Night Parrot Interview this morning

To: <>
Subject: Night Parrot Interview this morning
From: "David Andrew" <>
Date: Wed, 3 Jul 2013 16:04:11 +1000
Naturally I was excited as anyone to hear of the first photos of Night Parrot; 
I congratulate John Young and look forward to seeing the video footage. And 
naturally I have a few comments: 
Any notion that the public (read: birdwatchers) should be prevented from seeing 
NPs is bound to be counter-productive. It should be obvious that only a limited 
number of people would be prepared to travel to SW Qld to look for Night 
Parrots (which may continue to be elusive), not ‘slavering hordes of 
twitchers’, to paraphrase someone else on this forum. (I am always amused by 
the notion that any rare bird sighting in Australia will automatically trigger 
an invasion of  ‘twitchers’. This is not the UK – birdwatchers simply do not 
exist in the same numbers here. The most so-called twitchers (all of them 
scientists or bona fide researchers, as well as birdwatchers) I have ever seen 
in one place was on the Strzelecki Track, shortly after the whereabouts of 
Chestnut-breasted Whitefaces became generally known (again, thanks to the 
efforts of a largely solo, dedicated birder), where a ‘horde’ of 14 people 
descended to look at the birds for a few minutes.)
Which brings me to a fact that is still true today as it was then (more than 20 
years ago) when I first started birding – public interest in birds, while 
increasing, is still minimal in Australia. The vast majority of the country 
hasn’t heard of, and probably doesn’t give two hoots about, the Night Parrot. 
The unfortunate corollary of this is that birders, ornithologists and bird 
conservations are too few to put any real pressure on politicians to allocate 
funding and resources for Night Parrot research or conservation.
In my view, if these birds prove to be resident then the area should be managed 
by an organisation such as Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC), which fences 
some of its reserves and intensively controls feral animals. Night Parrots are 
already protected under state and federal legislation; government 
decision-making is slow and subject to available funds and political whims; and 
governments have already demonstrated a lack of resources and will in matters 
such as the extinction of the Christmas Island Pipistrelle and the recent 
decimation of Bilbies at Currawinya. 
Justifiably, birdwatchers (me included) will want to see this amazing bird for 
themselves. And of course Mr Young is entitled to profit by his find: the 
practice of paying to be shown exciting birds and other wildlife by local 
experts is well established around the world; I’m sure many people would be 
happy to pay to watch Night Parrots. Disturbance to Night Parrots has been 
self-regulating for decades and a few – even a few dozen – ‘twitchers’ are 
unlikely to cause any lasting harm if managed sensibly. But if birders are 
prevented from seeing the bird (and what would be the point of that?) the 
recent sightings will probably only cause intensified searching  elsewhere, 
possibly with undesirable or unforeseen consequences. 
In further defence of the comparatively benign practice of birding, in my 
experience photographers have recently become a more intrusive presence at some 
sites than birders armed only with binoculars. With the advent of cheap digital 
SLRs it is easier than ever to photograph birds. However, it is just as hard as 
ever to obtain a good bird photo, a fact which doesn’t seem to stop both 
amateurs and professionals from trying. Recently, I have encountered 
photographers (comically attired in heavy camouflage gear) playing Gurney’s 
Pitta calls loudly and incessantly in Thailand (no sign of the pittas, 
unsurprisingly); a kindly and concerned lodge operator in India who refused to 
take anyone to see a den of Desert Cats because photographers constantly and 
blatantly ignored requests to keep their distance; and a female Snow Leopard 
forced to stare down the barrels of literally dozens of telephoto lenses or 
risk abandoning her kill at a remote valley in the Himalaya. In my experience, 
birdwatchers tend to look and move on; photographers continually strive for the 
best possible shot (even when hopelessly under-equipped and often to the 
detriment of the subject) and may spend hours or days in its pursuit. 
(Naturally there are exceptions to these generalisations but please don’t write 
Even if there is a flurry of ‘twitchers’ wanting to see Night Parrots, interest 
will soon die down and the alleged ‘flood’ will quickly slow to a trickle. The 
birds themselves will continue to stymie the efforts of casual birders, even if 
the call becomes well-known (I’m betting it won’t). 

Ideally John would allow other responsible people also to see the parrots, but 
even that won’t stop people looking anyway; it won’t prevent accidental or 
serendipitous discoveries of this or other populations; and the nature of the 
bird’s ecology will probably keep it safe for some time yet, slavering 
twitchers notwithstanding.

Happy trails,

David Andrew


To unsubscribe from this mailing list,
send the message:
(in the body of the message, with no Subject line)
<Prev in Thread] Current Thread [Next in Thread>

The University of NSW School of Computer and Engineering takes no responsibility for the contents of this archive. It is purely a compilation of material sent by many people to the birding-aus mailing list. It has not been checked for accuracy nor its content verified in any way. If you wish to get material removed from the archive or have other queries about the archive e-mail Andrew Taylor at this address: andrewt@cse.unsw.EDU.AU