Night Parrot

Australia’s Most Elusive Bird

December 2018
More details
  • Publisher
    CSIRO Publishing
  • Published
    21st December 2018
  • ISBN 9781486302987
  • Language English
  • Pages 340 pp.
  • Size 6.625" x 9.625"
  • Images Color photos & illus

For well over a century, the Night Parrot lured its seekers into Australia’s vast, arid outback. From the beginning it was a mystery 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 unraveling 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, this book sheds light on Australia’s most elusive bird.


- The story of one of the most elusive and enigmatic birds in the world; the "Holy Grail" of birdwatching

- Documents the impact this mysterious bird has made on our society, drawing from an eclectic range of materials including scientific articles, newspapers and ephemera, art and literature, and historical images and accounts

- Author Penny Olsen is one of Australia’s leading ornithologists

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

South Australia
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

Western Australia
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

Northern Territory
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

Penny Olsen 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.