Friday, 27 May 2011

Mauritius parakeet

Psittacula eques

Photo by Dennis Hansen (Talking Naturally)

Common name:
Mauritius parakeet (en); periquito-de-colar-das-Mauricias (pt); perruche de Maurice (fr); cotorra de Mauricio (es); Mauritiussittich (de)

Order Psittaciformes
Family Psittacidae

This species survives only in south-west Mauricius, in the Indian Ocean, after becoming extinct on the island of Réunion.

These birds are 35-42 cm long and weigh 150-170 g.

They inhabits the remaining areas of native forest and upland scrub, with lowland, intermediate and scrub forests being very important feeding areas.

The Mauritius parakeet appears to be a strictly arboreal forager, feeding mainly on native plants and taking a wide range of parts including buds, young shoots, leaves, flowers, fruits, seeds, twigs and even bark and sap.

These birds start breeding in August-September. They nest in natural cavities situated high up in native trees and the breeding unit is a pair or a group of 1 female with up to 3 males, one of which is dominant and mates with and feeds the female. The female lays 2-3 eggs which she incubates alone for 21-25 days while being fed by the male. Both parents then provide for the chicks until they fledge around 2 months after hatching. The chicks continue to be fed by their parents for at least 2-3 months after leaving the nest.

IUCN status - EN (Endangered)
Following a dramatic decline until the 1970s, this species became extinct in Réunion and extremely rare in Mauritius. The population in Mauritius have experienced an extremely rapid increase over the last ten years, now being estimated at 343 birds in the wild, but the number of mature individuals is assumed to be in the range 50-249. The earlier decline and contracting distribution corresponds to the severe destruction and degradation of its native habitat. The population crashed from a likely total of several thousand following forest destruction and the replacement of its favoured feeding habitat, upland dwarf forest, with plantations. By 1996, only 5% of the island was covered with native vegetation. The spread of introduced plants such as guava Psidium cattleianum, privet Ligustrum robustum and jamrosa Syzygium jambos and the effect of introduced feral mammals such as pigs Sus scrofa and rusa deer Cerus timorensis are futher threats to this species. Also, bees Apis melifera, white-tailed tropicbirds Phaeton lepturus, introduced common mynas Acridotheres tristis and ring-necked parakeets Psittacula krameri are all nest site competitors and can displace active breeding pairs. The intensive conservation efforts taking place since the 1970s seem to have had considerable success, but the species is still considered endangered.

No comments:

Post a Comment