Hispaniolan parakeet (Aratinga chloroptera)
|Spanish:||Aratinga de la Española, Perico|
|Size||Length: 32 cm (2)|
The Hispaniolan parakeet is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1) and is listed on Appendix II of CITES (3).
Behind this pretty, charismatic bird lies a stark conservation warning, as a subspecies of the Hispaniolan parakeet, the Puerto Rican parakeet (Aratinga chloroptera maugei), is now extinct as a result of human activities. This lost subspecies and the remaining survivor only differed slightly in appearance (2). Both are green birds, with touches of red – one or a few scattered red feathers are found on the head and in the wings (4) (5). The extinct subspecies A. c. maugei was just a slightly darker green and with a little more red (6). The green plumage on the underside of the flight feathers and the long, pointed tail is tinged with gold (5). The brown eyes are surrounded by a circle of white, featherless skin (2). Like other birds in the genus Aratinga, the grey feet of the Hispaniolan parakeet bare two toes that point forwards and two that point backwards, and its horn-coloured bill is hooked (2). The name Aratinga literally means ‘little macaw’, which arises from this birds similarity to macaws (birds belonging to the genus Ara) (2).
As its name suggests, this bird is endemic to the island of Hispaniola (the countries of Haiti and Dominican Republic), as well as small, offshore islands (7). The extinct subspecies A. c. maugei once occurred on Isla Mona, which lies halfway between Hispaniola and Puerto Rico (6).
The Hispaniolan parakeet occurs in a variety of habitats, from dry forest in the lowlands, up to montane forest at 3,000 metres above sea level. It may also be found in agricultural land and in secondary growth (4).
The gregarious Hispaniolan parakeet can be seen flying swiftly in flocks, which screech continuously as they move (6). Within each flock, this parakeet forms pairs, which nest together in the holes and hollows of old trees, or in termite nests situated in trees (4) (6). A nest with eggs has been found in May and a nest with chicks was discovered in February, which suggests that this bird has a long breeding season (8).
Seeds, fruits, nuts and berries form the bulk of the Hispaniolan parakeet’s diet, although leaf buds and blossoms are also thought to be eaten. It will also feed in maize fields; a habit that has contributed to this species’ decline (6).
Once common throughout Hispaniola and its offshore islands, today numbers of the Hispaniolan parakeet are declining in many areas (7). A loss of suitable habitat and persecution are the two primary reasons behind this decline (4). Habitat has been converted to agricultural land or impacted by charcoal production (8), and this parakeet is hunted as it is considered a crop pest (7). The Hispaniolan parakeet is also captured for the local and international pet trade, but only in very small numbers (4).
The extinct subspecies, the Puerto Rican parakeet, was last recorded in 1893. Its demise, caused primarily by hunting (6), is a severe warning of what may happen to the Hispaniolan parakeet if appropriate measures are not taken.
The Hispaniolan parakeet is protected by law against hunting in the Dominican Republic, although this law is not strongly enforced (7). Similarly, while several nature reserves and national parks have been established in the Dominican Republic, a lack of efficient protection means that the Hispaniolan parakeet has still vanished from some of these areas (7). An action plan for the conservation of parrots, compiled in 2000, suggests that the protection of further areas, alongside the better enforcement of wildlife protection laws, is necessary to ensure the survival of this species (7). Efforts currently underway to help this species include the initiation of an education strategy and a voluntary parrot protection group (4).
To support conservation efforts in the Dominican Republic see:
- The Nature Conservancy:
For more information on this and other bird species please see:
- BirdLife International:
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- Secondary growth: vegetation that has re-grown after a major disturbance, such as fire or clearance.
- Subspecies: a population usually restricted to a geographical area that differs from other populations of the same species, but not to the extent of being classified as a separate species.
IUCN Red List (September, 2008)
- Watkins, A.C. (2004) The Conure Handbook. Barron’s Educational Series Inc, New York.
CITES (September, 2008)
BirdLife International (September, 2009)
- Bond, J. (1993) Birds of the West Indies. Houghton Mifflin, New York.
- Yadav, P.R. (2004) Vanishing and Endangered Species. Discovery Publishing House, Delhi.
- Snyder, N., McGowan, P., Gilardi, J. and and Grajal, A. (2000) Parrots. Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan 2000–2004. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.
- Woolaver, L. (2005) Ecology and conservation of threatened avifauna in the Dominican Republic, Hispaniola. Progress Report, Wildlife Preservation Canada.