C. H. McLennan (‘Mallee Bird’) and his Aboriginal informant Jowley: The source of early records of the Night Parrot Pezoporus occidentalis in Victoria?

Peter Menkhorst and Edward Ryan

Memoirs of Museum Victoria Vol 73 p. 107–115 (2015)



Historical records of the Night Parrot Pezoporus occidentalis in north-western Victoria have not always been accepted as valid despite prominent contemporary ornithologists accepting them. We present new supporting information gleaned from newspaper articles written under the pseudonym ‘Mallee Bird’ published in national and local newspapers in the early 20th century. ‘Mallee Bird’ was Charles H. McLennan, a bushman and well-regarded ornithologist who worked on pastoral runs established among the terminal lakes of the Wimmera River in the Big Desert of north-western Victoria. We also provide biographical details of a local Aboriginal man, Jowley, identified by McLennan as his informant about the nest site and clutch size of the Night Parrot. We provide evidence that McLennan and Jowley were known to each other and probably worked together on cattle runs in the Hopetoun–Pine Plains region around the turn of the 19th–20th century. McLennan and Jowley’s observations of Night Parrot calls, habitat use, breeding and flight are some of the earliest published natural history of this most mysterious of Australian birds. They mostly corroborate other contemporary accounts and concur with preliminary findings of current research on the species in south-west Queensland. The relationship between McLennan and Jowley is one of the few documented Victorian examples of aboriginal information being incorporated into European ornithological knowledge. McLennan’s support and encouragement of ornithological expeditions to the Wonga Lake–Pine Plains area was pivotal in having the area declared the first National Park in the Murray Mallee region.


Menkhorst, P. & Ryan, E., 2015. C. H. McLennan ('Mallee Bird') and his Aboriginal informant Jowley: The source of early records of the Night Parrot Pezoporus occidentalis in Victoria?. Memoirs of Museum Victoria 73: 107-115. http://doi.org/10.24199/j.mmv.2015.73.09


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