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Museum specimens of the Paradise Parrot

By Penny Olsen

The museum specimens I located in the course of research for this book numbered far more than I expected; however, I suspect the list is incomplete. Phil Digney (see chapter 12 of Glimpses of Paradise) reported that he had seen two mounted males in the Al-Wabra Wildlife Preservation centre in Qatar, and a colleague thought she had seen a specimen on display in Helsinki—I didn’t follow up on either. Others in private collections include two males in a Melbourne collection and another, overseas, in the possession of British author Errol Fuller.

The reconstructed skeletons were also unexpected and strangely fragile, almost ethereal. The sternum in the British Museum is of interest because the antbed-nesting parrots (sometimes separated from the other Psephotus as Psephotellus) lack a furcula, which in most birds serves as a brace during the flight stroke—the absence may allow them steep lift-off from the ground.

Approximate comparative measurements of the three antbed parrots
Male Length Wing Tail Weight
Paradise Parrot 28-30cm 13cm 17.5cm -
Golden-shouldered Parrot 26-27cm 12cm 16cm 54g
Hooded Parrot 26-27cm 12.5cm 16cm 53g
Paradise Parrot 27-29cm 12.5cm 17cm -
Golden-shouldered Parrot 25-26cm 11.5cm 15.5cm 42g
Hooded Parrot 25-26cm 12cm 15.5cm 44g

Paradise Parrot Skeleton

Paradise Parrot Psephotus pulcherrimus
Skeleton, Queensland, pre-1892
Macleay Museum, The University of Sydney, B1496

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Specimens of three adult Paradise Parrot males

Specimens of three adult Paradise Parrot males—the two on the right were probably collected by John Gilbert on the Darling Downs in 1844
(Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia)

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Paradise Parrot material in museums collections

In the absence of full information on the specimen labels or catalogues, the information in the square brackets is based on the literature or on the assessments of Clem Fisher regarding which specimens might be those collected by John Gilbert. Sexes/ages are as supplied and are not necessarily correct.

View or download accompanying table (129kb PDF) of Paradise Parrot material in museum collections.

References to specimens

Salvadori, T., Catalogue of the Birds in the British Museum, Volume XX. London: The Trustees, 1891.

Cayley, N.W., ‘Report of the Hon. Secretary for NSW’, Emu, vol. 26, 1927: 176–177.

Chisholm, A.H., ‘Ornithology Report’, Queensland Naturalist, vol. 2, 1920: 93.

De Ross, L., Keeping Parrots in Australian Aviaries. Melbourne: Lansdowne, 1975.

Finsch, O., Die Papageien: Monograph BearbeitetVol. 2, Leyden: Leiden Museum, 1867: 226–227.

Fisher, C.T., ‘The Importance of Early Victorian Natural Historians in the Discovery and Interpretation of the Australian Fauna, With Special Reference to John Gilbert’, PhD Thesis, Liverpool Polytechnic, Liverpool, UK, 1992.

Fisher, C.T., ‘A Type Specimen of the Paradise Parrot Psephotus pulcherrimus (Gould 1845) in the Merseyside County Museums, Liverpool, England’, Australian Zoologist, vol. 22, no. 3, 1986: 10–12.

Fuller, E., Extinct Birds. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

Gedney, C.W., Foreign Cage Birds Containing Full Directions for Successfully Breeding, Rearing, and Managing The Various Beautiful Aviary Birds Imported into this Country. London: The Bazaar Office, 1877–1879.

Greenway, J.C. Extinct and Vanishing Birds of the World. New York: Dover Publications, 1967.

Greenway, J.C., ‘Type Specimens of Birds in the American Museum of Natural History. Part 2’, Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History, vol. 161, 1978, article 1.

Hindwood, Keith, letter to Alec Chisholm 4 July 1957 listing Paradise Parrots in the Australian Museum collection at that time. Mitchell Library, Chisholm papers, MS 3540 H4990.

Illidge, R., ‘The Blue-faced Lorilet, Also Called Coxen’s Fig Parrakeet (Opopsitta coxeni, Gould)’, Queensland Naturalist, vol. 4, 1924: 113–114.

Knox, A.G. and M.P. Walters, ‘Extinct and Endangered Birds in the Collections of the Natural History Museum’, British Ornithologists’ Club Occasional Publications, no. 1, 1994.

Lowe, W.P., ‘Specimens of Psephotus pulcherrimus’, Ibis, vol. 80, 1947: 663–664

Lumholtz, C., Among Cannibals: An Account of Four Years’ Travels in Australia, and of Camp Life with the Aborigines of Queensland. Sussex: Caliban Books, 1979 (first published 1888).

Marks, E.N., ‘C.T. White Memorial Lecture for 1962: Silvester Diggles – A Queensland Naturalist One Hundred Years Ago’, Queensland Naturalist, vol. 17, nos 1 and 2, 1963: 15–25.

Meyer de Schauensee, R., ‘On Some Avian Types, Principally Gould’s, in the Collection of the Academy’, Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences Philadelphia, vol. 109, 1957: 123–246.

O’Malley, B., ‘That Parrot’s Dead—but Valuable’, Courier-Mail ( Brisbane), 13 May 2004: 14.

Phipps, G., ‘Ornithology’, in P. Stanbury and J. Holland (eds), Mr Macleay’s Celebrated Cabinet: The History of the Macleays and Their Museum. Sydney: The Macleay Museum, The University of Sydney, 1988, pp. 131–133.

Ramsay, E.P., ‘List of Birds Received from Port Denison, Queensland’, Ibis, series 2, vol. 1, 1865: 83–87.

Schifter, H., ‘Präparate ausgestorbener Papageien in der Vogelsammlung des Naturhistorischen Museums Wien’, Papageien, vol. 9, no. 1, 1996: 21–24.

Schlegal, H., De Derentia. De Vogels. Amsterdam: Gebr Van Es, 1862.

Sear, M. and S. Davies, Jane Tost and Ada Rohu. ‘“Most Curious and Peculiar”: Women Taxidermists in Colonial Sydney’. Exhibition at Macleay Museum, University of Sydney, 1996.

‘South Australian Ornithological Association’, Emu, vol. 23, 1913: 61–62.

Stone, W., ‘A Study of Type Specimens of Birds in the Collections of the Academy of Natural Science Philadelphia with a Brief History of the Collection’, Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, vol. 51, 1899: 5–92.

Tilbrook, L., ‘The Macleay Collectors: A Working Notebook’, Macleay Museum Occasional Series Number Two. Sydney: The Macleay Museum, The University of Sydney, 1992.

Violani, C., A. Daturi, and L. Cagnolaro, ‘Uccelli estinti e rari nei musei naturalistic di Milano, Genova e Firenzé’, Riv. Ital. Orn, Milano, vol. 54, 1984: 105–178.

Whittell, H.M., The Literature of Australian Birds: A History and a Biography of Australian Ornithology . Perth: Paterson Brokensha, 1954.