The Night Parrot (Pezoporus occidentalis) is a small broad-tailed parrot endemic to the continent of Australia. The species was originally placed within its own genus (Geopsittacus), but most authors now prefer to place it within the genus Pezoporus together with the Ground Parrot. The well-known budgerigar is a not-too-distant relative of these birds.
No known sightings of the bird were made between 1912 and 1979, leading to speculation that it was extinct. Sightings since 1979 have been extremely rare and the bird's population size is unknown.
A relatively small parrot, the species' colour is predominantly a yellowish green, mottled with dark brown, blacks and yellows. It is distinguished from the superficially similar Ground Parrot by its shorter tail and different range and habitat. Predominantly terrestrial, taking to the air only when panicked or in search of water, the Night Parrot has furtive, nocturnal habits and"?even when it was abundant"?is apparently a highly secretive species. Its natural habitat appears to be the spinifex grass which still dominates much of the dry, dusty Australian interior; other early reports also indicate that it never strayed far from water.
Known locations with year of observation
The population size of this species is not known. Estimates range from extinct to not threatened at all. It is currently listed on the IUCN Red List as Critically Endangered.
There have been only a few reliable records of the bird since the 1880s, with the last authenticated report dating from 2006, when rangers found a dead specimen which had flown into a barbed wire fence in the Diamantina National Park in south western Queensland. Prior to this, the last reliable sighting was of three individuals in 2005 near Minga Well, in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. Reliable sightings were made in 1990 when a roadkill specimen was discovered by scientists returning from an expedition in a remote part of Queensland and 1979 when a team of scientists from the South Australian Museum spotted an apparent flock of the birds in the far north of South Australia.
Ornithologists continue to patrol the outback for signs that the species still thrives, even checking the old nests of other birds, such as the Zebra Finch, for fragments of Night Parrot feathers. The Night Parrot remains one of the most elusive and mysterious birds in the world of ornithology.