Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Researchers Study The Rare Ecuador Amazon Parrot

Photo of the Ecuador Amazon Parrot courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

A group of researchers from the U.K. recently traveled to South America in hopes of learning more about the ultra-rare Ecuador Amazon Parrot (Amazona lilacina). According to a report published by the BBC, however, they left with "more questions than answers."

For many decades, the Ecuador Amazon Parrot was classified as a subspecies of the red-lored Amazon parrot (Amazona autumnalis). Taxonomists initially believed this was the proper classification given the two parrot's familiarities and similar characteristics. In December 2013, however, researchers at Chester Zoo in the United Kingdom classified the Ecuador Amazon Parrot as an entirely new species.

So, why did researchers have the change of heart? There are estimated to be approximately 5-6 million red-lored Amazon parrots, whereas there are only 600 (ish) Ecuador Amazon Parrots currently in existence. The Ecuador Amazon Parrot is also smaller and more colorful than its counterpart.

In terms of appearance, the Ecuador Amazon Parrot is about 32-36 cm in length (beak to tail) with green plumage, red lores, and yellow cheeks (see image above). It's a stunningly beautiful bird that could go the way of the dinosaurs if preservation measures are not taken. Like many birds and parrots native to the Amazon/Ecuador region, it possesses a hard beak that allows it to crack through the tough exteriors of nuts, insects, fruit and vegetables.

In an effort to learn more about the mysterious Ecuador Amazon Parrot, a team of researchers from the U.K. traveled to its native and of Ecuador. Unfortunately, however, they came back with more questions than answers.

Before the trip, the general belief was that the Ecuador Amazon Parrot roosted in the thick mangroves and flew to nearby dry forests to feed -- assuming the dry forests were free of predators. But researchers discovered the Ecuador Amazon Parrot was flying much farther than previously believed. One researcher theorized that the Ecuador Amazon Parrot's long-distance travel could be the result of "bird scaring devices" -- electronic devices used by fishermen to discourage birds from feeding on the local fish.
"The truth is that we came back with far more questions than answers," explained expedition leader Mark Pilgrim, director general of Chester Zoo. "Suddenly, there are a whole number of things that we didn't expect and we now have questions about."

While the population numbers for the Ecuador Amazon Parrot are grim (around 600), researchers noted that there's no immediate threat to the species. This is due in part to the fact that both the mangrove and rainforest are protected.

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