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For well over a century, the Night Parrot lured its seekers into Australia's vast, arid outback. From the beginning it was a mysterious bird. Fewer than 30 specimens were collected before it all but disappeared, offering only fleeting glimpses and the occasional mummified body as proof of its continued existence. Protected by spinifex and darkness, the parrot attained almost mythical status: a challenge to birdwatchers and an inspiration to poets, novelists and artists.
Night Parrot documents the competitiveness and secrecy, the triumphs and adventures of the history of the bird and its followers, culminating in the recent discovery of live birds at a few widely scattered locations. It describes what we are now unravelling about the mysteries of its biology and ecology and what is still left to learn. Complemented by guest essays, illustrations and photographs from a wide variety of sources, Night Parrot sheds light on Australia's most elusive bird.
Introduction: The call of the Night Parrot
A tangled nest of Night Parrot names
Getting to know the family: the molecular story by Leo Joseph
- The very first ‘beautiful ground parrakeet’: Charles Sturt, John McDouall Stuart and John Harris Browne
- Myrrlumbing: Frederick Andrews
- Hunters of the long-lost Night Parrot: Samuel Albert White and Ethel Rosina White
- Sclerolaena not spinifex: Shane Parker
- Spinifex Parrot: Robert Austin, Albert Calvert and George Keartland
- Mournful whistle: Martin Bourgoin
- A concerted effort: the CALM campaign
- The vanishing habitat of the Night Parrot in the Gascoyne and Murchison regions of Western Australia: lessons from historical records, land use and landscape processes by Peter Curry
- Mallee Bird: Charles McLennan
New South Wales
- Have you ever seen a Night Parrot?: W. Kelly
- Fly-by-night: George Keartland, Lawson Whitlock & Co.
- A frame-up: Sidney William Jackson
- Bodies beside the road and a bird in the hand: Boles, Cupitt, Young & Co.
- ‘They say if enough are found’: Steve Murphy and John Young
- Not the final chapter
Penny Olsen AM is an Honorary Professor in the Division of Ecology and Evolution, Research School of Biology, The Australian National University. During her career as a research scientist she increasingly turned her hand to writing about Australian wildlife, its history, researchers and illustrators. She is the author of nearly 30 books and 120 research papers.
"[...] The book is well referenced and has something for every reader interested in the Night Parrot – from the casual observer interested in the history and search for the bird to the researcher interested in learning more about the recent insights into its biology."
– Jonathan T. Coleman, Ibis 161(3), July 2019