However, the most recent specimen was from Mitchell grassland Astrebla spp. with scattered chenopods, although this may have been a dispersing bird. It may persist in chenopod shrublands during dry years, moving into grassland after there is sufficient rain to set seed.

Reproduction

The nest is constructed on the ground or very low in dense vegetation, such as spinifex clump. It is unusual for a parrot to build a nest. It may lay up to six eggs however it is usually around two to four and prefers breeding after heavy rain, so potentially at any time of the year in inland Australia.

Feeding habits

The diet is said to be granivorous but may also eat some herbage and it has been proposed that they may forage by digging into soil for roots or tubers. However, this is based solely on the presence of caked-on soil in the upper mandibles of museum specimens. It is also reported to feed on seeding spinifex but as with many reports on this species, it is not known if this is normal or was under exceptional conditions. It is noted that it is very rare for a granivorous bird to be nocturnal.

Conservation

After no confirmed records since 1990, despite several dedicated searches and publicity campaigns, this species was rediscovered in 2005 in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, and a dead juvenile bird was found in Diamantina National Park, Queensland in 2006. It may occur at low density elsewhere in its former range, because it is easily overlooked. It is likely to have declined as a result of a number of threats, and the remaining population may be tiny but possibly subject to fluctuations. For these reasons it is treated as Critically Endangered, but if survey work in the future confirms that the species is in fact more common than current estimates suggest it may warrant downlisting.
Threats are extrapolated from their presumed effects on medium-sized, arid-zone mammals, and include predation by feral cats and foxes, altered fire regimes, competition for food, degradation of habitat near water by stock or rabbits, and reduced availability of water as a result of over-use by feral camels. One early account suggests the decline at Innaminka and Alice Springs coincided with the arrival of feral cats.
Night Parrot status Critically Endangered

Migration

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.

Distribution map

Night Parrot distribution range map

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