Presumed to be extinct for more than a century, the Night Parrot has only been sighted in the past six years.
Now scientists may have discovered why the bird is having such a tough time surviving, according to the UK’s Daily Mail: although it is nocturnal, it doesn’t have especially good night vision.
“Night parrots must be able to find their way at night to find food, avoid obstacles while flying and escape predators,” according to evolutionary biologist Vera Weisbecker of Flinders University in Adelaide.
“We therefore expect their visual system to show adaptations for seeing in the dark, similar to other nocturnal birds. However, we found this wasn’t the case.”
The researchers’ findings are based on a three-dimensional reconstruction of the parrot’s brain, taken from the only known intact intact skull specimen of the extremely rare species, which they compared to those of related parrots.
The scientists found that the parrot had smaller optic nerves and optic lobes than similar parrots, suggesting that it doesn’t have great vision, and may not be able to distinguish wire fences. Since it’s also terrestrial, it may run into fences when trying to escape predators.