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Spinifex country on Pullen Pullen Reserve. Photo Wild Vista Digital Production.
Spinifex country on Pullen Pullen Reserve. Photo Wild Vista Digital Production.

Night Parrot

Scientific name: Pezoporus occidentalis

A nocturnal and mostly ground-dwelling parrot that’s only found in Australia. For around 100 years it was feared extinct, now we have a second chance to save it!

The Night Parrot is one of the most elusive and mysterious birds in the world.

First recorded in 1845, the last living specimen was collected in Western Australia in 1912. It then disappeared, with no confirmed records of the bird between 1912 and 1979.

Night Parrot painted by William T. Cooper

A trickle of fleeting but unconfirmed reports from across its former range and two dead specimens found in Queensland in 1990 and 2006 only added to the bird’s mystique.

In 2013 naturalist and wildlife photographer John Young captured several photos and a few seconds of video footage of a live bird in western Queensland.

After a search spanning many years, John was finally rewarded by an incredibly close-up encounter with a Night Parrot – often considered the ‘holy grail’ for birdwatchers and naturalists.

Global interest in the discovery was so intense that the exact location of this only-known population was kept secret to protect the birds from disturbance.

The Night Parrot reserve

Second chances like this don’t come along very often. Bush Heritage has stepped in and taken a leading role in ensuring we don’t lose this elusive bird again.

We were approached to help because of our expertise in conservation land management. We’ve now established the 56,000 hectare Pullen Pullen Reserve , to protect the rediscovered population of endangered Night Parrots. The population size has been estimated at between 10 and 20 individuals.

Night Parrot habitat. Photo by Cineport.

Habitat is the key to protecting the bird. The fact they’ve persisted in the area suggests that it’s suitable, yet we know there are very real threats.

As a ground dwelling, nocturnal bird they’re ideal prey for feral cats. We also need to implement a fire management plan, as the bird’s preferred spinifex habitat is particularly susceptible to unmanaged wildfire. Without action to intervene and reduce these risks the future of this small population is precarious.


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Leading the recovery

A Recovery Team has been established, comprising our own ecologists and some of Australia’s leading scientists. The team is guiding research and the recovery program to save the bird from extinction, including:

  • The mapping of its habitat
  • Securing the site to ensure minimal human disturbance
  • Mitigating wildfire risk
  • Implementing feral predator controls, and
  • Ongoing ecological monitoring.

Night Parrot amongst spinifex. Photo Dr Steve Murphy.

Our understanding of the parrot’s biology and ecology is rapidly expanding. A number of scientific and popular science articles have already been published. These are listed on the Night Parrot Recovery Team’s website.

The site also publishes information on looking and listening for Night Parrots including recorded Night Parrot calls .

Night Parrot call

To get a sense of what it’s like listening for the bird in the wild, Reserve Ecologist Nick Leseberg has provided the audio below, recorded at 5.30am out in the spinifex of Pullen Pullen Reserve. There are some calls from other birds (such as Willie Wagtail, Spotted Nightjar and Little Buttonquail) that you’ll hear as well.

Night Parrot behaviour

One of the best things about the rediscovery of this species is that we’re now able to study Night Parrots in their natural habitat.

Night Parrot. Photo Nick Leseberg.

Adapted to life in the outback, they seem to need little water, hiding in clumps of spinifex by day and emerging after sunset to forage for food.

This most mysterious of birds has only been described a handful of times in recorded history so there’s still much that we don’t know.

With green and gold feathers that blend with its surroundings, the Night Parrot is quintessentially Australian and the chance to save them can be seen as emblematic of something much bigger.

Australia has lost so many native plants and animals since European settlement. With the Night Parrot we have the rarest of circumstances – a second chance to save what we thought was lost forever.

Donate today to help us continue this and other vital conservation work.

Night Parrot 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.

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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