World’s biggest parrot discovered in New Zealand


Relative size of Heracles inexpectatus parrot

From Flinders University in Australia:

NZ big bird a whopping ‘squawkzilla’

Meet ‘Hercules’ — the giant parrot that dwarfs its modern cousins

Australasian palaeontologists have discovered the world’s largest parrot, standing up to 1m tall with a massive beak able to crack most food sources.

The new bird has been named Heracles inexpectatus to reflect its Herculean myth-like size and strength — and the unexpected nature of the discovery.

“New Zealand is well known for its giant birds,” says Flinders University Associate Professor Trevor Worthy. “Not only moa dominated avifaunas, but giant geese and adzebills shared the forest floor, while a giant eagle ruled the skies.

“But until now, no-one has ever found an extinct giant parrot — anywhere.”

The NZ fossil is approximately the size of the giant ‘dodo‘ pigeon of the Mascarenes and twice the size of the critically endangered flightless New Zealand kakapo, previously the largest known parrot.

Like the kakapo, it was a member of an ancient New Zealand group of parrots that appear to be more primitive than parrots that thrive today on Australia and other continents.

Experts from Flinders University, UNSW Sydney and Canterbury Museum in New Zealand estimate Heracles to be 1 m tall, weighing about 7 kg.

The new parrot was found in fossils up to 19 million years old from near St Bathans in Central Otago, New Zealand, in an area well known for a rich assemblage of fossil birds from the Miocene period.

“We have been excavating these fossil deposits for 20 years, and each year reveals new birds and other animals,” says Associate Professor Worthy, from the Flinders University Palaeontology Lab.

“While Heracles is one of the most spectacular birds we have found, no doubt there are many more unexpected species yet to be discovered in this most interesting deposit.”

“Heracles, as the largest parrot ever, no doubt with a massive parrot beak that could crack wide open anything it fancied, may well have dined on more than conventional parrot foods, perhaps even other parrots,” says Professor Mike Archer, from the UNSW Sydney Palaeontology, Geobiology and Earth Archives (PANGEA) Research Centre.

“Its rarity in the deposit is something we might expect if it was feeding higher up in the food chain,” he says, adding parrots “in general are very resourceful birds in terms of culinary interests.”

“New Zealand keas, for example, have even developed a taste for sheep since these were introduced by European settlers in 1773.”

Birds have repeatedly evolved giant species on islands. As well as the dodo, there has been another giant pigeon found on Fiji, a giant stork on Flores, giant ducks in Hawaii, giant megapodes in New Caledonia and Fiji, giant owls and other raptors in the Caribbean.

Heracles lived in a diverse subtropical forest where many species of laurels and palms grew with podocarp trees.

“Undoubtedly, these provided a rich harvest of fruit important in the diet of Heracles and the parrots and pigeons it lived with. But on the forest floor Heracles competed with adzebills and the forerunners of moa,” says Professor Suzanne Hand, also from UNSW Sydney.

“The St Bathans fauna provides the only insight into the terrestrial birds and other animals that lived in New Zealand since dinosaurs roamed the land more than 66 million years ago,” says Paul Scofield, Senior Curator at Canterbury Museum, Christchurch.

Canterbury Museum research curator Vanesa De Pietri says the fossil deposit reveals a highly diverse fauna typical of subtropical climates with crocodilians, turtles, many bats and other mammals, and over 40 bird species.

“This was a very different place with a fauna very unlike that which survived into recent times,” she says.

This research was funded by the Australian Research Council and supported by the Marsden Fund Council from Government funding, managed by Royal Society Te Apārangi.

This 7 August 2019 video, in Spanish, is about the recent discovery of Heracles inexpectatus, the biggest parrot ever.

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Good rare Bolivian parrots news


This April 2014 video says about itself:

The Critically Endangered Blue-throated Macaw is found in only one place on earth: the Beni Savannas of Bolivia. This complex ecosystem of grasslands, marshes, forest islands and gallery forest is largely in the hands of cattle ranchers and every year untold habitat is lost to intentional burning for pastureland. Today, less than 400 Blue-throated Macaws remain.

Rainforest Trust, in conjunction with American Bird Conservancy and our local partner Asociación Armonía Bolivia, helped create the Barba Azul Nature Reserve, the first and only protected area for the Critically Endangered Blue-throated Macaw.

Artis zoo in Amsterdam in the Netherlands reports today that a record number of young threatened Bolivian parrots have fledged this nesting season.

This is the blue-throated macaw species.

It is endemic to Bolivia. Traditionally, it only nests in holes in urucuri palm trees.

Bolivian landlords had logged many urucuri palm trees for ranching. It was thought the species had become extinct in the 1980s.

Fortunately, some birds were discovered. There is a nestbox campaign to help them, which works.

This nesting season, the record number of 12 young blue-throated macaws have fledged.

Slowly, the population is increasing again.

Feral parrots in 23 US states


This July 2018 video from Florida in the USA says about itself:

Why Are Wild Parrots Disappearing in Miami? | Short Film Showcase

In Miami, conservationist Daria Feinstein is on a mission to save the beautiful Blue-and-yellow Macaw—before it’s too late.

From the University of Chicago Medical Center in the USA:

Escaped pet parrots are now naturalized in 23 US states, study finds

May 14, 2019

Summary: Research data on bird sightings finds that 56 different parrot species have been spotted in 43 states, and 25 of those species are now breeding in the wild in 23 different states.

When Stephen Pruett-Jones, PhD, an ecologist at the University of Chicago, first came to Chicago in 1988, he stumbled on a unique piece of the city’s history: the monk parakeets of Hyde Park.

The squat, bright-green birds aren’t native to Illinois, or the United States at all. The U.S. originally had two native parrot species: the Carolina parakeet and the thick-billed parrot. The Carolina parakeet is now extinct; the thick-billed parrot, a Mexican species that ranged into the southwestern states, was driven out of the U.S.

In the 1950s and 60s, tens of thousands of monk parakeets were imported from South America as pets. Inevitably, many of them escaped or were released. By 1968, they were found breeding in the wild across 10 states, including a colony in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago, home of the University of Chicago campus.

Pruett-Jones, who usually studies wrens and other wild birds in Australia, noticed a large group of the parakeets on his daily commute. He started sending students out to study the birds and eventually organized an annual lab project to count them.

“I have never actually held a wild parrot in the United States,” he said. “But indirectly I’ve become the spokesperson for parrot research here because when I saw the monk parakeets in Chicago, I realized nobody else was working on them.”

Those monk parakeets aren’t the only parrot species thriving in the U.S. as a result of the pet trade. In a recent study, Pruett-Jones teamed up with Jennifer Uehling, a former UChicago undergraduate student now working on a PhD at Cornell University, and Jason Tallant of the University of Michigan to research data on bird sightings from 2002 to 2016. They found that there were 56 different parrot species spotted in the wild in 43 states. Of these, 25 species are now breeding in 23 different states.

“Many of them were escaped pets, or their owners released them because they couldn’t train them or they made too much noise — all the reasons people let pets go,” Pruett-Jones said. “But many of these species are perfectly happy living here and they’ve established populations. Wild parrots are here to stay.”

A diverse new landscape for parrots

The study, published in the Journal of Ornithology, uses two different databases of bird sightings to track this diverse new landscape of naturalized parrot species. The first, the Christmas Bird Count, is an annual survey organized by the National Audubon Society that captures a snapshot of birds in the U.S. during a two-week period from December 14 to January 15 each year. The second resource, eBird, is an online database for bird watching enthusiasts to log all the birds they have seen.

Once Uehling, Tallant, and Pruett-Jones compiled the data, the most common species were monk parakeets, the Red-crowned Amazon, and the Nanday Parakeet. Most of these birds are concentrated in the warmer climates of Florida, Texas and California, but there are other large populations concentrated around cities like New York and Chicago. Pruett-Jones says there are now more Red-crowned Amazons living in California than there are in their original habitats in Mexico.

“The entire conservation focus for this species is now on a non-native, introduced, naturalized population,” he said. “The survival of the species is most likely going to come from efforts to save it someplace where it never existed before.”

Monk parakeets are reported to be agricultural pests in South America, but other than a few isolated examples, there is no evidence that any of the feral parrots in the U.S. are invasive or competing with native birds. Monk parakeets are the only species of parrot that build their own nests, however, and the bulky structures are known to damage utility lines.

Good luck talisman

The story of Chicago’s parakeets is one with the city, that of tenacious survival in spite of the elements. Most of the year they feed by foraging in parks and open grassy areas. They don’t migrate, but one of Pruett-Jones’ students discovered that they survive Chicago’s harsh winters by switching almost exclusively to backyard bird feeders from December to February.

Harold Washington, Chicago’s first African American mayor, lived across the street from one of the city’s best-known parakeet colonies and called them a “good luck talisman.” After he died in 1987, the USDA tried to remove the birds, but local residents threatened a lawsuit.

The parakeets stayed but their numbers have dwindled from a peak of about 400 birds to just 30 today. Some of the them have dispersed to greener areas in the suburbs, although the largest colony is now under the Skyway bridge connecting Illinois to Indiana. There are also signs of a nationwide decline in all birds, perhaps due to a disease or parasite.

Pruett-Jones may have become a national expert on parrots by accident, but he says this work is crucial to understand conservation of endangered species and how non-native or invasive species can spread.

“Because of human activity transporting these birds for our own pleasure, we have inadvertently created populations elsewhere,” he said. “Now for some of these parrots, they may become critical to the survival of the species.”