Thick-billed Parrot

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image: thick-billedparrot.jpg

Common Name: Thick-billed Parrot
Scientific Name: Rhynchopsitta pachyrhyncha

Size: 15 inches (38cm)

Habitat: North America. Once found in the high elevation pine forests of southern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico. It is now only found in highland forests, pine forests and foothills of northern and central Mexico.

Status: Endangered. Global Population: 2,000 - 2,800 mature individuals and decreasing. Habitat loss from the timber and mining industries, as well as poaching for the pet trade in the 20th century have brought this parrot close to extinction.

Diet: Mostly Pine Nuts; acorns, juniper berries, agave flower nectar, cherry fruits and insects. Occasionally tree bark.

Breeding: Nesting females will usually lay clutches of 3 eggs, with intervals of 2-3 days between eggs. The male spends the night in the nest hole with the female. Incubation takes approximately 26 days from the first egg, after which the chicks hatch at 2-3 day intervals, comparable with the laying timing. The chicks first open their eyes at 6 days, and their eyes are fully open at 16 days. Pinfeathers begin erupting at 16 days and the chicks are well feathered at 36 days and they have their full juvenile plumage by 56 days.

Cool Facts: Thick-billed Parrots and the extinct Carolina Parakeets are the only parrots whose natural ranges included the continental United States. The stronghold of the Thick-billed Parrots has always been the Sierra Madre Occidental of Mexico, but the species was also found in substantial numbers in southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico in earlier times. Thick-billed Parrots suffered massively from shooting in the U.S. and were essentially gone from U.S. territory by 1920. Their garrulousness, relatively large size and tame inquisitive behavior, sadly made them easy targets for subsistence-hunting prospectors and other early settlers. Occasional sightings continued until 1938 in Arizona and until 1964 in New Mexico, but no parrots were recorded thereafter until a few captives were released to the wild in the late 1980's.

Thick-billed Parrots have a variety of vocalizations, which they use for alerting flock members to the approach of predators, flock integration, territorial interactions and soliciting food from mates and parents. Under the tutelage of their parents, the chicks begin vocalizations early and appear to have the full complement of vocalizations when they fledge. During flight, a flock will be garrulously calling, sounding like laughing children. Feeding flocks often post sentinels, who scan intently for predators. An alarm call from a sentinel will put the entire flock into instantaneous flight and the birds are normally easily capable of out flying their avian enemies.

The primary predation threats faced by Thick-billed Parrots come from various raptors. Chief amongst such raptors are Red-tailed Hawks, Apache Goshawks and Peregrine Falcons. The parrots are powerful flyers and are rarely taken except when raptors are able to gain close approach undetected by the parrots. Surprised in midair by a Peregrine Falcon, they dive straight for the ground and evade the falcon with agile maneuvers as they dive into trees that the falcon is reluctant to enter. Nocturnal predation comes mainly from ring-tailed cats. Thick-bills appear to be free of severe threats from snake predation faced by Amazona parrots inhabiting lower altitudes.

Found in Songbird Remix Parrots of the World

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