You might reasonably expect the image above this story to be that of a Night Parrot. It’s not; it’s a cousin, also sometimes mistakenly called night parrot; it’s a kakapo. That would naturally spark the question of why I’m intentionally showing the wrong image…
Some creatures are camera-shy, but the Night Parrot takes it to the next level. An Australian ground-dwelling bird, it has always been rare, but after decades passed following a 1912 sighting, it was assumed to have become extinct.
Proving that it was merely the world’s champion at avian hide-and-seek, it reappeared in 1979, but no photos were taken of it. In fact, no photos have ever been taken of one… or at least, that was the case until 2013.
In July 2013 a bush photographer named John Young captured photos of the bird and presented them to a dubious but hopeful community.
Independent verification of the images later proved that he had, in fact, not merely found one of the elusive birds but managed to successfully photograph it before it flew away.
The bird has remained elusive since then… to just about everyone except John Young. The naturalist later found a small group of nests and eggs, which were also photographed; and he managed to get a recording of its call.
…or maybe not. While it is undeniable that he photographed the bird, examination of the uncropped, unretouched photos indicate a piece of wire mesh in the corner, which suggest that Young may have placed a large cage around the bird in order to photograph it before letting it free… an ethical breach in the world of bird-watching.
Worse, examination of the egg photos indicate that they may be clay, rather than real eggs… and the call he recorded, while absolutely that of a night parrot, may have been “accidentally” recorded not from a live parrot but rather from the only previously known recording of the bird.
Investigations continue into the allegations. Despite the very real possibility that he may have engaged in serial fraud, he presented actual evidence of the night parrot’s continued existence. Young may eventually be simultaneously one of bird-watching’s greatest heroes and greatest villains.
Question of the night: What’s your favorite species of bird?