Other than at about a dozen sites in northern inland Western Australia, identified by sound recordings, the birds have also been located at the Pullen Pullen conservation area in south-west Queensland.
The latest sighting “gives us hope there’s more out there”, he said. “It’s promising.”
Software has helped researchers identify more of the birds’ calls and work with traditional owners is narrowing down where to go to improve the odds of finding the parrots.
Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley said the sighting was part of a government-backed Regional Land Partnership program.
“The sighting is a tribute to Aboriginal ranger groups who have been venturing into the remote West Australian desert to improve our knowledge of night parrots as part of the Threatened Species Strategy,” she said.
“A fundamental challenge for protecting and recovering the night parrot is simply locating those existing populations, and that is why this fleeting glimpse captured by Martu rangers is so exciting.”
One key is to identify the types of thick spinifex grass under which the birds favour tunnelling. “Night parrots exist in places with a history of infrequent burning,” Mr Leseberg said.
The return of more active fire management by traditional owners is helping to ease the threat of the big grass fires that destroy the thick spinifex humps that take decades to develop. Cats are the other main threat.
Over time, though, the prospect of more extremes from global warming could also overwhelm efforts to control fire, Mr Leseberg said. “Climate change is the problem coming down the road.”