Red-fronted parrot (Poicephalus gulielmi)

Also known as: Congo red-crowned parrot, Jardine’s parrot, red-crowned parrot, red-headed parrot
French: Perroquet à calotte rouge
GenusPoicephalus (1)
SizeLength: 26 - 30 cm (2)
Weight200 - 300 g (2) (3)

Classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1) and listed on Appendix II of CITES (4).

Distinctive red markings on the forehead, thighs and leading edge of the wings give this fairly large and stocky, but nonetheless attractive, parrot its common name. The rest of the body is largely green, although the flight feathers and short, squarish tail feathers are brownish black and the feathers of the back and wings are dark, with greenish edges, giving a scalloped appearance (2) (5). The face and chin are also slightly darker, but the rump and uppertail-coverts are a lighter yellowish-green. The upper mandible of the beak is grey, tipped black, and the lower mandible is black. The legs are dark grey to black, and the eye is surrounded by a bare ring of pinkish-white skin (3) (5). Both sexes are similar in appearance (5), though females may have an orange-brown, rather than a reddish-orange, iris (2). Juveniles are paler in colour and lack the distinctive red markings of the adult (2) (5). Red-fronted parrots are fairly noisy birds, emitting high-pitched, harsh calls in flight and while perched. Quieter whistling calls are used when feeding, and individuals kept as pets may learn to mimic (3) (5).

Three subspecies of red-fronted parrot are recognised: Poicephalus gulielmi gulielmi, Poicephalus gulielmi fantiensis and Poicephalus gulielmi massaicus. P. g. fantiensis is slightly smaller than P. g. gulielmi, with orange rather than red markings, and sometimes paler green underparts, while P. g. massaicus is paler green with a smaller beak, and red markings that are restricted to the forehead (2) (3) (5).

The red-fronted parrot appears to have several distinct distributions (5). P. g. fantiensis occurs from Liberia east to Ghana, P. g. gulielmi from southeast Nigeria and southern Cameroon, south to Cabinda (northern Angola) and east to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda, and P. g. massaicus in the highlands of parts of Kenya and Tanzania (2) (3) (5).

Lowland rainforest, and primary montane forest in Kenya and Tanzania, up to an altitude of 3,250 metres. Red-fronted parrots are also found in secondary forest and occasionally in coffee plantations in some areas (2) (3) (5).

Red-fronted parrots are generally found in groups of up to ten birds, though larger flocks may form at feeding and roosting sites. The diet consists of a variety of seeds, fruits, flowers and insects, and includes the fruits of the oil palm, Elaeis guineensis (2) (3) (5), and in some areas the red-fronted parrot may possibly make lengthy daily foraging trips of up to 60 kilometres (3) (5).

The red-fronted parrot nests between November and January in Tanzania, March and November in Kenya, and around September in the Congo Basin (3). Nests are usually located in tree cavities, up to 12 metres above the ground (2) (5). Between 2 and 4 glossy white eggs are laid, and hatch after an incubation period of around 28 days, the young parrots fledging 10 to 11 weeks later. Red-fronted parrots have been known to live up to 30 years in captivity (2) (3) (5).

Keeping the red-fronted parrot as a pet has risen steadily in popularity in recent years (6), and as a result the species has been heavily traded on the wild bird market (3) (7). Trapping for this trade may pose a significant threat to the species (8), particularly the population around Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, where it could lead to local extinction. The red-fronted parrot is also at risk from deforestation in parts of its range (2) (5). However, the species still occurs over a wide area and is not currently considered globally threatened, although global population trends have yet to be quantified (7).

The red-fronted parrot is found in several protected areas, including Lopé-Okanda National Park in Gabon, a World Heritage Site (9), and in Korup National Park in Cameroon and Bia National Park in Ghana (2) (5). The species is listed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), meaning that international trade in red-fronted parrots should be carefully controlled (4). However, a key problem in many areas is the lack of appropriate legislation, and the lack of enforcement of legislation where it does exist (8). Wild trade in this bird and destruction of its forest habitat may need better monitoring to ensure that red-fronted parrot populations do not suffer future declines.

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Authenticated (14/07/09) by Professor Mike Perrin, Research Centre for African Parrot Conservation, School of Biological and Conservation Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. and

  1. IUCN Red List (August, 2014)