The horned parakeet is a stunningly colourful and distinctive bird, most notable for its two wispy, black, red-tipped crest feathers, for which it earns its common name (4). The plumage is primarily green, more yellowish on underparts, with the rump, ear-coverts and nape of the neck a more vivid yellow, while the tail and wings are set off with dazzling violet blue (2) (4). The forehead to mid-crown is a conspicuous red, contrasting with the front of the face, which is blackish. Immature individuals are greener, with a mostly black crown (2).
- Psittacus cornutus.
- Perico Cornudo.
- Size: 32 cm (2)
Horned parakeet biology
The horned parakeet lives in pairs or small flocks and feeds in the canopy, largely on seeds and nuts. Nests have been found on the ground, including under rocks and in fallen tree trunks, as well as in tree holes (4). The breeding season lasts from September to March, with an average of two to four eggs being laid per clutch. In captivity, incubation lasts 21 to 22 days, and the nestling period is five to six weeks (2).
Horned parakeet range
Patchily distributed across New Caledonia in the southwest Pacific (4).
Horned parakeet habitat
Found up to 1,200 m above sea level in humid forest and woodland, particularly those dominated by Agathis and Araucaria pines, but avoiding coconut plantations and coastal areas (2) (4).
Horned parakeet status
Classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List 2006 (1) and listed on Appendix I and II of CITES (3). The horned parakeet was previously considered to have two subspecies, E. c. cornutus and E. c. uvaeensis, but these have since been elevated to distinct species status, E. cornutus and E. uvaeensis (4).
Horned parakeet threats
The horned parakeet has a very small population that is thought to have undergone declines, although the historical reasons for this are unknown. Current populations are threatened by habitat degradation, and nests may be subject to predation by introduced mammals, particularly rats (4). Fortunately, there is little evidence of trapping or trade in this species and poaching is not thought to pose a significant threat, although there are captive birds on the island (4) (5).
Horned parakeet conservation
The horned parakeet is listed on Appendix I of CITES, prohibiting all international trade, and is fully protected by New Caledonian law. Significant populations also receive protection within Rivière Bleue and Reserve Speciale de Faune et de Flore de la Nodela (4). Research is being conducted by the Loro Parque Fundación to clarify and quantify the threats facing this bird. Research methods will include nest monitoring with infrared video cameras to determine the predators of parakeets and their predation rates on eggs and chicks, as well as radio-tracking to assess home range use and habitat selection. The aim is to identify and test which conservation management measures are needed to prevent predation by introduced mammals, protect suitable habitat and, ultimately, sustain viable populations of this beautiful, colourful and distinctive bird (5).
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- Small feathers concealing the bases of larger primary feathers, usually on the wings or tail.