Socorro parakeet (Aratinga brevipes)

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Socorro parakeet fact file

Socorro parakeet description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderPsittaciformes
FamilyPsittacidae
GenusAratinga (1)

The Socorro parakeet is one of nine endemic land birds currently occupying a vulnerable position on the tiny island of Socorro (4). The only parakeet on the island, the Socorro parakeet is highly distinctive, with a vibrant, uniform green plumage, a slight yellow tinge to the underparts, and a reddish ring of bare skin around the eye (2). One of the most obvious features of this attractive bird is its robust, downward-curving, hooked bill. This highly adaptive structure may be used to crush fruits and seeds or, more delicately, to preen, and to grapple onto branches whilst clambering through the treetops (5)

Also known as
Socorro green parakeet.
Synonyms
Aratinga holochlora brevipes.
Size
Head-body length: 31 – 33 cm (2)
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Socorro parakeet biology

A highly sociable species, the Socorro parakeet is commonly seen in gatherings of several birds and, occasionally after the breeding season, in groups of up to 100 birds in relatively undisturbed areas of forest (6) (9). Aggregations often occur around fruiting trees, and fruit pulp and seeds of Bumelia socorrensis comprises over half of the species’ diet. The Socorro parakeet nests in tree cavities, often in B. socorrensis trees (6). Most birds breed between October and January and, in common with most other parakeets, the Socorro parakeet is probably monogamous, mating with its partner for life (2) (5) (6). Pairs remain together constantly and reinforce the pair bond by feeding and preening together (5).   

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Socorro parakeet range

The Socorro parakeet is endemic to the island of Socorro, the largest of four volcanic islands in the Revillagigedo Islands, off the west coast of Mexico. The species’ range on the island has contracted over recent years, and it now occupies an area of only 35 square kilometres (4) (6) (7) (8).

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Socorro parakeet habitat

The Socorro parakeet inhabits semi-deciduous forest, between 350 and 850 metres above sea level (6)

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Socorro parakeet status

Classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List (1) and listed on Appendix II of CITES (3).

IUCN Red List species status – Endangered

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Socorro parakeet threats

As the Socorro parakeet is found on a single, very small island, and numbers only around 300 individuals, it is extremely vulnerable to any destructive activities within its range (8) (9). The primary threat to this species is the persistent degradation of its habitat by introduced sheep. Sheep grazing has caused soil erosion and prevents the natural regeneration of the island’s forests (6) (7). This has been most severe on the southern side of the island, which is now largely treeless, and supports very little birdlife (4). Consequently, over the last 50 years, the Socorro parakeet’s habitat has contracted substantially. Predation by feral cats, which were brought to the island in the 1950s, is also a threat, but at present it is unclear how significant this may be (4) (6) (7) (9).

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Socorro parakeet conservation

The remote island of Socorro supports a unique diversity of birdlife, including several endemic species, and consequently is of high conservation importance (4). This island, along with several others in the Revillagigedo chain, was designated a biosphere reserve in 1994 and, as a direct result of this, several conservation measures have been implemented that aim to restore and preserve the island’s landscape. Programmes have begun to remove sheep and feral cats from the island, and should stimulate the regeneration of the forest, whilst diminishing the threat of predation on the island’s birds (6). The number of sheep on the island has already been successfully reduced to less than 300, with further culls planned (9) (10). Furthermore, a nest-box provision programme for the Socorro parakeet has begun, and a captive breeding programme has been established, which will be used as a last ditch attempt to save the species if the natural population drops to critical levels (6) (10).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
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Find out more

For more information on the conservation of Socorro Island, see: 

For more information on this and other bird species please see:

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Authentication

Authenticated (22/04/2010) by Juan Martínez, Endémicos Insulares, A. C., Veracruz, México.
http://www.endemicos.org/

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Glossary

Endemic
A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
Monogamous
Having only one mate during a breeding season, or throughout the breeding life of a pair.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (March, 2010)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org/
  2. del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J. (1994) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 4: Sandgrouse to Cuckoos. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  3. CITES (March, 2010)
    http://www.cites.org/
  4. BirdLife International EBA Factsheet (March, 2010)
    http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/ebas/index.html?action=EbaHTMDetails.asp&sid=10&m=0
  5. Perrins, C. (2009) The Encyclopedia of Birds. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  6. BirdLife International (March, 2010)
    http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/species/index.html?action=SpcHTMDetails.asp&sid=1563&m=0
  7. Snyder, N., McGowan, P., Gilardi, J. and Grajal, A. (Eds) (2000) Parrots. Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan 2000-2004. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland, and Cambridge, UK.
  8. Rodriguez-Estrella, R., Mata, E. and Rivera, L. (1992) Ecological notes on the green parakeet of Isla Socorro, Mexico. The Condor, 94: 523-525.
  9. Martinez, J. (2010) Pers. comm.
  10. Hirschfeld, E. (2008) Rare Birds Yearbook 2009. MagDig Media Limited, UK.
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Image credit

Socorro parakeets perched  
Socorro parakeets perched

© Juan Martinez

Juan Martinez
juan.martinez@endemicos.org
http://www.endemicos.org

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