Night Parrot Presentation

Subject: Night Parrot Presentation
Date: Sat, 6 Jul 2013 08:29:54 +1000 (EST)
Hi all,
I  got myself invited to John Young's presentation this past week. It was 
fantastic to see the footage and a few [about 4] of his hundred images.

I thought you might be interested in some random notes i recorded in the 
evening [the presentation was 12 - 2 early in the afternoon] - didn't have the 
sense to take notes while i was there. So here they are totally unedited - see 
what you can make of them; [Any errors are mine]

Habitat ? SW Qld, Lake Eyre Basin, near gibber, remnant spinifex country, high 
unburned spinifex, recently seeded, c 5-6 ft high, ridges, sandy soils, few 
small shrubs and trees adjacent.
Private land, grazing property however the land had little grazing pressure.
Few other bird or mammal spp recorded at site.
Behaviour ? mixed reactions to playback. Sometimes [often] shut up for weeks. 
Very sensitive to disturbance. Many nights un-vocal. Other parrots heard at 
night flying around but Night parrot unreliable.
Low to ground playback caused territorial reactions causing bird [male] to come 
into view. Bird walked between spinifex but puffed itself up and spread wings 
to look intimidating. Fast Hopping gate [c 20 -25 cm] jumps at a time. 
Calling ? at night only ? [bird strictly nocturnal?] ? Immediately identifiable 
as a parrot however some similarity with Pied Honeyeater? Female had different 
Male / Female differences ? male slightly larger, brighter, yellow further up 
breast under crop, brighter yellow on under tail coverts?
Different calls between sexes.
Different behaviours and responses to call ? male reacted to call ? banging 
head on the ground, raking the ground with feet, circling spinifex mounds with 
?increasing excitement?, puffed up posture ?like an echidna?
Male held a variety of roosting positions in different clumps of spinifex over 
different days ? deep in Triodia clump ? perched off the ground in the centre 
of the clump.
Female besting deep within clump, thick nest made of broken spinifex, lined 
nest, again off the ground, some 15 feet at least from edge of spinifex. 
Nesting success confirmed by sound of young in nest. 
Perhaps two pair over the ?greater area?. Sightings and sound of bird recorded 
over several visits. Photographic evidence achieved May 24, 2013.
Partly insectivorous ? moth wings, grasshopper legs adjacent to roost sites. 
Droppings very chalky / calcium filled with little evidence [although some] 
offering suggestion of herbage in diet. Bird possibly opportunistic regards 
diet like small mammals in arid areas. Again like small mammals bird gets water 
from eating insect / invertebrate prey. Lack of water dependence making 
strategy of staking outback water holes redundant.
Searching for feathers in and around roosting and nesting sites [apparently 
without being too intrusive..] revealed only a very small number of feathers. 
Subsequently sent to WA museum for DNA testing.
Details of searches by John Young ? revealed strategies of following fence 
lines looking for feathers, searching lined nests for possible use of Night 
Parrot feathers., examining caves, baiting outback waterholes with seed, long 
nights listening. Last strategy was most successful. Recorded call which 
ultimately allowed all photography.

Management considerations
1/ Location kept secret to minimise disturbance from birders, visitors etc ?and 
also because of wishes of land owner. Land owner apparently keen to conserve 
the birds but prefers anonymity.
2/ Control of feral cats and foxes ? professional shooters in the short term 
plus examination of other methods such as baiting. [Further Research needed on 
control techniques for these two main feral predators. Consider the r?ship of 
dingo numbers and cat / fox numbers.] Anecdotally several people report high 
cat numbers in the outback generally.
3/ team approach at management ? number of stakeholders needed. Details thus 
far very sketchy although a few organisations have offered assistance [Desert 

Research priorities
Survey methods to be trialled at site where known birds exist to try to develop 
methods that can be used elsewhere; remote camers, call recording, response to 
playbacks [although John believes this is not suitable], infared, heat sensing 
equipment, night vision glasses etc 
Survey of habitat - floristics, soil types, vegetation structure, topography 
etc measured, fire history etc so as to facilitate plotting of like locations 
to assist in survey developments.
Control of pest spp.
Sniffer dogs [as used in Kiwi location] considered too invasive.
Predator proof fencing deemed inappropriate at site. 

Additional thoughts
No word on when JY plans to publish any of his observations, information, 
photos ect. It is very important [I believe] to add his experience and 
observations to the literature.
Some words mentioned about conservation groups wanting to use the footage etc 
for fund raising. As part of support conservation groups want a transparent 
open system however JY etc can not guarantee that as they have made pacts of 
secrecy with land owners. 

Anyway cheers

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