Emu Emu Society
Journal of BirdLife Australia

Another piece in an Australian ornithological puzzle – a second Night Parrot is found dead in Queensland

Andrew McDougall A H , Gary Porter A , Maree Mostert B , Robert Cupitt B , Sue Cupitt B , Leo Joseph C , Stephen Murphy D , Heather Janetzki E , Adrian Gallagher F and Allan Burbidge G
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, Rockhampton, PO Box 3130, Red Hill, North Rockhampton, Qld 4701, Australia.

B Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, Longreach District Office, PO Box 202, Longreach, Qld 4730, Australia.

C Australian National Wildlife Collection, CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems, GPO Box 284, Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia.

D Australian Wildlife Conservancy, 280 Hay St, Subiaco, WA 6008, Australia.

E Queensland Museum, Vertebrate Zoology, Queensland Museum, PO Box 3300, South Bank, Brisbane, Qld 4101, Australia.

F Brisbane Bird Vet Veterinary Clinic, 248 Hamilton Road, Chermside, Qld 4032, Australia.

G Department of Environment and Conservation, Wildlife Research Centre, PO Box 51, Wanneroo, WA 6946, Australia.

H Corresponding author. Email: andrew.r.mcdougall@derm.qld.gov.au

Emu 109(3) 198-203 https://doi.org/10.1071/MU08018
Submitted: 17 April 2008  Accepted: 2 March 2009   Published: 13 August 2009


We report on a specimen of the Night Parrot (Pezoporus occidentalis) found dead in Diamantina National Park, in western Queensland. It was found on a low dissected tableland near the head of a small creek, in an area vegetated by sparse shrubland of Gidgee (Acacia cambagei), Crimson Turkey Bush (Eremophila latrobei) and Blunt-leaf Cassia (Senna artemisioides var. helmsii). Conditions were dry and the vegetation was not flowering or seeding. It is the second such specimen to be found dead in the region since 1990. The two specimens were found less than 200 km apart. Molecular analysis showed that both specimens are female. The latest specimen appears to be an immature undergoing post-juvenile moult. The specimen confirms a breeding event by Night Parrots in the region less than two years before its discovery in September 2006. Together with the 1990 specimen and other recent reports, it can be inferred that a population of Night Parrots exists in the region and that this is an encouraging sign that the species is not simply senescing to extinction. Diamantina National Park likely provides excellent opportunities to further study the ecology and management requirements of this enigmatic species.


We thank Ian Andreassen (Queensland Parks and Wildlife, Longreach District) who played a key role in identifying the 2006 specimen and the many Queensland Parks and Wildlife staff that have provided input to this project. Neville Wedding (Queensland Climate Services Centre, Australian Bureau of Meteorology) provided relevant rainfall records. Gary Porter kindly permitted the use of his photographs in the Accessory publication. Steve Van Dyck (Queensland Museum) assisted with providing tissue samples for analysis; Claire Stevenson and Ron Johnstone (Western Australian Museum) supplied Ground Parrot tissue; and Janette Norman (Museum Victoria) supplied other Night Parrot tissue samples and a DNA aliquot of the Boulia specimen. P. J. Higgins provided many helpful, critical comments.


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Appendix. Molecular sexing methods

Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) was extracted from the 2006 specimen using the DNeasy Blood and Tissue kit (QIAGEN, Valencia, California) following the manufacturer’s protocols, except for the addition of 3 μg of carrier ribonucleic acid (RNA) to increase what was expected to be a low DNA yield. Negative controls were included. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) amplification of the avian sex-specific CHD genes largely followed Griffiths et al. (1998), except that oligonucleotide annealing occurred at 52°C. Products were spiked with 2 μl 1 : 1000 SYBR® Green I gel stain (Molecular Bioprobes, Eugene, OR, USA) before separation on a 2.5% agarose gel at 70 V for 60 min. Both the extraction negative control and a PCR negative control were also included in amplification and electrophoreses. DNA was extracted from a known female Ground Parrot museum skin (Western Australian Museum, WAM A27142) using the technique described above, and included in the PCR as a positive control. DNA from the Night Parrot discovered near Boulia in 1990 (Boles et al. 1994) was also included in the PCR. Both negative controls failed to amplify, thus confirming that these result were not spurious.

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