Paradise Parrot Psephotus pulcherrimus (Gould, 1845)
- RMNH 110.071: male. New South Wales, Australia.
- RMNH 110.072: male. New South Wales, Australia. Received: 1862.
- RMNH 110.073: female. New South Wales, Australia. Received: 1864.
- RMNH 110.074: female. Australia. Obtained through: Verreaux Paris, 1863.
- RMNH 110.113: female. Animal Zoo Den Haag. Received: 30 juli 1890.
The Australian continent is so vast and sparsely inhabited, that once a species is considered extinct, one may always hope that it will be rediscovered. There is, however, little hope that the Paradise Parrot still survives. The decline of this species is well documented and may have started well before the Europeans invaded Australia. The introduction of cattle was fatal. The parrots fed on grass seeds, and livestock doubtlessly reduced this food supply. Many died as the ranchers deliberately set fire to the plains to stimulate the growth of fresh grass for the cattle, while rats had easy access to the eggs and young, which were hidden in burrows.
Man also posed a direct threat. This beautiful parrot was favoured as a cage bird, especially in England. In 1884 the British ornithologist William Thomas Greene wrote in his book Parrots in captivity: "No one can see it without desiring to possess so beautiful and graceful a bird, and large sums are constantly being paid for handsome specimens by amateurs; but alas! one in a dozen survives a few months and - dies suddenly in a fit." After the drought of 1902 the species seemed to have disappeared. A newspaper campaign led to its rediscovery, though the bird had become very rare. Since 1927 the Paradise Parrot has not been seen.
Although the species was never common, quite a few museum specimens remain, presumably because so many had been kept as cage birds. There are skins in Sydney, Dresden, Genoa, New York, Cambridge (Massachusetts) and in several other places. Apart from a skeleton donated by the zoological garden of The Hague in 1890, Naturalis possesses four mounted specimens. One of these was purchased from Maison Verreaux, dealers in natural history objects in Paris. The provenance of the other skins, all of which were collected in New South Wales, is unknown.