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Good News: Ecuador Amazon Parrot Declared New Parrot Species

Bad news: There are only around 600 left.

Jessica Pineda

Follow Jessica Pineda on Twitter at @parrotsandvets


Find out more how Act for Wildlife is helping to save the Ecuador Amazon parrot with Director General, Dr. Mark Pilgrim, in this YouTube video.

  • The Ecuador Amazon (Amazona lilacina) was considered a subspecies of the red-lored Amazon (Amazona autumnalis).
  • While other subspecies of A. autumalis primarily live in lowland forests, the Ecuador Amazon parrot relied on mangroves and dry forest. This difference in habitat made researchers wonder if this was a different parrot species altogether.
  • Mark Pilgrim, the director general of Chester Zoo in the United Kingdom, led a study of the Ecuador Amazon parrot, and determined it was its own separate species.
  • The red-lored Amazon has a population of 5 million, while the Ecuador Amazon has as few as 600 members.
  • The new species, A. lilacina, will be officially announced in Spring 2014.

Good news: A new species of parrot has been discovered. The Ecuador Amazon parrot, or Lilacine Amazon parrot, once believed to be subspecies of the red-lored Amazon parrot (Amazona autumnalis), was discovered to be its own separate species by a team of researchers from the Chester Zoo in the United Kingdom.

Bad news: With the discovery of the new species, researchers realized there were only around 600 left.

"I studied this particular parrot for my PhD,” said Mark Pilgrim, Chester Zoo director general and head of the study of the Ecuador Amazon parrot, in a latest field news report from the Chester Zoo, "and found sufficient evidence for the bird to be recognised as a species in its own right, a crucial step in getting some much needed protection. As you can imagine, this project is close to my heart — it’s estimated that there may be as few as 600 Ecuador Amazon parrots left in the wild but more work is needed to confirm this.”

The Ecuador Amazon parrot lives in two distinct habitats: mangroves of the El Salado Reserve, where it sleeps at night, and dry coastal forests of Cerro Blanco where it feeds. While the two habitats are protected, with a population so small, the Ecuador Amazon needs help quickly in order to keep them from going extinct.

Ecuador Amazon parrot
The Ecuador Amazon parrot used to be considered a subspecies of the red-lored Amazon parrot.

The Chester Zoo expedition began in January 2014, when Pilgrim headed over to Ecuador to study the parrot. The team spent three weeks studying the parrots, and came up with a lot of data that would help them understand how many parrots there were in the population. "We also collected vital data on what trees the parrots prefer to nest in, how many of those trees are left, what they feed on and what else may compete for the food in that area,” Pilgrim said in the Chester Zoo’s latest field news report.

The data on population numbers had some worrisome information in it, too. It was believed that when the birds flew from the mangroves to the dry coastal forests, they flew in breeding pairs. Single birds might mean there was a female back on the nest, brooding eggs or taking care of chicks. Pilgrim determined only 11 percent of the birds flying were "singles.”

"That could suggest that as few as 11% of the population were reproducing, which seems very low," he told the BBC News.

To determine if that was the case, Pilgrim said more research needed to be done on the Ecuador Amazon parrot.

While the parrots need help, Pilgrim acknowledges they’re in good shape for now. "The forest is protected, the mangrove is protected, there does not appear to be a huge amount of nest predation from people, so —  in that sense — there is nothing drastic going on that is threatening them right now,” he told the BBC News.

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Posted: May 27, 2014, 9:00 a.m. PDT

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Good News: Ecuador Amazon Parrot Declared New Parrot Species

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Reader Comments
How exciting! Beautiful bird.
Carol, Silver Spring, MD
Posted: 5/30/2014 9:05:09 AM
Interesting
n, n, TN
Posted: 5/30/2014 8:50:33 AM
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