Chris Watson

Birding Central Australia #78 - Princess Parrot

Chris Watson

Princess Parrot Polytelis alexandrae

The birding year has reached an unexpected zenith this week with the announcement from Australian Wildlife Conservancy that flocks of fifty Princess Parrots have been seen for two weeks on Newhaven Sanctuary 350 kilometres north-west. Famed among birders, the Princess Parrot has the magical trifecta of qualities that cements its place in the highest circle of birding trophies; beauty, rarity, and near mythical elusiveness.

The Princess Parrot was first brought to the attention of ornithologists in the 1860s when Frederick Waterhouse brought back specimens procured during Stuart’s first expedition to Central Australia. It has taunted researchers ever since with its hit-and-run guerrilla-style approach to life in the western deserts. It is widely distributed across the drier western half of the continent, but exactly where to find it is a mystery that no-one has yet convincingly solved. It appears in the far reaches of the Great Victoria Desert, and then goes unseen for many months or even years – then it will appear along the Canning Stock Route. At least for now, the place to go is Newhaven.

AWC is managing visitation to ensure that there is no disturbance to the birds’ natural behaviour. Experienced birders and AWC volunteer wardens Peter Struik and Toni Marsh, are monitoring the birds and supervising all visits to the area where they have been seen. There is already a buzz in the birding community nationwide, with birders booking flights this week from as far away as Perth and Brisbane. If I was at Tilmouth Well, I’d start getting the Princess Parrot t-shirts printed!

 This is a species so seldom seen in the wild, that for most birders, this is a once in a lifetime chance.  If you’re lucky enough to be heading out to Newhaven, please call ahead to book a campsite – 8964 6000.

Happy birding!