Flame-winged parakeet (Pyrrhura calliptera)
|Also known as:||Brown-breasted parakeet, flame-winged conure|
|Size||Length: 22 cm (2)|
The flame-winged parakeet is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1) and is listed on Appendix II of CITES (3).
Despite its vibrant plumage, the flame-winged parakeet (Pyrrhura calliptera) actually blends in well with the foliage of its Colombian rainforest habitat (2). The flame-winged parakeet has a predominantly green and reddish-brown body (4), with a red-brown crown, nape and tail, and the small feathers covering its ears are red (4). Its common name, flame-winged parakeet, describes how the blue-green primary feathers on the wings are trimmed with bright yellow, orange or red (4), while its alternative common name, brown-breasted parakeet, refers to the reddish-brown breast which is barred with pale brown (4).
Immature flame-winged parakeets are similar in colour to the adults except they have duller plumage, and generally do not develop the brilliant flame-coloured feathers until they mature (4). Both adults and juveniles have a white eye-ring; however, adults have a yellow iris whilst fledglings have a brown iris (5). The flame-winged parakeet’s pale brown beak is well adapted for its diet of seeds and fruit (5).
The flame-winged parakeet emits a loud harsh “screeyr screeyr” call when flying in small flocks that can be heard from miles away (2).
The flame-winged parakeet is native to Colombia, where it is found only in the East Andes (2). While it was previously widespread over both east and west slopes, in more recent times it has been recorded at only one location on the west slope, in Santander, and at a handful of locations on the east slope (2).
The flame-winged parakeet is found at elevations between 1,850 and 3,400 metres above sea level (4). It inhabits subtropical and temperate forests, forest edges adjoining cleared areas, elfin woodland, secondary forest, páramo and agricultural land (2) (4).
Like most members of the genus Pyrrhura, the flame-winged parakeet is a sociable parrot (5), which moves around in small flocks of six to fourteen birds outside of the breeding season (4). An inquisitive and lively bird (5), the flame-winged parakeet feeds on the seeds and fruits of plant species in the Ericaceae (heather), Lauraceae (laurel), Melastomataceae and Clusiaceae families, as well as, occasionally, cultivated maize (2).
Very little is known about the breeding behaviour of the flame-winged parakeet, except that it nests in tree crevices and breeds from July to October (4).
Despite being locally common, the flame-winged parakeet has a very small range, making it vulnerable to any threats (2). Logging, conversion of forest to agriculture, cattle grazing, and the clearance of land for human settlement and the development of road networks has destroyed much of this bird’s habitat (2). Logging has been especially intensive below 2,500 metres on the west slope of the species’ range (2). This habitat destruction results in a loss of suitable nesting sites for the flame-winged parakeet (2). These detrimental human activities, which have resulted in the flame-winged parakeet’s numbers and range declining, are expected to continue (2).
In addition, due to its tendency to feed on cultivated maize, the flame-winged parakeet is considered to be a crop pest by local farmers, and is persecuted as a result. As further forest is cleared for agriculture, it is predicted that this persecution will intensify (2).
The flame-winged parakeet occurs in a number of protected areas throughout its range, including Chingaza National Park, Rio Blanco-Olivares Forest Reserve, Carpanta Biological Reserve and Guanentá-Alto Río Fonce Fauna and Flora Sanctuary (2), which should hopefully offer its habitat some level of protection. In addition, experimental nest boxes have been erected in Chingaza National Park, in an attempt to address the problem of a lack of nesting sites, and have been shown to be successful in being occupied by the birds (2).
Proposed future conservation measures include strengthening the effectiveness of protected areas, achieving formal protection of the Valle de Jesus Communal forest, and ongoing monitoring of the nesting boxes established in Chingaza National Park (2).
To find out more about the flame-winged parakeet and other parrots see:
World Parrot Trust:
To learn about wildlife conservation in Colombia see:
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- Genus: a category used in taxonomy, which is below ‘family’ and above ‘species’. A genus tends to contain species that have characteristics in common. The genus forms the first part of a ‘binomial’ scientific species name; the second part is the specific name.
- Páramo: a unique alpine ecosystem located above the tree line and below the permanent snow line in the Andes Mountain Range. It consists of glacier-formed valleys and plains with lakes, peat bogs, and wet grasslands.
- Primary feathers: the main flight feathers projecting along the outer edge of the wing.
- Secondary forest: forest that has re-grown after a major disturbance, such as fire or timber harvest, but has not yet reached the mature state of primary forest.
IUCN Red List (November, 2010)
BirdLife International (November, 2010)
CITES (November, 2010)
- Arndt, T. (2008) Lexicon of Parrots. Arndt Verlag, Germany.
World Parrot Trust – Brown-breasted Conure (November, 2010)