The Cape Parrot Project
“Saving the Cape parrot and the forests they depend upon is going to be a multi-generational effort over the next 100 years that will need true “forest custodians”.
The Cape parrot (Poicephalus robustus) is South Africa’s only endemic parrot, and the species may disappear before most South Africans even knew about it!
Things to do:
- Find out more about the critically endangered Cape Parrot (read below)
- Look out if you can see or hear one
- Contact and visit the Cape parrot Project and go for a Cape Parrot excursion (see contact details below)
- Donate to the cape parrot project and keep them safe.
- Follow the Cape parrot on Social media (see below)
The Cape Parrot Project (CPP, https://www.facebook.com/groups/capeparrotproject/) is a project of the Wild Bird Trust (www.wildbirdtrust.com), a registered South African NPO with the primary objective of keeping birds safe in the wild. The project is based out of Hogsback, in the Eastern Cape, which falls within the most southerly distribution of the Cape parrot.
The aim of CPP is to help conserve the endangered Cape parrot through research on the species, community engagement and “reforestation”. Research includes the daily monitoring of Cape parrots to determine seasonal movements and dependence on forest patches; recording and analysing Cape parrot calls to learn more about their behaviour; monitoring of artificial nest boxes and natural cavities and collecting blood and feather samples to conduct monitor the prevalence of disease.
Community engagement is broad spectrum ranging from interacting with local residents, schools and farmers about the vulnerability and importance of the Cape parrot, to collaborating with local and national government to see the formal protection of the Amathole forests become reality. The focus of community engagement is to encourage South Africans to embrace the Cape parrot as a national mascot for the umbrella protection of our forest catchments.
Reforestation focuses on eradicating areas of alien invasive plants adjacent to indigenous forest and re-planting these areas with indigenous forest trees which reproduce using fleshy fruit. These fruit will then be targeted by frugivorous animals, which then spread the seed via their faecal deposits or dropping the seed when eating the fruit, helping with the reforestation of an area as well as directly increasing the supply of food for the parrot. Support for this portfolio includes the management of an indigenous tree nursery and multiple community and micro-nurseries.
The CPP nursery and operating area is not open to the general public. If you would like more information about our activities, please contact us on 079 621 8677 or 082 321 3302.
A bit about the Cape parrot
(Photo: Photo: Rodney Clifton Biljon) Over the last 150 years, a combination of the degradation of our remaining Afromontane forest patches (limiting food and nesting sites), disease outbreaks most especially Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease (PBFD), direct persecution (e.g. shooting by farmers) and illegal capture for the wild-caught bird trade has decimated the global wild population. There is an estimated 1600 individuals left (Downs et al 2015). No single, isolated population is larger than 400 individuals and all have low breeding success. Currently rated as “Least Concern” by IUCN Red list due to reluctance by BirdLife International to accept single species status, but with recent genetic research (Coetzer et al 2015) confirming that the Cape parrot is separate from the Grey-headed parrot (P. fuscicollis), and Brown-necked parrot (P. cryptoxanthus), this listing is in need of urgent updating. Similarly, the Cape parrot is currently on CITES Appendix II, resulting in hundreds of Cape parrots (Poicephalus robustus) being exported and traded as P. fuscicollis to avoid tax and export restrictions.
(Photo: Mark Robertson) It is a small (300 mm, 300 g) robust green-coloured parrot with a golden head and neck, and some small orange-red patches on legs and wings. Only adult females and not males have an orange-red blaze across the crown. Juveniles have a pink band across the crown in their first plumage (which is lost in the male around 10 months old), but lacks red on legs and wing. They start to breed around 4 years old, and have been recorded to breed all year round, but with a peak between August to February. They are secondary cavity nesters, using holes 6 – 12 m above ground, usually in yellowwood trees. They lay between 2 to 4 eggs and incubate the eggs for around 30 days, when usually only one egg is viable. Nestlings fledge at around 60 days and remain with the parents for about 1 year. They can live up to 35 years in captivity. They are very loud and vocal, especially in flight, with five distinct calls being described as tzu-weee, zu-wee, zz-keek and a nasal zeek. Softer sounds of contentment are made while at rest and when allo-preening. Most of the socializing is done on the wing during lengthy feeding forays from mountain roost sites.
Endemic to the Republic of South Africa. Cape parrots are found along a degraded archipelago of Afromontane forest patches that extend from the Amathole and Transkei regions, to southern KwaZulu-Natal, and an isolated forest in the Limpopo Province. According to some sources, they were once distributed all the way down to George in the Western Cape as recently as the 1860s, and were last seen near Cape Town in 1726.
Habitat and habits
(Photo: Rodney Clifton Biljon) Cape parrots are forest specialists that rarely feed on the ground, preferring fruits high in the canopy. Cape parrots are dependent on high-altitude Afromontane mist belt mixed Afrocarpus/Podocarpus forest patches between 1,000 and 1,400m (4,200ft) above sea level. They also need lowland/coastal forests as seasonal feeding sites, but apparently always return to the mountains to roost and socialise.
Their diet largely consists of the seeds of yellowwood trees, but they do forage on other tree species, such as stinkwood, when they become available. Furthermore, due to low availability of preferred yellowwood trees, due to historical and current felling, they have also been recorded feeding on exotic food resources such as apples from England, plums from Japan, cherries from Mexico, acorns from France, pine seeds from Europe, pecan nuts from the USA, and Eucalyptus flowers and black wattle seeds from Australia.
They are food nomads inspecting potential feeding sites over a vast area, using acquired knowledge about the location of these sites. They usually occur in small groups (<10) or in family groups (pair with juveniles/non-breeding individuals), but several groups usually congregate at roost sites, at the top of large trees (e.g. Eucalyptus or Podocarpus). They typically become active just after sunrise and aggregate into large flocks that fly to feeding sites in the valleys and on the coast, flying up to 100 km per day to and from these feeding sites. At prime feeding sites that have super-abundant seasonal food resources like pecan orchards the parrots form massive feeding flocks of over 200 to share vigilance and information on other potential feeding sites. They fly back to roost around sun-set.
Research manager: firstname.lastname@example.org, 0823213302
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