Skip to content

Meet Night Parrot Nick

Dr Alex Kutt (Ecologist)
Published 26 Jun 2017 by Dr Alex Kutt (Ecologist)

In this article, Bush Heritage ecologist Alex Kutt, interviewed PhD student Nick Leseberg to find out a little more about Nick’s latest field trip and some of the great data he's collecting to contribute to the management of Pullen Pullen Reserve in western Queensland and the long term conservation and security of the Night Parrot.

Hi Nick, you’ve just come back from a mammoth 6-week field trip, how did it go, and what were the highlights?

It was a huge field trip, but a productive one. I spent the first few weeks working closely with Jen Silcock and Russell Fairfax. Jen and Russ are both extraordinary arid land botanists, and together we were developing some methodologies for quantifying the resources that are available to the Night Parrot.

We know some of the habitats the tracked bird visited last year, so we visited those and began, quite literally, counting the seeds and volume of succulent plants available at these sites.

It will be interesting to see how this changes over time and in response to different conditions, and whether this change affects what areas the parrot visits.

The second half of the trip was spent searching for more Night Parrots. It's very likely there are more Night Parrots in the wider landscape, and the time has come to start searching farther afield to try and find some more of these populations.

This will be important later in my research as we increase the sample size, and try to draw any statistical conclusions around habitat preferences.

I do this mainly by placing acoustic recorders in likely habitat, and spending lots of time listening at dusk for parrots.

We didn’t have any luck listening for birds, although I now have hundreds of hours of recordings I’ll have to put through our acoustic recogniser software to see if we can find any Night Parrot calls.

Did you observe any successful breeding and are you starting to get a handle on the population size?

We did get lucky this trip and find one nest that had a well-developed nestling in it. After placing a recorder near the nest, we left it alone, returning a couple of weeks later to find the chick gone (good news!) and an infertile egg still in the nest chamber.

We collected the abandoned egg, and some scats from the nest which will be sent to Adelaide for analysis of what the parrots were eating.

The egg is now lodged at the Queensland Museum, and is the only complete Night Parrot egg in a museum anywhere in the world.

As to population size, it’s the question I’m most often asked, and my answer is always, ‘I don’t know’! Certainly, we searched plenty of likely habitat, but didn’t find birds in any new locations. It will be a long time before we can say with certainty, but I think the answer is likely to be that the Night Parrot population in western Queensland at least, is very small, and thinly spread over a wide area.

How are the song meters performing, and are they giving you more insights?

Song meters are the weapon of choice when it comes to Night Parrot research! Detecting birds calling is the only reliable way of finding them in the landscape, and the song meters effectively allow me to sit in a bunch of places every night listening for those bell-like calls and whistles. They increase my rate of coverage more than tenfold, so they're critical to my research. One thing we're finding out from the song meter deployments is that we're not finding many more sites with Night Parrots, which is reinforcing the suspicion that these birds are out there, but in very low numbers.

You have another major trip in July and August, what are you planning to do in that trip?

The August trip is a big one, as that’s when we’re planning our next round of tracking. The landscape will be much drier than when the last bird was tracked in 2016, and it will be interesting to see whether the bird we tag visits the same sites, or different ones, searching for the same or different resources. If all goes to plan (fingers crossed!) it will be the next big step in understanding the mystery that is the Night Parrot.

And finally, can I say once again, thanks to Bush Heritage, and especially all the supporters and donors that help fund my research. Having access to vehicles, the reserve, song meters, accommodation, hot showers, all provided by Bush Heritage is invaluable! I couldn’t do my work without generous assistance of the Bush Heritage community.

Our work at Pullen Pullen to protect the Night Parrot is supported by the Queensland Government’s Nature Assist program.

Nick Leseberg setting one of the many Song Meters on Pullen Pullen, that will help us understand the distribution, abundance and habitat use of the Night Parrot. Photo Annette Ruzicka. Nick Leseberg setting one of the many Song Meters on Pullen Pullen, that will help us understand the distribution, abundance and habitat use of the Night Parrot. Photo Annette Ruzicka.
Nick Leseberg talking parrots to Kathy Macleish and ABC Landline crew. Photo Annette Ruzicka. Nick Leseberg talking parrots to Kathy Macleish and ABC Landline crew. Photo Annette Ruzicka.
Night Parrot. Photo Nick Leseberg. Night Parrot. Photo Nick Leseberg.

Related stories

Night Parrot.

14/02/2024 14/02/2024

Pullen Pullen’s Night Parrot

While the population seemed to be doing well, October 2019 brought bad news; a dead juvenile Night Parrot was found caught in the Mount Windsor boundary fence.

Read More
Maiawali Custodians, other Indigenous rangers and groups walking through Night Parrot habitat. By Lachlan Gardiner

BUSHTRACKS 27/10/2023

The next chapter for the Night Parrot

The sharing of Night Parrot knowledge at Pullen Pullen Reserve, Maiawali Country, bolsters the species’ protection.

Read More

BLOG 02/06/2023

Learning more about the Night Parrot

In May 2023, six indigenous ranger groups travelled to Pullen Pullen Reserve, Maiawali Country, in Western Queensland. It's here that the Night Parrot was rediscovered in 2013, after it was thought to have gone extinct. Bush Heritage purchased the property in 2016 and have been working tirelessly to protect the mysterious bird. 

Read More
The Night Parrot.


Bush Broadcast: Protecting the Night Parrot at Pullen Pullen

Join our staff as they chat about the work undertaken to protect this rare and mysterious bird.

Read More
Nick Leseberg looking out over Pullen Pullen. Photo Lachlan Gardiner.

BUSHTRACKS 25/03/2022

Called to the night

Nick Leseberg took an unconventional path to one of the nation’s most high-profile ecological rescue projects: conservation of the elusive Night Parrot.

Read More

BLOG 22/03/2022

Front line conservationists on the fight to protect Pullen Pullen

Following the Night Parrot's discovery in 2013, many uniquely positioned conservationists have been working to protect Pullen Pullen - by deepening our understanding of the bird itself and by protecting the birds' habitat and its country.

Read More

BLOG 27/04/2021

Ramping up the fight for Australia's rarest bird

New funding for Pullen Pullen will allow us to continue and expand vital-on ground conservation work for the critically endangered Night Parrot.

Read More
A feral cat in the scrub. Photo Annette Ruzicka.

BUSHTRACKS 15/04/2021

The problem with cats

Feral cats kill an estimated 2 billion animals in Australia every year, but nuanced solutions on Bush Heritage reserves and partnership properties across Australia are helping to turn the tide.

Read More

BLOG 23/09/2020

Pullen Pullen protections strengthened

Pullen Pullen Reserve on Maiawali country in western Queensland has become Australia's first ever Special Wildlife Reserve.

Read More

BLOG 13/03/2019

Nick Leseberg on Night Parrot research

Media reports around a Night Parrot controversy involving scientific fraud involve a different conservation organisation. Nick Leseberg from University of Queensland has a field update from our work at Pullen Pullen.

Read More

BLOG 19/02/2019

The Night Parrot & friends

We often get asked whether the Night Parrot is related to other parrot species that are similarly green with yellow and black 'barred' patterning such as the Budgerigar and Kakapo.

Read More

BLOG 23/08/2018

Predators! Keep calm, just carrion

Have you ever stopped to think, how does the provision of resources in the landscape affect wildlife patterns in general? If you add a heap of additional unexpected food resources, what then happens to the array of carrion eaters and predators, and how does this affect other smaller animals?

Read More

BUSHTRACKS 27/03/2018

Opportunistic breeders

In December last year, a researcher captured photos of a young Night Parrot on our Pullen Pullen Reserve in western Queensland. PhD student Nick Leseberg estimated the parrot was two-to three-months-old at the time, meaning it likely hatched in early September.

Read More

BUSHTRACKS 27/03/2018

Creatures of the night

A feral cat detection dog has recently been out to Pullen Pullen Reserve in western Queensland, where feral cats are thought to pose a dangerous threat to the resident population of endangered Night Parrots, as well as many other native animals.

Read More

BLOG 21/09/2017

Removing internal fences

Like much of the Australian outback, Pullen Pullen was once used for cattle grazing which relies upon a system of internal fences to partition specific areas of land to be grazed or rested when required. Naturally, this subdivision is not a requirement for our conservation purposes. So while boundary fences are needed to keep the cattle out of the reserve to protect the night parrots food resources the internal fences are unnecessary and a potential risk.

Read More

BLOG 30/06/2017

Fencing in the food

Do we really need a fence on our Night Parrot reserve? Fences are a requirement in pastoral rangelands and are vital infrastructure to keep large feral herbivores off reserve, eliminating their impacts on vegetation and critical habitats.

Read More

BLOG 26/06/2017

Meet Night Parrot Nick

Our ecologist Alex Kutt interviews PhD student Nick Leseberg to find out a little more about his latest field trip and data he's collecting about Night Parrots at Pullen Pullen Reserve in western Queensland.

Read More

BLOG 26/06/2017

Secrets & parrots

A recent essay by Professor David Lindenmayer, one of Australia's most renowned conservation scientists, reinforced the reasons why the location and call of the Night Parrot were initially kept under wraps.

Read More

BLOG 14/02/2017

The fine art of fencing Night Parrots

Fences are vital infrastructure that keep feral herbivores out, and help manage their impacts on vegetation and critical habitats. At Pullen Pullen Reserve this poses a conundrum. We want to keep any stray herbivores out to protect the floodplains, which are significant feeding locations for the Night Parrot, without creating an unexpected obstacle for the birds.

Read More

BUSHTRACKS 06/12/2016

Night Parrots spreading their wings

For the last 80 to 100 years, people have been writing and talking about Night Parrots as if they were extinct. Now, we’ve got recordings of their calls, we’ve got information about nesting, and we’ve tagged two with tracking devices. I struggle to find the words to describe how exciting that is. - Steve Murphy, lead Night Parrot researcher.

Read More

BUSHTRACKS 11/04/2016

Maggie nose best

Meet Maggie, a four-legged friend working hard to protect the world’s only known population of Night Parrots on our newest reserve, secured recently with the help of Bush Heritage supporters.

Read More

BUSHTRACKS 21/09/2015

Back from the brink

Ornithologist Dr Stephen Murphy is leading efforts to research the newly discovered population of Night Parrots. Dr Murphy takes a moment to discuss the significance of this work.

Read More

BUSHTRACKS 21/09/2015

Ghost of the outback

Bush Heritage Australia is leading the recovery effort to secure one of the world’s rarest birds, the mysterious Night Parrot. In 2013 Queensland naturalist John Young set the ornithological world atwitter after sighting and photographing a bird that has been the ‘Holy Grail’ for birdwatchers, the enigmatic Night Parrot (Pezoporus occidentalis), a bird so rare and elusive that it's bordered on the mythological.

Read More
{{itemsInCart}} Items - {{formatCurrency(grandTotal)}}