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The World’s Smallest Parrot Filmed

NHU cameraman, Gordon Buchanan, with the world's smallest parrot © Jonny Keeling

NHU cameraman, Gordon Buchanan, with the world's smallest parrot © Jonny Keeling/BBC

The BBC Earth News website reports that the world’s smallest parrot has been filmed in the wild for the first time.

The crew, from the BBC’s Natural History Unit, was in Papua New Guinea filming the programme Lost Land of the Volcano, and caught on camera what was initially thought to be two Buff-faced Pygmy Parrots (Micropsitta pusio). On average, these little parrots are not much bigger than a human thumb, standing less than 9cm tall and weighing 11.5g (0.41 oz).

A correction to this report was, however, published two days after the first episode of the programme was broadcast, since it seems that this parrot might have been mis-identified.

Ornithologist, Dr Jack Dumbacher, now believes the parrots filmed may in fact be Yellow-capped Pygmy Parrots (Micropsitta keiensis), which are closely related to the Buff-faced Pygmy, but - at an average height of 9 to 9.5cm - are slightly taller.

CBC, which also published the story, provides some additional background information to the expedition. Mount Bosavi, in the rainforest of Papua New Guinea, is an extinct volcano 2.7 kilometres high, with a crater one kilometre deep and four kilometres wide. Life inside has evolved isolated from the outside world for 200,000 years - the last time the volcano erupted.

The expedition team, which included biologists from Oxford University, the London Zoo and the Smithsonian Institute, chose Mount Bosavi because animal life there is poorly understood, and similar ecosystems in Papua New Guinea are being destroyed. The country’s rainforest, they said, is currently being destroyed at a rate of 3.5 per cent a year. There are extensive logging operations just 30 kilometres south of the volcano.

More than 40 new species were discovered during the expedition - including the Bosavi woolly rat (one of the biggest rats in the world), a frog with fangs, a camouflaged gecko, a new species of bat, a spider that drops a net on its prey, and a fish that can make grunting noises with its swim bladder.

Lost Land of the Volcano is a three-part documentary series, the first episode of which was broadcast on BBC One on 8th September.


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