5 Jul 2013

Australian claims to have seen rare parrot

8:26 pm on 5 July 2013

An Australian naturalist claims to have seen and photographed a parrot of a rare species that has not been seen alive for more than a century.

But naturalist John Young has refused to reveal where he found it, saying the worst thing right now would be to let too many people near it.

Until now, scientists have based their knowledge of the critically endangered Night Parrot on the occasional dead specimen and rare recordings of its call. The tiny bird lives on the ground and is known to hop like a kangaroo.

Mr Young's alleged sighting in Queensland on 25 May this year was the culmination of a 15-year quest. He told Reuters that he lured the shy, palm-sized bird out with a recorded parrot call.

Leo Joseph, director and research leader of the wildlife collection at government research body CSIRO, supported Mr Young in keeping the parrot's whereabouts unknown.

"The sooner we can learn how to look for them and find them elsewhere the better. For now, keeping the locality a secret is the way to go."

The Night Parrot is small with yellowish green plumage, mottled with brown and black specks. It hides in spinefex grass during the day and is active at night.

In 2012, the International Union for Conservation of Nature listed the bird as critically endangered, its population depleted by feral cats, foxes and changes in the environment after European settlement in Australia.