Glimpses of paradise: the quest for the beautiful parrakeet.

Glimpses of paradise: the quest for the beautiful parrakeet. Penny Olsen.
Glimpses of paradise: the quest for the beautiful parrakeet.
Glimpses of paradise: the quest for the beautiful parrakeet.

Canberra: National Library of Australia, 2007. Quarto, black and white photographs, colour illustrations by William T. Cooper, Tony Pridham and others, paperback.

This book follows the story of the Paradise parrot (Psephotus pulcherrimus), beginning with its discovery by naturalist John Gilbert in 1844, on the Condamine River in Queensland. Gilbert wrote to his employer John Gould, in London, describing his find as ‘without exception the most beautiful of the whole tribe I have ever seen in Australia'. Gould named it the Beautiful parrakeet.
But squatters had already begun to claim the parrot's country—the rich downs of southeast Queensland. Overgrazing and burning changed the grass species and waterways forever and by the 1890s the parrakeet had disappeared from the record.

Ornithologist and journalist Alec Chisholm believed that the bird still survived. In 1918, he launched what was to be a four-year search via regional newspapers. In 1922, he introduced the name used by English aviculturists, Paradise parrot. That same year, the first and last photographs of the parrot were taken, and the last confirmed observation was in 1928—yet claims of sightings continue.
In this beautifully illustrated and informative book, author Penny Olsen takes us on a journey of discovery—from Gilbert's first observations in 1844 to recent claims and the evidence surrounding them. The story of the Paradise parrot is one that combines elements of natural history, human curiosity for the rare and unobtainable, a destroyed ecological habitat, the endless allure of a lost species, and the facts of this singular bird's fate.

This is a wonderful book and close to the best historical account on any Australian natural history subject. Not only is the writing clear and precise, the research detailed and meticulous, the book itself is superbly designed.

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