Mauritius parakeet (Psittacula eques)
|Also known as:||Echo parakeet|
|French:||Perruche de l'Ile Maurice|
|Size||Length: 35 - 42 cm (2)|
Male weight: 150 g (2)
Female weight: 170 g (2)
Classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List (1), and listed on Appendix I of CITES (3).
The Mauritius parakeet had the dubious honour of being the most endangered bird in the world in the 1980s, but following a massive conservation drive boasts a more secure future today. These medium-sized parakeets are bright emerald-green in colour with a black ring around the neck; the crown, nape of the neck and long tail have a blue tinge (4). Mature males bear a reddish-orange upper beak and pinkish markings on the back of the neck (4). Mauritius parakeets give a loud 'kaaark kaaark' call in flight and shorter 'kik kik' (5).
Previously known from the islands of Mauritius and Reunion in the Indian Ocean, these parakeets are today found only in a small area in the southwest of Mauritius (5).
Inhabits remaining areas of native forest and scrub (5).
The breeding season begins in August or September; males are very territorial and pairs engage in courtship routines such as mutual feeding and preening (4). Nests are situated high up in native trees, the clutch size is usually two and the female will incubate the eggs for three to four weeks whilst her partner brings her food (4). Both parents then provide for the hatchlings until they fledge at around two months old (4).
Mauritius parakeets are highly arboreal birds, rarely seen on the ground. They feed on native plants, preferentially consuming fruit but also feeding on buds, shoots, leaves and flowers (4).
Much of the natural heritage of Mauritius has been lost, and the parakeet itself teetered on the brink of extinction towards the end of the 20th Century. In 1986, only three females were known in the wild and the population as a whole numbered between 8 and 12 birds (4). Much of the native habitat of the island has been destroyed, and remaining pockets are vulnerable to storm damage (5). The Mauritius parakeet relies completely on native fauna for both food and nest sites and has been devastated by this habitat decline (4). In addition, the introduction of predators such as the crab-eating macaque (Macaca fascicularis) and the black rat (Rattus rattus) has further affected population numbers (5).
The population of Mauritius parakeets today is steadily increasing; in January 2000 the wild population stood at 106 to 126 birds, and it is continuing to rise (2), with an estimated 343 wild birds at the end of 2007 (1). This has resulted in the World Conservation Union (IUCN) downlisting the Mauritius parakeet from Critically Endangered to Endangered in 2007 (1). This remarkable achievement has come about by the concerted conservation efforts of a broad-based initiative run in collaboration with the Mauritius Wildlife Foundation (6), Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust (4), the World Parrot Trust (7) and the Wildlife Preservation Trust of Canada (2). Areas of remaining habitat have been protected and restored by removing introduced plants and animals; Black River National Park has been established to protect the majority of the wild population and is the first national park to be created in Mauritius (4). The breeding success of wild birds has been increased through programmes that supplement their diet and provide a greater number of nesting sites. In addition, captive-reared birds are now being released into the wild to bolster numbers (5). This is a wonderful example of how concerted conservation effort can slow the loss of our world’s biodiversity.
For further information on the Mauritius parakeet see:
Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust:
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- Arboreal: an animal which lives or spends a large amount of time in trees.
IUCN Red List (April, 2009)
Wildlife Preservation Trust of Canada (April, 2003)
CITES (April, 2003)
Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust (April, 2003)
BirdLife International (April, 2003)
Mauritius Wildlife Foundation (April, 2003)
World Parrot Trust (November, 2006)