BIRD OF THE WEEK: March 17, 2017 SCIENTIFIC NAME: Pyrrhura griseipectus
POPULATION: Up to 999
IUCN STATUS: Endangered
HABITAT: Moist mountain forest in NE Brazil
The Gray-breasted Parakeet has the unfortunate distinction of being one of the most endangered of its kind in the Americas, along with Santa Marta Parakeet and El Oro Parakeet. It is found only in northeastern Brazil, restricted to high-elevation mountaintop forests in a region otherwise dominated by arid caatinga habitat.
This parakeet is known historically from 15 locations, but can now only be found in a few areas in Brazil's Ceará state. Until recently, it was considered a subspecies of the White-eared Parakeet.
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Gray-breasted Parakeets occur in humid mountain forests in the otherwise semi-arid northeast Brazil. These wet “sky islands,” known locally as “brejos,” are restricted to upland granite or sandstone areas, which receive up to four times the annual rainfall of lower altitudes.
This parakeet is a social species that lives in family groups of four to 15 individuals. It breeds once a year, from February until June. Females lay an average of six eggs in a tree cavity; since the parakeets can't excavate their own nest holes, they usually use old cavities created by woodpeckers but will also use man-made nest boxes. Both male and female feed the nestlings, sometimes assisted by other members of their family group.
The Gray-breasted Parakeet is listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. It has also been identified as an Alliance for Zero Extinction species due to this status and the bird's limited range. Barely 13 percent of the parakeet's original habitat remains, and most of the population hangs on in just one isolated area.
ABC and partner Aquasis are working in the Baturité Mountains, the species' last wild stronghold, to prevent its extinction. Aquasis has been working directly with landowners to prevent poaching and install nest boxes to provide the parakeets with nesting sites.
In the last five years, the nest box program has been very successful, adding hundreds of birds to the Gray-breasted Parakeet population. In 2018 alone, 234 chicks fledged from 62 nest boxes!
ABC and Aquasis are working to double the size of this successful program over the next two to three years. In addition, the partners plan to relocate 20 to 35 Gray-breasted Parakeets to an area 20 miles away to establish a second population within a protected habitat.
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