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Friday, January 16, 2009
The Vasa Parrot

By Jessica Pineda, Associate Editor of BIRD TALK and
Join her on her quest to learn about each parrot species in The Parrot Birder.

A vasa parrot displays his unique coloring
Photo courtesy of Kim Waldie
The vasa parrot is a bird native to Madagascar and roughly the size of a Congo African grey.

Chances are that you’ve never seen or heard about the vasa parrot (Coracopsis vasa), a large parrot native to Madagascar and other islands in the Indian Ocean. This 18-inch bird is roughly the size of a Congo African grey, but its elongated neck and body make it appear larger.

The vasa parrot has a tan/pinkish beak and dark gray feathering with light gray feathering on the underside of its tail. The two species of the vasa parrot are the greater vasa parrot and the lesser vasa (C. nigra) parrot. Subspecies include comoro (C. vasa comorensis) and the western (C. vasa drouhardi).

Vasa parrots are unique birds, but their numbers are limited in both the wild and in aviculture. There are a few breeding programs in the United States, but chances are if you see one, you are looking at a very rare bird. (If you’re a “parrot birder,” like I am, you can check it off of your list of parrots to see!)

They are loud birds, but are considered excellent talkers.

During breeding cycles, the vasa parrot’s skin turns yellow and females often go bald. Females can become aggressive toward their perceived mate and will pursue them to mate. According to Timothee of Featherlust Farms, which runs a vasa parrot’s breeding program, “The females pursue the males and get very lovey dovey with their owners.”

When a vasa parrot might become hormonal and want to breed depends on the bird. “My vasas breed in April,” Timothee said, “[and] one man in Arizona had his breed in the summer; Dave Blynn’s (another vasa breeder) bred in January (he lives in Georgia).”

Timothee says diseases are of no real concern for the vasa parrot. “It is said when vasa parrots get beak and feather disease (PBFD), their beaks turn white. [But] I have had them for many years and have never had any sicknesses.” Timothee said.

BirdChannel features one video of a vasa parrot, submitted by Patricia S. It features Jamocha and Alex, an African grey. You can see the vasa’s size compared to an African grey, as well as watch Alex boss Jamocha around!

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