Rarest Bird on Earth Discovered Using DNA

An adult Western Ground ParrotPhoto: Brent Barrett

While three new amphibian species were just discovered in the Colombian rainforest, another discovery is now gaining attention from all over the world. This time, a new, critically endangered species of Western Ground Parrot has been found in Fitzgerald River National Park in Western Australia.

Western ground parrotPhoto: Brent Barrett

It is a great achievement that this ground parrot was recognized as one of the world’s rarest birds. A team of Australian researchers, led by Australian Wildlife’s Conservancy’s Dr. Stephen Murphy, used DNA from museum specimens up to 160 years old and by comparison, this newfound bird was recognized as a new rare species, Pezoporus flaviventris.

Endemic to Western Australia, it is an endangered species. The populations of ground parrots in eastern and western Australia are highly distinct from each other. Molecular DNA evidence suggests that the Western Ground Parrot split from the Eastern Ground Parrot around 2 million years ago.

The Fitzgerald River National Park, AustraliaPhoto: Calistemon

In the last 20 years, the Western Ground Parrot population has declined rapidly from about 400 individuals to only 110. The main threats to the parrots are foxes and wildfires. WA Department of Environment and Conservation’s Dr Allan Burbidge said: “A single wildfire through the national park or an influx of introduced predators, such as cats, could rapidly push the species to extinction. There is now an urgent need to prevent further population declines and to establish insurance populations into parts of the former range.”

Shedding light on the magnitude of the discovery, Dr. Murphy continued: “This finding has major conservation implications” as the parrot is also a close relative of the mysterious Night Parrot (Pezoporus occdentalis). It is true that it would provide critical information for understanding the world’s biodiversity into the future.

Sources:1, 2

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