I have just received another potential observation of Night Parrot. Three birds
were seen nine days ago (31/5/2010) by Nigel Jackett and David Marshall in the
Chichester Range in the East Pilbara, WA.
Clive Curson's report was 145 km to the NE of this report - and on 2005
(12/4/2005) three birds were seen at Minga Well 24km to the SE.
See Nigel's comments below:
"I've just returned from a 12-day fauna survey in the Chichester Range, about
200 km north of Newman in the East Pilbara. On the 31st of May, 2010, David
Marshall and I were driving through our project area to set up an Anabat at one
of our sites. We were driving slowly at the time with windows down and no music
playing. At 5:45pm (sunset was at 5:27pm), 3 fast-flying birds crossed our
track about 5-10m in front of our car. They were roughly 1.5m above the ground.
I hesitantly said "Night Parrots" and David agreed. The habitat in the direct
vicinity consisted of a large mesa and rolling hills, with open Eucalyptus
woodland and a spinifex ground cover. This site was the most productive in
terms of bird diversity and abundance throughout the survey, most likely due to
water availability. For example, a pair of Grey Falcons and 6 Ground
Cuckoo-shrikes were observed at this location on May 28th. The birds in
question appeared to be coming from a large eucalypt-lined watercourse at the
base of the mesa, almost perfecting in line with 2 small pools of water in the
creekbed. The direction they were heading was towards rolling hills dominated
by spinifex, with very few trees (mainly Eucalyptus and dead shrubs).
The shape of the birds (particularly the short large-ish head) instantly
suggested a parrot. Unfortunately, the remaining light was behind them, so no
colour could be determined, but the silhouette of the birds was clear. They had
a very fast direct flight, with short powerful wing strokes, and 2 birds were
observed banking (turning onto side and showing underside or upperside, similar
to Rainbow Lorikeet) while keeping their line. I haven't had a chance to check
HANZAB or other material to research flight pattern of Night Parrots (if
known?), but the field guide we had (Simpson and Day) describes flight as
'quail-like'. The flight of the 3 birds didn't seem as fast as quail, and
appeared more powerful. The wings were pointed and angled back in flight. The
tail wasn't proportionally long, such as in Australian Ringneck, but I didn't
note at the time if it was pointed. I did note the bird's shape was similar to
a larger species of Lorikeet.
Although we were in the car when the birds first flew past, we had our windows
rolled down, and did not hear any calls. We also did not hear any wingbeats.
After seeing the birds we jumped out of the car and again heard nothing, even
though it was likely the birds were still in flight. All other diurnal birds
had finished calling, so the night was still with good acoustics from the
surrounding hills. David and I then set on foot to attempt to flush them (if
they landed) from the spinifex or the few scattered dead shrubs/trees. We
walked up the hills and gullies with a headlight, particularly close to shrubs
they (if not Night Parrots) could perch on, but did not see or heard any birds.
Other species in the general area we considered potentially confusable with
based on general size and flight included Australian Ringneck, Mulga Parrot,
Elegant Parrot, Bourke's Parrot, Cockatiel, Budgerigar, Common Bronzewing,
Crested Pigeon and Spinifex Pigeon. Of the birds listed, only Australian
Ringneck and the 3 pigeons were recorded during the 12 days in the project
area, but it is likely that the others occur at other times. The absence of
large Mulga stands may be the cause of not observing some of these species.
Most of those parrots are generally heard calling in flight, particularly
Bourke's Parrot at dusk. None of the birds had a crest, such as in Cockatiel,
but generally the shape was similar. Elegant Parrot is apparently rare in the
Pilbara, but can occur. The birds were quite small in size (obviously smaller
than Ringneck), but larger than Bourke's Parrot and even Spinifex Pigeon.
Crested and Spinifex Pigeons also have obvious audible wingbeats in flight,
which we believe we would have heard. Common Bronzewing can be difficult to
hear in flight, but show a significantly larger body shape than the birds we
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