BIRD OF THE WEEK: 4/4/2014
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Ognorhynchus icterotis
POPULATION: 1,103 individuals
IUCN STATUS: Endangered
HABITAT: Humid montane and elfin forest, partially cleared terrain; favors areas with wax palms
This colorful, green and yellow parrot was believed to be extinct until April 1999, when a group of researchers, sponsored by Fundación Loro Parque and ABC, discovered a small population of just 81 individuals in the Colombian Andes. Fundación ProAves, which was formed as a result of this discovery, has been working on recovering the species ever since.
The Yellow-eared Parrot has suffered greatly from habitat loss and fragmentation – over 90 percentage of montane forests in Colombia have been cleared for agriculture or settlement, and Quindio wax palms, on which the parrot depends, have been decimated by logging and disease. Wax palms were also being unsustainably exploited for use in Palm Sunday celebrations within the parrot's range.
Conservation efforts have centered on saving this parrot's habitat and educating local people. Thanks to a national TV and radio outreach campaign, religious demand for wax palm fronds has shifted in favor of a non-threatened, non-native palm, which has allowed the Quindío palm to recover. ProAves has also erected numerous nest boxes to supplement the natural tree cavities where Yellow-eared Parrots normally nest, which has helped its recovery.
The Yellow-eared Parrot population has now climbed to more than 1,000 individuals, and the species was recently downlisted from Critically Endangered to Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.