Monk parakeet (Myiopsitta monachus)

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Monk parakeet in palm tree
IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern LEAST
CONCERN

Top facts

  • The monk parakeet is named for the hood-like markings on its head, which are said to resemble a monk’s hood.
  • The monk parakeet is the only parrot species to build a stick nest rather than nesting inside a cavity.
  • The monk parakeet often nests communally, building large nests with many chambers, each housing a breeding pair.
  • A popular pet, the monk parakeet has sometimes escaped from captivity and established wild populations outside of its native range.
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Monk parakeet fact file

Monk parakeet description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderPsittaciformes
FamilyPsittacidae
GenusMyiopsitta (1)

The monk parakeet (Myiopsitta monachus) is a relatively small, mostly green parrot with a long, pointed tail and a conspicuous grey breast (5) (6). The forehead, cheeks and throat are also grey, while pale barring on the breast gives a scalloped appearance. The monk parakeet’s wings are mainly green, but the flight feathers are deep blue (2) (3) (5) (6) (7). This species has a yellowish-green band across its lower belly and thighs (2) (5).

The male and female monk parakeet are similar in appearance (3) (5). Both sexes have a yellow-brown or orange-brown beak (3) (5) (6) (7), brown eyes and grey legs (5). Juvenile monk parakeets resemble the adults, but have a green tinge on the otherwise grey forehead (2) (5) (7).

Four subspecies of monk parakeet are generally recognised: Myiopsitta monachus monachus, Myiopsitta monachus calita, Myiopsitta monachus cotorra and Myiopsitta monachus luchsi (5) (7). Of these, M. m. calita and M. m. cotorra are very similar in appearance, both being smaller than M. m. monachus and having a darker grey head (2) (5) (7). The subspecies M. m. luchsi, also known as the ‘cliff parakeet’, is smaller and generally brighter in colour, with a bright yellow lower breast (5), and may in fact be a separate species (2).

The monk parakeet is a noisy bird which produces a wide range of screeches, squawks and chattering calls (3) (5) (7) (8). One of its most common calls is described as a rasping, metallic ‘chape’, sometimes ending in a shrill ‘yee(5).

Also known as
cliff parakeet, grey-breasted parakeet, Quaker parakeet, Quaker parrot.
Synonyms
Psittacus monachus.
Size
Length: 28 - 29 cm (2)
Wingspan: c. 53 cm (3)
Weight
90 - 140 g (2)
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Monk parakeet biology

A sociable species, the monk parakeet usually occurs in large, noisy flocks of around 30 to 50 individuals, with larger flocks gathering outside of the breeding season. Groups also roost together at night (5) (7).

The diet of the monk parakeet includes the seeds of various grasses, trees and other plants, as well as fruits and berries, buds, flowers and occasionally insects (2) (3) (5) (7). Cultivated fruits, seeds and vegetables are also eaten (3) (5) (7), and the monk parakeet can be a serious crop pest (2). Feeding takes place both in the trees and on the ground, and foraging flocks often mix with other bird species (5) (7). In its introduced range, the monk parakeet may obtain a lot of its food from garden bird feeders (3) (11), particularly in winter (11).

The monk parakeet breeds between October and February (2), and nesting takes place communally (2) (3) (5) (12). This species is unique among parrots in building a large stick nest rather than nesting inside cavities. The nest is built from sticks cut with the beak, often from spiny Celtis bushes, and is usually located in a tree, or sometimes on a telephone pole or pylon (2) (3) (5) (6). Sometimes only a single nest is built, but often many nests are joined together to form a large, untidy structure with many chambers, each occupied by a breeding pair (2) (3) (5) (8) (12). The inside of the nest is lined with chewed twigs (5).

Monk parakeets may roost in the nests outside of the breeding season (5) (7) (12), and other bird species also sometimes nest inside them (5). Instead of building large stick nests, the subspecies M. m. luchsi typically nests on cliffs (5).

The female monk parakeet lays clutches of up to 11 or 12 eggs, which hatch after 23 to 24 days (2) (5) (7) (13). The young parakeets leave the nest at around six to seven weeks old (2) (7). Some studies have reported quite low proportions of young surviving to fledge (13), but this species’ relatively large clutch size means it has a high reproductive rate for a parrot (2). The monk parakeet may live to around 25 years old (7).

Rather than always breeding in pairs, the monk parakeet has occasionally been observed to breed in trios. It is thought that there may be some level of cooperative breeding in this species, with young birds possibly staying with their parents to help rear subsequent broods (12).

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Monk parakeet range

The monk parakeet is native to South America, where it occurs east of the Andes from southern Bolivia and Brazil, through Paraguay and Uruguay, and into Argentina (2) (5) (7) (9). The subspecies M. m. luchsi is found only in a small part of Bolivia (5) (7).

A popular cage bird, the monk parakeet has often been accidentally or deliberately released into the wild outside of its natural range. Monk parakeet populations now occur in many parts of North America and Europe, including the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Spain and the Canary Islands (3) (5) (6) (7) (8) (9), as well as in Puerto Rico (5) (7) (9), Mexico (10) and Japan (6) (9).

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Monk parakeet habitat

In its natural range, the monk parakeet inhabits dry, semi-open woodland, scrubland and savannah, generally in lowlands. Where it has been introduced, this species typically lives in urban areas (2) (3) (5) (7).

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Monk parakeet status

The monk parakeet is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1) and is listed on Appendix II of CITES (4).

IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern

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Monk parakeet threats

The monk parakeet is a widespread and abundant species, and its population is increasing both in its native and introduced ranges (2) (9). In its native range, this species is spreading as the planting of eucalyptus trees in otherwise treeless areas has increased the availability of nesting sites (2) (3) (5). Partial deforestation of other areas and increases in crop production also favour this small parrot (5), which is now often seen as a pest (2).

A popular species in the pet trade, the monk parakeet has been heavily traded and large numbers occur in captivity (2) (3) (5) (6) (7) (9). Accidental and deliberate releases of captive birds have led to the establishment of introduced populations, and there are fears that this species could become a crop pest in some areas (2) (3) (5) (6) (8). The monk parakeet’s large, heavy nests can also cause damage and power outages when this species nests on electricity pylons and other structures (3) (8) (11) (14).

Although the monk parakeet is not generally thought to pose a significant threat to native wildlife through competition for resources (3), it may potentially spread diseases to wild birds (6).

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Monk parakeet conservation

The monk parakeet is listed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), meaning that international trade in this small parrot should be carefully controlled (4). No other specific conservation measures are currently known to be in place for this abundant species. In some areas, such as the United Kingdom and certain U.S. states, it is illegal to release the monk parakeet into the wild (8) (14), and in some states owning a captive monk parakeet is also banned (14).

In the United Kingdom, the introduced monk parakeet population is still small (6) (8) (14). However, an eradication programme is underway to prevent this species establishing and becoming a problem in the future (6) (14). In the United States, the monk parakeet population is rapidly increasing, and massive efforts to manage it are unlikely to be practical (11). Instead, methods to reduce the damage it causes are being investigated, such as removal of problem nests, the use of deterrents, and trapping (3) (11).

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Find out more

Find out more about the monk parakeet:

More information on the monk parakeet as an invasive species:

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Authentication

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

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Glossary

Flight feathers
The feathers at the end of the wing, involved in flight.
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.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (September, 2013)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org/
  2. del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J. (1997) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 4: Sandgrouse to Cuckoos. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. Available at:
    http://www.hbw.com/
  3. Johnson, S.A. and Logue, S. (2012) Florida’s Introduced Birds: Monk Parakeet (Myiopsitta monachus). Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, University of Florida/IFAS Extension, Florida. Available at:
    http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/uw302
  4. CITES (September, 2013)
    http://www.cites.org/
  5. Juniper, T. and Parr, M. (2010) Parrots: A Guide to Parrots of the World. Pica Press, Sussex.
  6. GB Non-native Species Secretariat (NNSS): Factsheet - Monk parakeet (September, 2013)
    https://secure.fera.defra.gov.uk/nonnativespecies/factsheet/factsheet.cfm?speciesId=2281
  7. World Parrot Trust - Monk parakeet (September, 2013)
    http://www.parrots.org/index.php/encyclopedia/profile/monk_parakeet/
  8. GB Non-native Species Secretariat (NNSS): Identification Sheet - Monk parakeet (September, 2013)
    https://secure.fera.defra.gov.uk/nonnativespecies/index.cfm?sectionid=47
  9. BirdLife International - Monk parakeet (September, 2013)
    http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/speciesfactsheet.php?id=1608
  10. MacGregor-Fors, I., Calderón-Parra, R., Meléndez-Herrada, A., López-López, S. and Schondube, J.E. (2011) Pretty, but dangerous! Records of non-native monk parakeets (Myiopsitta monachus) in Mexico. Revista Mexicana de Biodiversidad, 82: 1053-1056.
  11. Pruett-Jones, S., Newman, J.R., Newman, C.M., Avery, M.L. and Lindsay, J.R. (2007) Population viability analysis of monk parakeets in the United States and examination of alternative management strategies. Human-Wildlife Conflicts, 1(1): 35-44.
  12. Eberhard, J.R. (1998) Breeding biology of the monk parakeet. The Wilson Bulletin, 110(4): 463-473.
  13. Peris, S.J. and Aramburú, R.M. (1995) Reproductive phenology and breeding success of the monk parakeet (Myiopsitta monachus monachus) in Argentina. Studies on Neotropical Fauna and Environment, 30(2): 115-119.
  14. Bowcott, O. (2011) Monk parakeets in UK to be culled over dangers to electricity and native species. The Guardian, 24 April. Available at:
    http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2011/apr/24/monk-parakeets-culled-dangers-species
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Image credit

Monk parakeet in palm tree  
Monk parakeet in palm tree

© Steffen and Alexandra Sailor / www.ardea.com

Ardea wildlife pets environment
59 Tranquil Vale
London
SE3 0BS
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0) 208 318 1401
ardea@ardea.co.uk
http://www.ardea.com

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