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13/08/2016, 09:00

Eggs of a night parrot are discovered

Australian scientists discover eggs of a rare night parrot not seen for 100 years - then leave them for six days and return to find they've been EATEN by a snake

Scientists studying a native parrot thought to have been extinct for more than 100 years have been devastated after a nest of eggs was destroyed by a deadly snake.

Ecologist Steve Murphy recently made a breakthrough discovery in the middle of the Queensland desert - a nest containing two eggs laid by the Night Parrot.

The last time an active nest was seen was back in the 1880s, according to a report in The Age.

The nest: Eggs from the rare Night Parrot found in the middle of the Queensland desert - six days later they had been taken - eaten by a snake

The first Night Parrot found by Dr Steve Murphy. It's one of the most elusive birds in the world - and had been considered extinct in Australia until sighted in 2013

This finding was considered vital with the potential of adding to the scarce population.

A live night parrot was last seen in Western Australia in 1912, according to Bush Heritage Australia, until the chance sighting of one three years ago by Dr Murphy.

Scientists called the discoveries as 'a second chance to save it'.

But their preservation plan suffered a shocking setback however when the eggs were taken less than a week after they were found.

The only clues left behind by the thief were the egg shells, which Dr Murphy collected for DNA testing - scientists finding that a king brown snake was to blame.

'I would have put my money on a small goanna or a dragon,' Dr Murphy told Fairfax Media.

It was considered a 'long-shot' but Ancient DNA expert Associate Jeremy Professor was able to identify what had eaten the eggs.

Scientist devastated as native parrot eggs are taken by a predator Bird was thought to be extinct for 100 years until sighted in 2013

The Night Parrot nest was found in the Queensland desert by ecologist Dr Steve Murphy

'When Steve sent me the eggshells, I thought I was looking for an introduced predator like a cat or fox - I wasn't really looking for native predators.'

Dr Murphy told The Guardian the night parrot was a 'dumpy oversized budgie'.

It has green feathers on its top half and yellow ones on its underside.

An adult can grow up to about 24 centimetres and they prefer areas that have desert-like conditions.

The first recorded sighting of the night parrot was in 1845 and the last time a living specimen was acquired happened in 1912, according to Bush Heritage Australia.

The bird was not seen between 1912 and 1979, but after many unconfirmed reports it was finally captured on film by a wildlife photographer in 2013.

‘I’ve been fascinated with Night Parrots ever since I was a small kid,' said Dr Murphy.

'It’s their story that grabbed me, and what it represented about what’s happened to Australia since the arrival of Europeans.

'We’ve lost more native animals than anywhere else on Earth, and for a lot of years we thought we’d lost this one as well.'

Rob Murphy, executive manager of Bush Heritage Australia, said the nesting was 'incredibly encouraging'.

'And while it was extremely disappointing the eggs were destroyed, we were buoyed to hear it was native predation, the natural order of things rather than a feral, introduced predator,' he told Daily Mail Australia.

'So we’re continuing to be vigilant on feral animals and the protection of night parrot habitat.'

'We thought we'd lost this one as well,' said ecologist Dr Steve Murphy of the Night Parrot

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