Known as: Yellow-Eared Parrot
Estimated numbers left in the wild: 1,500
The yellow-eared parrot is a large green bird with a black beak and patches of yellow feathers on the face that are vaguely reminiscent of ears. It is a strikingly handsome animal. The bird is about 40 centimetres long on average and weighs 285 grams. It does poorly in captivity and thus is seldom taken from the wild for the illegal pet trade, though it is hunted for food. Unusually, its calls sound similar to those of geese.
Diet: Yellow-eared parrots are dependent on the highly endangered wax palm for much of their life cycle. Wax palm fruit is one of the principle foodstuffs consumed by these parrots, though they will eat other fruits and seeds as well, plus bark, buds and ferns. They also nest in the trees, seeking those which have hollow trunks, at a height of up to 30 meters above the forest floor. They live in cloud forest and elfin forest high in the cordilleras of the nations they inhabit.
Breeding: These birds seem to be somewhat social, gathering in small flocks of one or two dozen individuals at some times. Several pairs of parrots may also cooperate in rearing their chicks, increasing the chances of chick survival. The birds are monogamous despite their colonial habits. Parents may raise up to two broods per year, perhaps assisted by the species’ “brood-helper” adaptation. Each generation is about three years, and as more birds mature, the rate of recovery may increase also, though recovery is fragile due to their dependence on the slow-growing wax palm.
Location: The yellow-eared parrot is found only in Columbia and Ecuador, in the high Andes where the also-endangered wax palm grows in the cloud forest. The bird may also possibly be extinct in Ecuador.
Threats: Habitat destruction is the source of the yellow-eared parrot’s troubles, since it requires the wax palm for nesting, and will not use any other tree. This parrot is one of the only endangered species in the world whose main problems stem from religion. The wax palm is singled out for felling in the region due to devout Catholics harvesting the fronds for use in Palm Sunday celebrations. The parrot has also been hunted for food, especially in Ecuador, adding further to the pressures that human activities thrust upon the species. Logging threatens wax palms as well, and cattle graze on young wax palms, making recovery even more difficult.
Conservation efforts: The yellow-eared parrot is a partial success story in the conservation sphere, with the population currently at around 1,500 individuals after dropping to a low of 212. Restoration of wax palms, protection of existing stands, reintroduction of the parrots to various areas, and creation of ecological corridors by a league of conservation organizations – including the American Bird Conservancy, ProAves, and the Loro Parque Fundacion – has enabled this inspiring rebound. Educational efforts directed towards limiting the use of wax palm fronds in Palm Sunday parades have also borne fruit, and efforts are ongoing.
Do you know of or are you a part of an organisation that work to conserve the Yellow-Eared Parrot, then please contact us to have it featured on Our Endangered World.