Queensland bird enthusiast presents museum with photos of elusive night parrot
By Elise Worthington
ABC News (Online)
Date: July 4, 2013
A Queensland bird enthusiast claims to have caught the rare Australian night parrot on camera.
The fat, ground-dwelling bird is so elusive it was once thought to be extinct, and the photos could be the first proof of a living night parrot in more than 100 years.
But the news has ruffled some feathers in the bird-watching community because the photographer remains coy on some of the details.
Wildlife photographer John Young says that after 17,000 hours in the field and 15 years of searching, he has captured several photos and a 17-second video of the bird in western Queensland.
"On the night when I finally got onto the pair it was an out-of-body experience," he said.
"I thought, no-one has ever seen it, what's it going to look like? But I went out, I put the torch on it - it was just a mind-blowing experience."
On Wednesday he presented his evidence to more than 100 excited bird enthusiasts at the Queensland Museum.
Australian Birdlife Magazine editor Sean Dooley says it is an extraordinary development.
"The night parrot is the holy grail of world bird-watching, it's probably the hardest bird in the world to see," he said.
"If John Young's claims prove to be correct this is the world bird-watching equivalent of finding Elvis flipping burgers in an outback road house."
The bird is thought to live in shrubbery in arid areas of central Australia. It is the nation's only nocturnal parrot.
Ecologist Julian Reid has been chasing the parrot for 25 years and thinks he has heard it just once.
"All I can say is that in words it's Grt-Grt or Grt-Grt Grit Grit," he said.
'Absolutely no doubt'
Mr Young says a commercial deal with a media company means he cannot distribute the pictures.
Bird enthusiasts who attended his presentation were not allowed to take photos, record audio or film.
Doubt has been cast on some of Mr Young's photos in the past.
In 2006 he was accused of manipulating a photo of the rare blue-fronted fig parrot.
Associate Professor Gale Spring, scientific photographic expert at RMIT, examined the photo in 2006.
"Running just some basic analysis on it there were several highly suspicious areas. I found out later that each of those highly suspicious
areas were areas that actually defined that species of parrot," he said.
Mr Young says he made the mistake
of not keeping the original images.
"I lightened them, darkened them, did my own sort of stuff and I was criticised
for it and probably rightly so," he said.
Seven years later, Mr Young says this time he has undeniable proof
of what he has seen.
"I have digital sound, the Western Australian museum is doing the DNA," he said.
"The feathers I've got I found at the road side - all the feathers have been matched to a bird that is perfect.
"There's absolutely no doubt. I made mistakes before but I won't do it again."
Mr Young will not say exactly
where the photos were taken in the hope it will protect the bird from poachers.
June 29 2013 - Is this a sighting of Australia's most elusive bird, the night parrot?
July 4 2013 - He's not dead, but rare night parrot nest stays secret
"News of the Night Parrot has certainly flushed other sightings out of the woodwork- just had a report of a pair in a Sydney backyard!"
Captain Samuel Albert White
(20 December 1870 - 19 January 1954)
Ornithologist and conservationist
While the group described the parrot as a "fat budgerigar",
the sighting was the equivalent of winning the bird watching lotto...