Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Princess found in the desert

They've only been seen a handful of times over the last 100 years.

But one of Australia's rarest birds, the princess parrot, has been sighted in among the spinifex on Newhaven Reserve, about 500 kilometres north west of Alice Springs in the Northern Territory.

Bird enthusiasts from across the country are scrambling to get to Newhaven by any means possible, hoping for a glimpse of the arid-zone bird.

Little is known about the desert-dweller, named in honour of Princess Alexandra of Denmark, who eventually became the Queen of England in 1901.

The parrot, usually about 40 centimetres in length, is nomadic, making it extremely difficult to find and study.

They're understood to inhabit only three main areas: near Ernabella in South Australia, along the ranges west of Alice Springs and in the western desert regions of Western Australia.

Toni Marsh and her partner Peter Struik were camping at the Australian Wildlife Conservancy-run reserve when the parrots were noticed by the property managers two weeks ago.

"We just happened to be in the right place at the right time.

"We were just out here camping for a week and the managers asked if we could stay on a bit to help them in case a lot of people wanted to come out and see the princess parrots.

"Obviously part of our aim is to protect the parrot and collect any information because there's so little known about them."

Ms Marsh says the parrots have been reliably seen at the secret location on Newhaven each morning for the last two weeks.

Numbers have varied from four through to 50 birds flying overhead and perching at one time.

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