|Photo by Ernesto Enkerlin (Neotropical Birds)|
thick-billed parrot (en); (pt); conure à gros bec (fr); cotorra serrana occidental (es); arasittich (de)
This species is mostly restricted to the western Sierra Madre, in western Mexico, although it was breeding in southern Arizona and New Mexico until recently and reintroduction efforts are underway in those areas of the United States.
These birds are 38-43 cm long and weigh around 300 g.
The thick-billed parrot is found in temperate conifer, mature pine-oak, pine and fir forests. They breed at altitudes of 2.000-2.700 m but outside the breeding season can range to altitudes of 1.200-3.600 m.
They feed primarily on the seeds of several pine species, especially Mexican white pine Pinus ayacahuite, Durango pine Pinus durangesnsis, Arizona pine Pinus arizonica, Mexican pinion pine Pinus cembroides, Pinus strobiformis, Chihuahua pine Pinus leiophylla, Ponderosa pine Pinus ponderosa, Apache pine pinus engelmannii, weeping pine Pinus lumholtzi and Douglas fir Pseudotsuga menziesii. They also steal acorns from acorn woodpecker Melanerpes formicivorus granaries and eat the juniper berries and nectar from agave flowers.
Thick-billed parrots breed in June-October, when pine cones are more abundant. They nest in tree cavities, often originally excavated by woodpeckers. There the female lays 2-4 creamy-white eggs, which she incubates alone for 25-28 days while being fed by the male. The chicks are fed by both parents and fledge 59-65 days after hatching, but only become fully independent up to 7 months later.
IUCN status - EN (Endangered)
This species has a small breeding range and a global population estimated at 2.000-2.800 individuals. The population is suspected to be declining rapidly, due to clearance and degradation of old-growth forests within their range. Logging, drug growing and cattle grazing are the main reasons for forest clearance in the region. Illegal trade may also be a threat to this species, although it is believed to be a much smaller problem now than in the past. Some of the conservation measures underway include forest protection, management agreements for responsible logging and captive breeding with the objective of reintroducing the species to the United States.