Review of Night Parrot Observations and Habitat Preferences
Review of Night Parrot Observations and Habitat Preferences in the Central-Eastern Arid Zone, and Where to Next? Julian Reid Lake Mackay Big thanks to Workshop Organisers (Stephen Van Leeuwen and Allan Burbidge ) and Fortescue Metals Group for their generous support , & Birds Qld Mount Windsor Station
Eastern end of Diamantina NP in area of Shortys 2006 spm Scope of talk 1.A few things we know with certainty about NP from the few historical publications that document firsthand experiences (e.g. F.W. Andrews, McDonald in McGilp, Burgoin in Wilson), that may guide survey efforts 2.Broad habitat preferences from the central-eastern arid zone 3.Divergent Cooper Creek floodplain habitats
4.New bioacoustics survey research just starting in the Cooper Creek region drawing by Martin Thompson, from Wikipedia A Horse of Air is a Miles Franklin Award winning novel by Dal Stivens (1970). The title makes reference to the Australian Aboriginal term for the night parrot. When horses where first introduced to the Australian mainland, their galloping motion was said to resemble the flight of the night parrot.
Illustration by Neville Cayley http://trove.nla.gov.au/ Illustration of the Night Parrot by Philip J Wharton, http://citizenj.edgeqld.org.au/enigmatic-and-on-the-edge/ Status and Distribution Endangered nationally (Garnett et al. 2011, 2010 Action Plan): map Qld (Joseph et al. 2011, Queenslands Threatened Animals)
data deficient in reality M. Thompson spm Stuart & Sturt 1845 2+ spms Cooper Ck-L Eyre 1875 (F.W. Andrews) Alice Springs1894-1920s Oodnadatta1880s Fortescue Marsh 2005 (Davis and Metcalf 2008) *
Spm Upper Ashburton 1912 (M.A. Burgoin in Wilson 1937) ** * * * * *
* ** type Lake Austin 1854 14-16 spms Gawler Ranges 1870-80s (F.W. Andrews) * Gawler Ranges, SA
M. Thompson F.W. Andrews, 1870 early 80s Andrews F.W. 1883. Notes on the Night Parrot. Transactions and Proceedings and Report of the Royal Society of South Australia 6:29-30. M. Thompson When the dark shades of evening have fairly set in it comes out to feed, but generally flies direct to the nearest water, often at a considerable distance from its nest; in some instances I have known them to fly a distance of four or
five miles. After drinking and shaking themselves up a little they fly off to feed on the seeds of the, porcupine grass [spinifex], returning to water two or three times during the night. They come and go according to the nature of the season. When the early season is wet the porcupine grass flourishes and bears large quantities of seed, on which many birds feed; but if, on the contrary the season is a dry one the grass does not seed, and no birds are to be seen [nomadic]. Calls: whistling note, and croaking alarm call at water like a frog. Myrrlumbing Tate: chiefly a nocturnal bird that shows a preference for green food and that its voice is a double note harsh and loud (Murie: captive bird in London)
Cooper Creek Lake Eyre region Andrews (1883): I shot some specimens [plural] at Coopers Creek in 1875, when out as collecting naturalist for the late Mr. J.W. Lewis in his exploration of the country about Lake Eyre. They were in that district observed to conceal themselves during the day in the thick patches of shrubby samphire, on the salt flats bordering on the creeks and on Lake Eyre. Innamincka Nappa Merrie: common in the early years of European settlement around
Innamincka [i.e. 1880s], as related by pastoralist Alfred Walker to Campbell (1915); and Conrick reported their presence from nearby Nappa Merrie (Qld) in the early twentieth century (MacGillivray 1920). Shane Parker Rex Ellis Camel Expedition, June 1979 4 birds flushed at the feet of camels, seen by several observers in lignum floodplain habitat. Various other reports from the region, including Qld (Tanbar and Whitula Creek), along the Cooper in samphire, and separately spinifex (2), and around Oodnadatta historically (samphire and spinifex) and more recently
(nitre bush flats along Neales River, observation by Phil Gee). M. Thompson Channel Country: other reports from Mulligan River and lower Eyre Creek (Muncoonie Lakes) on eastern margins of Simpson Desert in sw Qld in past 35 years John McDouall Stuart and Captain Charles Sturt 1845 JR 1987 JG 2005
Calls Andrews 1883: whistling note and frog-like croak Murie in Tate 1883: double-note harsh and loud McDonald in McGilp 1931: sweet, low two-note whistle, uttered frequently in flight during trip to and from water, and apparently several birds made the trip in company Bourgoin in Wilson 1937: a long drawn-out mournful whistle when coming into water or leaving, and which can be heard for a great distance, repeated at ca three-second intervals. Bourgoin also noted that they came into to drink
in groups of two to eight birds, only arriving after complete darkness had fallen, and this last point was also specifically noted by McDonald in McGilp (1931) Alice Duncan-Kemp1952: with Aboriginal companions startled a night parrot in gidgee on Mooraberrie Station (Farrars Creek Monkira Diamantina River area) which they called "Attrutra" (usually onomatopoeic). M. Thompson Coongie Lakes 1987
Coongie Lakes Ramsar Wetlands, Cooper Creek, SA south-west Queensland After the initial flurry of specimens late 19C, last known live bird was collected in WA in 1912 at Nichol Spring, upper Ashburton drainage, se Pilbara. The Boulia specimen a long-dead carcass found on the side of the road by Walter Boles and Wayne Longmore, 17 October 1990. M. Thompson
23 March 2012 south-west Queensland spm No. 2 Diamantina National Park, fresh juvenile, decapitated female, under barbed-wire fence (shorty) Cupitt R. and Cupitt S. 2008: 17 September 2006 Marg Friedel April 2013 Marg Friedel April 2013
Marg Friedel April 2013 Habitat Summary Gawler Ranges - 1870&80s; spinifex associated with uplands and samphire (?and saltbush/bluebush flats?) Alice Springs region 1890s (Horn Exp) to 1920s (Whitlock), e.g. Alice Springs, Hermmansburg, Idracowra Fairly widespread, station people knew it from droving/mustering on horseback; spinifex associated with uplands Sthn Lake Eyre Basin (Ooodnadatta Cooper Creek); samphire, lignum and old man saltbush river flats; nitrebush (plus several
reports from spinifex on sand) south-west Queensland Garnett et al. (1993) only half of sites had spinifex, but generally spinifex associated with uplands (Selwyn Rg); ca half of the remaining 20 obs were from spinifex dominated habitats (most associated with uplands), while the remainder came from a wide variety of other habitats, including gidgee, mulga, clay plains, sand dunes, stony (gibbery) plains. M. Thompson
Habitat Conclusions spinifex on hard substrates is preferred survey effort can largely ignore 30% of arid Australia that is comprised of the vast interiors of the great sandy-sheet deserts, except in the vicinity of major streams (e.g. Cooper Creek drainage in Strzelecki Desert) and major saline (paleodrainage) features (WA) also rule out the Mitchell grass downs biome (no obs) John Youngs recent rediscovery South-west Qld somewhere - ?Mount Windsor??
Sedentary (??) Big buck spinifex, long unburnt Do not drink (??) Seeds, green food and insects Almost certain they were nesting Recorded call, but heard to call very rarely, but sound like a Pied Honeyeater M. Thompson Survey strategy
Calls Drink regularly Recent developments in wildlife sound technology M. Thompson Qld Channel Country wetlands on a quiet day Roger Jaensch
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