Red-fronted parakeet (Cyanoramphus novaezelandiae)

Also known as: New Zealand parakeet, red-crowned parakeet, red-fronted kakariki
Synonyms: Cyanoramphus cookii, Platycercus cookii, Psittacus novaezelandiae
KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderPsittaciformes
FamilyPsittacidae
GenusCyanoramphus (1)
SizeAverage male length: 28cm (2)
Average female length: 25 cm (2)
Average male weight: 80 g (2)
Average female weight: 70 g (2)

Classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List 2006 (1). Listed under Appendix I of CITES (3).

The red-fronted parakeet is immediately recognisable by its distinctive, brightly coloured plumage. Vivid crimson feathers appear on the forehead, crown and behind the eye, earning this bird its alternative common name of ‘red-crowned parakeet’ (4) (5). This conspicuous red marking on the head contrasts with the predominantly green colour of the rest of the body, though yellow mutations are occasionally found in the wild (5). The underside of the wings are blue-violet, the beak is grey-blue, getting darker at the tip, and the eyes are orange (4) (5). This bird has a unique and unusual voice, which is sometimes likened to the bleating of a goat (5).

Historically abundant in mainland New Zealand, the red-fronted parakeet is now effectively extinct in this area (recent sightings are now believed to be cage escapes or releases or vagrants from offshore island populations). Populations currently remain on offshore islands, including the Kermadec islands, Three Kings, some Hauraki Gulf islands, Kapiti Island, Stewart Island and surrounding islands, Chatham Islands, Snares, Antipodes Islands, Auckland Islands, and Norfolk Island (self-governing Australian Territory). Now extinct on Lord Howe Island and Macquarie Islands (6).

Found in a wide variety of habitats, including dense temperate rainforests, coastal forest, scrubland, forest edges and open areas. This bird prefers nesting in hollow limbs, holes or stumps of trees, but, where suitable trees are lacking, will also use holes, burrows and tunnels in the ground, cliffs and tussock grass (6).

The omnivorous red-fronted parakeet feeds mainly on plant material, including seeds, fruits, flowers, nectar, leaves and shoots, but also on invertebrates and will occasionally scavenge animal carrion (6) (7).

These parakeets live in permanent pairs that frequently join with other pairs and their young, and have been observed to form small flocks in the autumn and winter (8). In studies on Little Barrier Island, breeding activity was recorded from November to March, with peak egg-laying in December (9). Clutches were usually large, ranging from four to nine (average of seven) eggs, and female parakeets took total responsibility for their incubation, which lasts from 19 to 23 days (5) (9). Hatchlings are covered with a white down that changes to grey within a few days (5). Fledglings leave the nest after 32 to 49 days (9).

The red-fronted parakeet has been upgraded from Least Concern to Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List due to its apparent extinction from the mainland, leaving only fragmented populations across off-shore islands. European settlement and conversion of forest to farmland probably contributed significantly to this bird’s decline, with clear-felling, logging and burning of forests drastically reducing available habitat. The disappearance of this species from the mainland is also attributed to nest predation from introduced predators, such as rats, cats, stoats and weasels, in addition to competition for food and breeding sites from introduced birds. Formerly persecuted for damaging crops and gardens (6).

The red-fronted parakeet is fully protected from trade across international boarders by its listing on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) (3). A captive breeding programme has also been established on Norfolk Island for this bird. The ability of this species to breed well in captivity, and its popularity in aviculture collections, is likely to prevent this bird from ever becoming completely extinct. Future priorities advocated in the conservation of the red-fronted parakeet include preserving important habitat of remaining populations, carrying out research to determine current population size and trends, and performing predator control measures if found to be appropriate (6).

For further information on the red-fronted parakeet see:

BirdLife International:
http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/species

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

  1. IUCN Red List (May, 2006)
    http://www.redlist.org
  2. New Zealand Birds (November, 2005)
    http://www.nzbirds.com/birds/kakarikired.html
  3. CITES (November, 2005)
    http://www.cites.org
  4. Secret Garden Exotic Birds (November, 2005)
    http://www.secretgardenexotics.com
  5. Red Fronted Kakariki (November, 2005)
    http://www.geocities.com/Heartland/Plains/6368/kakarik.htm
  6. BirdLife International (November, 2005)
    http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/species
  7. NZERN  -  the New Zealand Ecological Restoration Network (November, 2005)
    http://www.members.bush.org.nz/birdguide/species.cfm?Species=Cyanoramphus%20novaezelandiae%20novaezelandiae
  8. Supporters of Tiritiri Matangi Inc. (November, 2005)
    http://www.tiritirimatangi.org.nz/Fauna/Kakariki.htm
  9. Greene, T.C. (2003) Breeding biology of red-crowned parakeets (Cyanoramphus novaezelandiae) on Little Barrier Island, Hauraki Gulf, New Zealand. Notornis, 50(2): 83 - 99.