Burrowing parrot

Burrowing parrot
Cyanoliseus patagonus

Photo by Aline Wolfer (Oiseaux d’Argentine)

Common name:
burrowing parrot (en); papagaio-da-Patagónia (pt); conure de Patagonie (fr); loro barranquero (es); felsensittich (de)

Order Psittaciformes
Family  Psittacidae

This species is found in central and south-eastern Argentina and in central Chile. Although most populations are resident, some birds can migrate north to winter in north-eastern Argentina and Uruguay.

These birds are 42-45 cm long and weigh 250-390 g.

The burrowing parrot is mostly found in dry scrublands and grasslands, and also in dry savannas, along rivers and streams, pastures, arable land and within urban areas. They require nearby cliffs made of sandstone, limestone or earth in which to excavate nesting burrows. This species is present from sea level up to an altitude of 1.800 m.

They mainly feed on seeds, including agricultural crops, but also some fruits and berries. They forage on the ground and among the vegetation.

Burrowing parrots are monogamous and pair for life. They breed in October-April and form large nesting colonies of up to 35.000 pairs in inland and coastal cliff made of sandstone, limestone or earth. The nest is a deep, zigzagging burrow excavated by both sexes, which opens into a nest chamber up to 3 m deep in the cliff face. There the female lays 2-5 white eggs directly onto the sandy floor of the nest chamber, where she incubates them alone for 22-26 days while receiving food from the male. The chicks fledge about 60 days after hatching, but continue to receive food from parents for up to 4 months.

IUCN status – LC (Least Concern)
This species has a large breeding range and is still common in many parts of its range in Argentina with only small range contractions reported in Córdoba. The population is suspected to be in decline owing to ongoing habitat destruction and unsustainable levels of exploitation. Heavy hunting for the cage bird trade has had a significant impact on this species, and despite legislation to limit international trade, over 120.000 individuals have been traded legally since 1981, along with numerous others on the black market. They are also persecuted as a crop pest by farmers. Despite this, the burrowing parrot is not considered threatened at present.

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