El Oro parakeet (Pyrrhura orcesi)

Spanish: Cotorra de El Oro, Perico de El Oro
GenusPyrrhura (1)
SizeLength: 22 cm (2)

Classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List 2007 (1) and listed on Appendix II of CITES (3).

The El Oro parakeet was first discovered in 1980 during a field expedition to a remote area of cloud forest in southwest Ecuador (2) (4). Despite eluding scientists for so long, it is a relatively eye-catching parakeet with mostly green plumage interspersed with patches of red on the face, breast, under-tail and wings, and blue on the flight-feathers (2) (5) (6). Female El Oro parakeets are thought to have less red around the face, whilst juveniles are duller overall and lack much of the red markings seen on the adult birds (5) (6).

The El Oro parakeet is endemic to the western slopes of the Andes in southwest Ecuador. It is known from only a small number of localities within a strip of fragmented habitat running north to south for just 100 kilometres (2) (4).

The El Oro parakeet is found only in tropical cloud forest between 800 and 1,200 metres above sea level, hence the narrowness of its range (2).

As a relatively recently discovered species, very little is known about the ecology of the El Oro parakeet. It is most commonly seen in groups of 4 to 15 birds, but occasionally several flocks will come together temporarily (2) (5) (7). Roost sites appear to change frequently and are generally located 2 to 24 metres above the ground, in natural cavities in trees or open branches. Breeding takes place between November and March and is communal with incubation duties shared amongst several birds (2) (7). It feeds unobtrusively in the canopy on a range of fruits and flowers, but is extremely noisy and conspicuous when in flight (2) (5) (6).

Deforestation associated with logging and clearance of trees for agriculture is a huge threat to the survival of the El Oro Parakeet. Although high altitude cloud forest is being deforested at a much slower rate, this species is largely restricted to the more accessible lower altitude forest (2) (7). As habitat becomes more and more fragmented, so the sub-populations are becoming more and more isolated and vulnerable. In 2006, the total population of El Oro parakeets was estimated to be less than 1,000 birds (2).

In the past decade, around 1,500 hectares of forest has been acquired by the Jocotoco Foundation at Buenaventura, the locality in which the El Oro parakeet was first discovered (2) (7) (8). Now known as the Buenaventura Reserve, it is one of the richest ornithological regions of Ecuador, and the only well protected site in which the El Oro parakeet occurs (7) (8). Approximately 80 El Oro parakeets are year-round occupants of the reserve, but at certain times of the year the total number rises to around 120 (7) (9). The long-term aim is to expand the reserve to 5,000 hectares and implement an environmental awareness campaign that will encourage and engage local people in conservation (2) (7) (8).

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Authenticated (13/03/09) by Priv.-Doz. Dr. H. Martin Schaefer, Department of Animal Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Freiburg.

  1. IUCN Red List (November, 2011)