Extinct Parrot Found

Posted by: Loren Coleman on February 2nd, 2007

Paradise Parrot

This is a story about finding hidden treasures right before your eyes, in this case (pun intended), the beautiful Paradise Parrot of Australia.


The University of Aberdeen Zoology Museum (UK) has taken care of a case of mounted Australian birds, one of which is the spectacular but sadly extinct Paradise Parrot (Psephotus pulcherrimus).

Nature-lover Michael Middleton, from the [Aberdeen] city centre, donated the exotic birds after the case that held them developed woodworm.

It prompted him to scan the internet for more information on the assortment of stuffed birds, totalling three parrots, a pardalote, a kookaburra, a wild budgie and a cuckoo-shrike.

The specimens have been in Mr Middleton’s family for around half a century. So he was stunned when he discovered one of his feathery charges had not been seen since 1927.

Realising the slice of Australian heritage he had on his hands, Mr Middleton has donated all the birds to the University of Aberdeen’s Zoology Museum.

Although 26 species of Australian birds are currently classified as being endangered, the brightly plumed Paradise Parrot is the only mainland species of bird to have become extinct since white settlement.

Dr Martyn Gorman, honorary curator of the Zoology Museum, said: “We are indebted to Mr Middleton for his great generosity and delighted that this important specimen can now be seen by the public at large.

“To receive a specimen of a recently extinct species is a rather special event.

“It is sad that the Paradise Parrot is extinct but we hope that our parrot will help educate people about the need for conservation of wildlife.

“One wonders what other zoological treasures there are in people’s homes.”

The Paradise Parrot was locally common in the wild although generally scarce in the 19th century, but then declined rapidly and by 1915 the species seemed to have disappeared.

A newspaper campaign led to its rediscovery in 1918 but the bird had by then become very rare and the last confirmed sighting was by a C.H. Jerrerd on the 14th of September 1927 in the upper Burnett River area off the Southern Queensland coast.

The Paradise Parrot was favoured as a cage bird, especially in England. In 1884 the British ornithologist William Thomas Greene wrote in his book Parrots in Captivity:

No one can see it without desiring to possess so beautiful and graceful a bird, and large sums are constantly being paid for handsome specimens by amateurs; but alas! one in a dozen survives a few months and dies suddenly in a fit.William Thomas Greene

It is thought the decline of the species may have started long before the Europeans invaded Australia. However, the introduction of cattle by the white settlers was to prove a fatal blow. The parrots fed on grass seeds, and livestock undoubtedly reduced this food supply.

Many also died as the ranchers deliberately set fire to the plains to stimulate the growth of fresh grass for the cattle. This gave rats’ easy access to the eggs and young, which were hidden in burrows on the ground. Man also posed a direct threat through egg collecting.

Source: Press Release, “Extinct parrot resurfaces in Aberdeen.” University of Aberdeen, January 30, 2007.

Loren Coleman About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.

5 Responses to “Extinct Parrot Found”

  1. kittenz responds:

    How very sad. I hoped that this article was about a rediscovery of a living bird. Maybe they will resurface alive somewhere.

  2. YourPTR! responds:

    When I saw the headline I too thought the article was about the rediscovery of this beautiful bird and was disapointed when I read it was not! Still, only one bird species becoming extinct is a much better record than in nearby New Zealand! Btw the Europeans didn’t “invade” Australia they brought civilization to the continent. Australia wouldn’t be the country it is today without them! 🙂

  3. youcantryreachingme responds:

    Yes, it is very sad, and dare I say very Australian? 🙁

    Although the article mentions this as the only mainland species of bird to become extinct post-colonisation (and I’m not sure there aren’t other north-Queensland parrots which have become extinct also) there are certainly others from non-mainland Australian islands:

    The Robust white-eye (Zosterops strenuus), from Lord Howe Island (a part of New South Wales, technically, but very geographically isolated),

    Norfolk Island Kaka (Nestor productus), from Norfolk Island,

    White Gallinule (Porphyrio albus), from Lord Howe Island,

    in all liklihood, the Kangaroo Island Emu, from Kangaroo Island (South Australia),

    the Tasmanian emu from Tasmania

    and in addition to all these extinctions, there are (as the article says) very many more species which are on the brink.

    Let’s face it – a species must be missed for 50 years to be termed extinct, so quite possibly some additional species are already gone forever – but it won’t begin to dawn collectively on us for a couple of decades.

    As I started… very sad. Please consider your bit to help end the destruction of old growth forests – not just in Australia, but globally. I know there are no easy answers and the problem isn’t simple, but can’t our own species rise to the occassion and make it happen?

  4. Mnynames responds:

    Any settlement by force of arms in an area already inhabited by people constitutes the very definition of “Invasion.” As for civilization, it existed in Australia for perhaps as much as 70,000 years before Europeans forced their own peculiar and biased version of it upon the natives.

    And for those who say that agriculture is the only basis for civilization, there is evidence of that there as well. If so, then by definition not only did the natives have civilization, they had the FIRST civilization in human history.

    We’re here talking about the greedy and self-interested depredations mankind has wrought upon the animal kingdom, and yet there are still those that can’t even see that mankind has done the same to itself. Just as there are endangered and extinct species, so too are there endangered and extinct cultures and civilizations. ALL have value, ALL have something unique to contribute, and ALL are worth preserving. Further, ALL who remain are a little less with their passing. Sadly, like in nature, we have already lost so much, and are likely to lose much of what’s left, largely through a combination of greed, apathy, and ignorance.

    The first 2 are hard to change, but the latter, well, that’s why I’m writing, and (HOPEFULLY), that’s why you’re reading. Thank you for your time.

  5. mystery_man responds:

    A dire message, but unfortunately all too true. Species are dissappearing at an alarming rate, global warming is threatening whole ecosystems, introduced animals are wreaking havoc on established habitats, global fish stocks are becoming critically depleted. I often don’t think mankind fully realizes that it is also part of the ecosystem, that if one species dissappears it can have direct implications for mankind as a whole. I don’t think it is too late yet, though. I want to have hope. We can tip things in the other direction still. The main problem is that these kinds of stories are not seen as a direct threat when people are reading it in the newspaper over the morning coffee. I think the main reaction is “well, that’s too bad but what can I do?”. I think that in many ways, this kind of complacency is just as dangerous as active exploitation of the environment. A lot of people would really like to stop the destruction of the environment but they just don’t know what they can do and they don’t realize that their inaction is furthering the destruction. The one’s who exploit animal or plant species, who cut and burn forests, log illegally, and bioprospect would just love it if you finished that morning paper and didn’t do a thing. People need to realize there is a lot of little things that can be done. Write your congressman, get involved with nature programs on the weekends, put aside even one dollar a month to donate to a conservation fund. I hope things turn around in my lifetime. I really think we are interdependent on nature and the effects of what we do will have more consequences than we can know.

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