There are many species and breeds of parrots, both in the wild and in captivity. But no matter how much their number is, the survival of their kind would always depend on humans who have the capability to care or destroy them. Many of these birds are in the brink of extinction and the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) has classified their status as Vulnerable, Endangered or Critically Endangered. Species under Vulnerable category faces high risk of extinction, very high risk for Endangered, and extremely high risk for Critically Endangered.
Though parrots are mostly seen in the wild, many of these birds are still threatened and endangered. Here are ten beautiful but critically endangered species of parrots.
Also called as Owl Parrot, the Kakapo is a large, flightless nocturnal parrot native to New Zealand. It is the world’s only flightless parrot. Its wings are only used for balance and support. At 60 centimeters (24 in) and from 2-4 kg (4.5-9 lb), it is also the world’s heaviest parrot. Since it cannot fly, it can accumulate large amounts of body fat to store energy. The Kakapo also has yellowish moss-green feathers mottled with black or dark brownish gray, giving it ability to camouflage with the surrounding vegetation.
The Kakapo is possibly one of the world’s longest-living birds. Scientists have traced its origin up to around 70 million years ago. However, colonization and the presence of many predators have greatly threatened the population of these birds. As of February 2010, only 131 living Kakapo are known, and most of which have been given names. New Zealand has adapted the Kakapo Recovery Plan where the predator-free islands of Codfish and Anchor are used as habitats for these birds.
The Spix’s Macaw is the only member of the parrot genus Cyanopsitta, found in the Brazilian state of Bahia. It measures 55-57 cm (21.3-23.5 in) long. The bird has primarily blue plumage of various shades, including a pale blue head, pale blue underpants, and vivid blue upperpants, wings, and tail. The Spix’s macaw is believed to be extinct in wild. As of 2010, there are approximately 85 of these parrots in captivity. It has a very restricted natural habitat due to its dependence on the Caraibeira tree for nesting.
In the 2011 animated film Rio, the main characters Blu and Jewel are Spix’s macaws.
Endemic to southern Australia, the Orange-bellied Parrot is one of only two species of parrot which migrate. It is a small parrot, measuring only 20 cm (18 in) long. The adult male has green upperparts, yellow underparts, orange belly patch, blue frontal band, and a green-blue uppertail with yellow sides. The adult female is a duller green with a paler blue frontal band. The bird feeds on seeds and berries of small coastal grasses and shrubs, as well as kelp.
The birds only breed in South West Tasmania, and then migrate over Bass Strait to spend the winter on the coast of southeastern Australia. Current population of the orange-bellied parrot is estimated to under 50 individuals, with a further 160 birds in captivity. In 2011, only five have been sited to have made the winter migration to the mainland. Presently, Australia has intensive conservation programs to protect and prevent the birds from extinction.
The Blue-throated Macaw is a macaw endemic to a small area of north-central Bolivia called as Los Llanos de Moxos where it nests on the palm trees in the savanna region. It measures 85 cm (33 in) long. It has turquoise-blue wings and tail, and bright yellow underpants and blue undertail coverts.
Recently, there are around 100-150 blue-throated macaws that remain in the wild. Most are found in captive population in many parts of the world since these birds are relatively easy to breed. The principal reasons for their decline in numbers are their capture for the pet trade and land clearance on cattle ranches.
Puerto Rican Amazon
Endemic to the archipelago of Puerto Rico, the Puerto Rican Amazon is also known as Puerto Rican Parrot or Iguaca. It measures 28-30 cm (11.0-11.8 in) long and weighs 250-300 g (8.8 – 10.6 oz). It has green plumage with blue edges, a red forehead and white rings around the eyes.
There are many factors that triggered the decrease of the population of this bird. Colonialism, agricultural development, construction of roads, hydroelectric development, and the adoption of young chicks as pets are some of these. In 2006, the total estimated population of Puerto Rican Amazon was 34 to 40 individuals in the wild and 143 individuals in captivity.
Sometimes called as the Philippine Cockatoo or Kalangay, the Red-vented Cockatoo is endemic to the Philippines. The bird has white plumage with red and yellowish undertail, and pale yellow underwings. It is only 12.2 inches long, with a wingspan of 8.6 inches. From its population of 1000-4000 in the early 1990s, it was reduced to less than 1000 in 2008. There are only 180 found in wilderness conservation in the municipality of Narra and Puerto Princesa City, Palawan. Reasons for the decrease in the population of the birds are illegal trapping for the cage-bird trade, loss of coastal habitat, and massive hunting as an agricultural pest.
Found in the western Andes in Colombia and Ecuador, the Yellow-eared Parrot is a relatively large, long-tailed parrot with an average length of 42-46 cm (17-18 in) and a weight of about 285 grams (10.1 oz). It is mainly green, with the underpants being paler, more lime green than the upperpants. It has a yellow patch of feathers that extends from the forehead down to its cheeks and ear-coverts, hence “yellow-eared”. Conservation projects for the birds have helped its population to climb to over 1000 individuals.
Also known as the Lesser Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, the Yellow-crested Cockatoo is a small parrot, measuring approximately 35 cm long. It has white plumage, bluish-white bare orbital skin, grey feet, a black bill, and a retractile yellow crest. It is found in East Timor and Indonesia’s islands of Sulawesi and the Lesser Sundas. The bird feeds mainly on seeds, buds, fruits, nuts, and herbaceous plants.
A current estimate of the bird’s population is at 2,500 individuals and is thought to be declining in number.
Also known as Indigo Macaw, the Lear’s Macaw is a rare Brazilian parrot which has dark metallic blue plumage with a faint tinge of green, and a heavy black bill with a yellow path of skin at the base of it. It weighs around 950 grams (2 pounds) and measures 75 cm (30 inches) long. The parrot is named after the artist Edward Lear who made many illustrations of the parrot.
As of 1994, there were 140 Lear’s macaws known. However, conservation projects helped the bird’s population to rise to 751 in 2007. Due to the success of conservation programs, IUCN downgraded its status from critically endangered to endangered in 2007.
The Mauritius Parakeet, also called as Echo Parakeet or Katover, is the only survivor of the Psittacula species originating in the southern Indian Ocean islands near Madagascar. It is emerald green with a short tail, very similar to rose-ringed parakeet. In the 1980s, the bird was almost extinct, with numbers roughly ten. Intensive conservation management made the figures rose to 50-60 by the mid-1990s. Many regard this as one of the most remarkable successes of conservation biology. In 2007, IUCN downgraded its status to endangered.