This is a guest post by two likely lads as you would be lucky enough to meet up with on some blasted gibber and spinifex plain in the middle of somewhere … often a longways from anywheres. Mark Carter and Chris Watson are two of the best field naturalists working in this part of the country and this is their story, first published at Mark Carter’s webpage earlier today here.
Acoustic recording reveals call of probable Night Parrot in southern NT
In early 2017 zoologists Chris Watson and Mark Carter found a bird call in an acoustic recording which could not be positively identified. The site of the recording is a stand of very old thick spinifex (Triodia longiceps) surrounded by natural gibber firebreaks. The call recorded is a series of short constant frequency whistles at around 2.2kHz. The time of the call is roughly an hour after sunset. There had been rain at the site shortly before the call was recorded.
Two observers have since heard the call repeated at the site, in one instance coming from thick spinifex close to the observer.
No further recordings of the call have been identified (however, many hours of acoustic data from the site has been gathered which is yet to be analysed).
The call is a similar frequency and tone to Night Parrot (Pezoporus occidentalis) calls recorded in Queensland and recently released to the public, but differs in its length (see sonogram image). In March it was announced that Night Parrots found in Western Australia have calls which differ from the birds in Queensland.
After liaising with the ornithologists who found the Western Australian population we were able to compare our recorded call to other examples of Night Parrot whistle calls from WA. While there is not an exact match, the calls from WA Night Parrot and the bird recorded in the NT are very similar.
Sonogram of (top) a confirmed Night Parrot whistling call from Queensland sourced from https://nightparrot.com.au/index.php/resources/night-parrot-calls/ and (below) the call we recorded in the NT ©Carter & Watson 2017. Note the similar frequency but longer duration of the NT call.
The land system in which the call recording was made is extensive and hosts many locations which correspond with the known habitat requirements for this species elsewhere in Australia.
We are proceeding on the basis that we have detected a probable Night Parrot in the Northern Territory. Work is now underway with the relevant statutory body to gather more data at the site and identify more locations in the wider landscape where this bird may occur.
We have deliberated for some time on whether to release this information into the public domain. We cannot access enough reference material to make this a fully confirmed record of the bird (or to dismiss it as another species). We have both been openly critical of the extreme secrecy and intrigue which has surrounded this species in recent years. Where practical, we will release information as soon as we can; particularly information that will assist others in finding the bird elsewhere.
As the tentative identification of the call was partly reliant on acoustic data which is not ours to release we are limited to releasing the sonogram image of our call only, not that of the reference calls from Western Australia.
We will not be sharing location data of this site under any circumstances in the interest of the bird’s conservation.
Mark Carter and Chris Watson 23 May 2017