February 2007 - Blue-fronted Fig-Parrot

Australian wildlife cinematographer and naturalist John Young has believed for more than 20 years that the Coxen’s Fig-Parrot is not extinct, even though it has never been photographed, and all of the dead specimens in museums are more than 50 years old.

In 2005, while searching for Coxen’s Fig-Parrots at high altitude at an undisclosed location in the border ranges between Queensland and New South Wales, John took a series of photographs of a bird which has never previously been described or photographed. Two of these images were displayed to an audience of bird-enthusiasts at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat in November 2006, and one photograph has appeared in the press a number of times subsequently.

This bird, which John refers to as the Blue-fronted Fig-Parrot, is very difficult to find because its habitat is above the high-altitude rainforest canopy. It is clear from the pictures that this bird is not any of the three known varieties of Australian Fig-Parrots previously described

John has collected a body of evidence, including photographs of multiple birds, recordings and biological material together with a nest site, which in due course will be tabled to the scientific community and at that time we will welcome robust debate about the significance of John’s discovery.

We are surprised and disappointed that, based on an examination of one low-resolution image, armchair experts are prepared to question John’s integrity. It appears that there are a number of parties who would rather impatiently cast aspersions about John’s discovery before he has had the chance to complete his fieldwork, have the evidence independently analysed and release all of the information he has about this bird to the community at large.

It may take some considerable time for John to complete his work, but we have no doubt that when this happens it will prove a significant addition to our knowledge of Fig-Parrots.