Cuban parakeet (Aratinga euops)

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Cuban parakeet
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Cuban parakeet fact file

Cuban parakeet description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderPsittaciformes
FamilyPsittacidae
GenusAratinga (1)

The Cuban parakeet is the only parakeet on the island of Cuba, and is perhaps its most attractive bird. This enchanting parakeet is a striking green colour with a scattering of red flecks across the head, chest and belly, and a yellowish-green under the wings and tail (4) (5). Despite its striking plumage, the Cuban parakeet is remarkably well camouflaged, blending in with the green tree foliage (4) (6). One of the most obvious features of this distinctive bird is its robust downward-curving, hooked bill. This highly adaptive structure may be used to crush nuts and seeds, or more delicately, to preen and to grapple onto branches whilst clambering through the treetops (6). In common with most other parakeets, the sexes are very similar, but juveniles are distinguished by less red on the wings (4).

Also known as
Cuban conure.
Spanish
Aratinga Cubana.
Size
Head-body length: 26 cm (2)
Weight
90 g (2)
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Cuban parakeet biology

A highly social and conspicuous species, the Cuban parakeet typically forages in family groups or small flocks (2). Although largely frugivorous, it will also eat the seeds of palms, pines and various other tree species. The Cuban parakeet will also take the fruit of orange trees, the heads of maize and the berries of coffee, a behaviour that has labelled the species as a crop pest (4). This species flies between trees with a swift, direct flight and may be extremely vocal, calling with an array of chatters, squeaks and shrieks (6).  

In common with most other parakeets, the Cuban parakeet is probably monogamous, mating with its partner for life. Pairs remain together constantly and reinforce the pair bond by feeding and preening together (6). Breeding takes place between April and July, coinciding with a peak in the productivity of fruit trees, and nests are constructed in holes in old trees, such as dead Roystonea regia and Sabal palviflora palms (4) (5). A clutch of three to five eggs is incubated for 23 to 25 days, and the young chicks will remain in the nest for 45 to 50 days before fledging (4).  

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Cuban parakeet range

Formerly widespread across the island of Cuba, the endemic Cuban parakeet was once one of the island’s most abundant birds. However, its distribution contracted throughout the 20thcentury and it is now found in only 14 relict, fragmented populations. Significant numbers of birds remain only in the inaccessible regions of the Zapata peninsula, the Trinidad Mountains and the Sierra de Najasa (5) (7).

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Cuban parakeet habitat

The Cuban parakeet may be found in semi-deciduous woodlands, palm-savanna, and on cultivated land bordering woodlands or with large numbers of trees (5). This species is capable of occupying a variety of habitats, but will only survive if a certain amount of original forest remains, possibly because it requires holes in mature trees for nesting (7).

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Cuban parakeet status

Classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1) and listed on Appendix II of CITES (3).

IUCN Red List species status – Vulnerable

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Cuban parakeet threats

Throughout the 20thcentury, largely due to persecution as a crop pest, the Cuban parakeet suffered dramatic declines. Birds were captured by cutting down palms to take nesting chicks and were either killed or traded, with hundreds of birds sold to Eastern European countries each year. The threat of trapping is now thought to be somewhat insignificant, although some birds are still traded in local markets (7) (8).

Today, the primary threat to the Cuban parakeet is the loss of its habitat (7). The landscape of Cuba has been highly degraded, with only 15 to 20 percent of the land in its natural state. Vast tracts of forest have been destroyed to make room for coffee and tobacco plantations, while agriculture and man-made fires are encroaching upon forests (9). Furthermore, a key problem in many areas is the lack of appropriate legislation and legal enforcement, allowing some illegal activities to continue. The loss of nesting trees from hurricane damage has also been highlighted as a threat to the Cuban parakeet (5).

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Cuban parakeet conservation

The Cuban parakeet is found in seven protected areas, offering the species some sanctuary from further declines (8). This vulnerable species has also benefited from the development of ecotourism projects at Mogotes de Jumagua and Hanabanilla, and its listing on Appendix II  of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, which should strictly regulate international trade (3) (5) (8). A nest box provisioning scheme has also been initiated and there are plans to reintroduce the species onto Isla de la Juventud off the Cuban coast to augment the mainland population. There is much hope that with the successful implementation of conservation measures, this rare species will be saved in its natural habitat where it belongs (5).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
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Find out more

For more information on the conservation of parrots, see:

For more information on this and other bird species please see:

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Authentication

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

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Glossary

Endemic
A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
Frugivorous
Fruit eating/ fruit eater.
Incubation
The act of incubating eggs, that is, keeping them warm so that development is possible.
Monogamous
Having only one mate during a breeding season, or throughout the breeding life of a pair.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (March, 2010)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org/
  2. The World Parrot Trust (March, 2010)
    http://www.parrots.org/index.php/encyclopedia/captivestatus/cuban_conure/
  3. CITES (March, 2010)
    http://www.cites.org/
  4. del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J. (1994) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 4: Sandgrouse to Cuckoos. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  5. BirdLife International (March, 2010)
    http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/species/index.html?action=SpcHTMDetails.asp&sid=1570&m=0
  6. Perrins, C. (2009) The Encyclopedia of Birds. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  7. BirdLife International (2002) Threatened Birds of the Americas. Birdlife International, Cambridge, UK.
  8. Snyder, N., McGowan, P., Gilardi, J. and Grajal, A. (Eds) (2000) Parrots. Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan 2000-2004. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland, and Cambridge, UK.
  9. BirdLife International EBA Factsheet (March, 2010)
    http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/ebas/index.html?action=EbaHTMDetails.asp&sid=22&m=0
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Image credit

Cuban parakeet  
Cuban parakeet

© Ariel Rodriguez

Ariel Rodriguez
Curador de Herpetología
División de Colecciones Zoológicas
Instituto de Ecología y Sistemática, CITMA
AP. 8029, CP. 10800
Havana
Cuba
ariel@ecologia.cu

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