Photo credit: Three images of the Paradise Parrot taken in fairly quick succession by C. H. H. Jerrard during 1922 at Burnett River Queensland. They show the bird perched on a termite mound by its nesting hole. The top image is reproduced from a hand-coloured lantern slide that was made from one of Jerrardís original black and white photographs. The poor colouring is a weak attempt to show the beautiful colours of the living bird.
Is the paradise parrot really extinct? This is one of those species for which rumors of survival abound, and there are many who believe that somewhere in the vastness of outback Australia it might still exist.
Sadly, there are compelling reasons for supposing that it has vanished forever. Following the initial discovery, birds didn't prove hard to find; they were perhaps never more than locally common, but seemed to be quite widely distributed and occurred in all kinds of suitable areas. A pattern of decline was quickly established, however, at the turn of the 19th century and during the years leading up to World War I. By the time war broke out paradise parrots seemed to be entirely gone. The last legitimate sighting of the species occurred on November 20th, 1928.
The Quagga is one of the icons of extinction with a very distinct identity, yet recent research has revealed that it is probably not even a full species--just a race of the still-extant plains zebra; DNA analysis seems to confirm this. Despite wide acceptance of this idea by biologists, there is little doubt that the Quagga will retain its iconic position, its dramatic history and unmistakable appearance ensuring that this status will endure.
There are just five known photographs of living Quagga, all of them featuring the same individual, a female resident at London Zoo. She died on July 15th, 1872, having been at the zoo for 21 years.
Most people who hear of the laughing owl ask the obvious question--did it actually laugh? The answer is not straightforward. Walter Buller, who handled living individuals, said that it did. According to him it was, "a peculiar kind of laugh in a descending scale, and very ridiculous to hear." On the other hand some early writers described hearing nothing more than a series of dismal shrieks that would cause a camper, caught at night in some wild place, to wake with a shudder.
The last widely accepted record of a laughing owl is of one picked up dead at Blue Cliffs, South Canterbury by a Mrs. Airini Woodhouse (1896-1989) in July 1914. It is doubtful if this really was the last one, however. For many years after 1914 people claimed to see individuals. In fact, Oliver Parr recalled seeing birds until about 1924 and, given his photographic credentials, it would be hard to doubt him.