Things are looking up for Night parrots

I was sent this article via The Ecological Society of Australia, which is publishing a series of good news stories to counter the doom and gloom so many of us are feeling. This is indeed a good news story, on many counts.

Martu rangers photograph the elusive Night Parrot

Indigenous rangers in remote Western Australia have sighted the rare night parrot, one of the world’s most elusive birds.

The Kanyirninpa Jukurrpa (KJ) Martu rangers were conducting surveys looking for the roosting sites of the elusive species when they flushed the bird from the spinifex grass. The rangers join an exclusive group, with less than 30 people having seen the bird alive this century.

Night Parrot in flight

The sighting highlights the critical work undertaken by Indigenous rangers to look after their country. KJ Martu rangers manage over 14 million hectares of country in the Great Sandy and Little Sandy deserts.

Night Parrots are known to vocalise near their nests around dawn and dusk, and rangers braved icy desert nights listening for their calls. With the assistance of Nigel Jackett from AdaptiveNRM, the rangers also deployed sound recorders around Night Parrot habitat. By finding the roosting sites of the little-known birds it is hoped that the rangers can learn more about their ecology which will then inform targetted conservation efforts. By successfully finding a roosting area, the rangers are well on the way!

Martu rangers installing sound recorders in Night Parrot habitat

The survey for the Night Parrot roosting sites follows the confirmation of their presence on Martu Country in 2020. For two years the rangers searched for the species, finally locating them in salt-lake country. On a recent trip to the area, desert-born Martu elders recognised the species calling in the night and provide the rangers with its Martu name: ngartijirri.

Searching for the Night Parrot has been a collaborative effort between Kanyirninpa Jukurrpa and scientists from the University of Queensland and AdaptiveNRM combing the Martu rangers’ local knowledge of their country with the scientists’ species-specific expertise. It was made possible by the Aboriginal Ranger Program funded by the Western Australian Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions as well as the support of Rangelands NRM.

“With this project we have a trifecta: the hard-work and commitment of a dedicated Indigenous ranger team, the knowledge of country of desert-born Martu elders, and partnerships with the leading scientific experts in the field. It is this combination that has made the Martu Night Parrot project a success.” said Daniel Johanson, KJ’s Healthy Country Officer.

The Night Parrot is the latest addition to a growing list of threatened species that find refuge on Martu Country. The Martu rangers actively manage populations of the Greater Bilby, the Great Desert Skink, and the Black-flanked Rock-wallaby. They have also recently confirmed the presence of the Pilbara Leaf-nosed Bat. Martu elders guide the work of the rangers in keeping country and culture strong.

“All the future generations should be working to look after country, burning the right way, looking after Rock-wallabies and digging out waterholes,” said Mukki Taylor OAM, KJ’s Senior Cultural Advisor.

Photographs:  Kanyirninpa Jukurrpa

Kanyirninpa Jukurrpa is a Martu organisation which delivers a suite of environmental, cultural, and social programs. Established in 2009 the ranger program has grown to employ over 350 Martu across four Martu communities. The rangers manage and protect their country, which has significant cultural and conservation values globally, nationally and locally. The rangers undertake cultural mapping and maintenance of water sites, feral animal control, threatened species monitoring, and extensive fire management, ensuring that Martu Country is healthy and Martu culture is strong for future generations.