Yellow-eared Parrot: Characteristics, Feeding, Reproduction and more

Among so many varieties of parrots that exist on Earth, to start talking about the yellow-eared parrot it is relevant to point out that this peculiar parrot is native to the Andean areas with cloud forests. According to the taxonomic classification of the parrot , the scientific name of the yellow-eared parrot is Ognorhynchus icterotis , this parrot is commonly catalogued as yellow-eared because of its plumage which is essentially green and yellow.

Other names by which the yellow-eared parrot is known are the yellow-eared parakeet or yellow-eared parakeet and is a species of Psittaciform bird which refers to the order of birds that includes eighty-six genera with three hundred and seventy-two species found mostly in tropical and subtropical areas, this in turn refers to birds that have the shape of a parrot. The yellow-eared parrot belongs to the parrot family or Psittacidae and is endemic, that is, its distribution is limited to a small geographical area that corresponds to of the Colombian Andes between one thousand two hundred and three thousand five hundred meters of altitude. This yellow-eared parrot is unfortunately in danger of extinction and can only be found in the humid forests of Colombia, especially in places where the wax palm grows, which besides being the national tree of Colombia is the tree that provides food, nest and shelter to these yellow-eared parrots.

The taxonomy of the yellow-eared parrot is as follows:

The yellow-eared parrot is from the animal kingdom, it belongs to the phylum Chordata, its class is the Aves, the order is the Psittacidae, it integrates the subfamily Psittacinae and it belongs to the tribe Arini, its genus is the Ognorhynchus and the specific species is the Ognorhynchus icterotis.

General characteristics of the Yellow-eared Parrot

To talk about the characteristics of a parrot specifically of the yellow-eared parrot it is essential to begin by giving a general physical description of this bird, of which there is very scattered and shallow knowledge.

The yellow-eared parrot can be described as a bird whose average size is forty-two centimeters in length, so it has been compared to a small macaw.

Among the characteristics of the yellow-eared parrot , it has an intense yellow color in its forehead, ears and the region around its eyes. The green color is seen on the crown, nape, back and face, while the belly and chest are also yellow.

The weight of a yellow-eared parrot is two hundred and eighty-five grams , they are monogamous birds and can last between twenty and thirty days selecting their nest at twenty-five meters high.

They do not endure more than forty-eight hours in captivity because loneliness is capable of killing them, they have two legs, four very firm claws and their wingspan is forty-five centimeters while their longevity is uncertain, the only data we have is that medium sized parrots can live from fifty to sixty years.

This yellow-eared bird is native to the high Andes of Colombia and Ecuador although today, it has been proven that it exists only in Colombia since those in Ecuador were no longer seen in the nineties, a situation that gave rise to a project entitled “Proyecto Ognorhynchus” to conserve the species which has been funded by Loro Parque Fundación, in Tenerife Spain and has the support of the Zoologissche Gelleschaft für Arten-und Populationsschutz or ZGAP which means, the zoological society for the conservation of species and populations, also this project involves the ProAves Foundation of Colombia.

Yellow-eared Parrot habitat

Regarding the habitat of the Yellow-eared Parrot it is known that this bird is typical of the cloud forest (which is a humid tropical or subtropical montane forest characterized by a high concentration of surface fog, at the level of the canopy, which is the same as the forest canopy and is nothing more than the habitat that comprises the area of the crowns and upper parts of the trees of a forest), This forest is normally associated with the wax palms or as is known scientifically the Ceroxylon quindiuense, palm native to the high Andean valleys of the Los Nevados Natural Park and in the Cocora Valley of the Quindío department in the Colombian coffee-growing region.

So, the yellow-eared parrot inhabits the temperate and cold thermal floors between twelve hundred and three thousand four hundred meters of altitude although it is much more frequent between two thousand and three thousand meters of altitude.

Cloud forest with Wax Palms

Geographical distribution of the Yellow-eared Parrot

The Yellow-eared Parrot is a species that lives in the Andean and sub-Andean cloud forests of Colombia and Ecuador (in the latter there are no more individuals), originally its distribution included the scattered and localized areas of the three mountain ranges of the Colombian Andes, especially in the Central Cordillera, so it can be said that it is adapted to live in high altitude forests, in low temperate zones and in the high subtropical areas, although sometimes it frequents deforested areas.

In the case of Colombia, the only country that currently has the yellow-eared parrot, the populations of this bird are distributed essentially in two biogeographic systems , the first of them corresponds to the Andean and Sub-Andean Forests at two thousand and three thousand eight hundred and forty meters above sea level that belong to the municipality of Roncesvalles in Tolima as well as in localities located between the municipality of Jardín in Atioquia and the municipality of Riosucio in Caldas.

The second system in which the yellow-eared parrot is found is the Very Humid Premontane Forests at sixteen hundred and fifty and seventeen hundred meters above sea level, these are found in the municipality of San Luis de Cubarral in Meta, and some pairs and small groups in the municipality of Yarumal in Antioquia, as well as in the municipality of Cajamarca in Tolima.

The habitat chosen by the yellow-eared parrot is closely related to the tree that serves as shelter, nest and food, the wax palm. Likewise, it always chooses areas where there are plants with a diameter greater than ten centimeters and a height greater than one meter and three centimeters.

The habitat of the yellow-eared parrot has to do with its diet , so we must talk about the foraging areas and movements that the yellow-eared parrot performs.By the way, foraging refers to all behavior aimed at obtaining food, such as foraging, exploration, selection and manipulation of food.

In this regard, yellow-eared parrots are known to forage in open areas and forest edges that have an abundance of the tree known as Gavilan. Some breeding individuals spend more time in areas near the nests, foraging mostly in Gavilan trees.

The activity of the yellow-eared parrot is diurnal, begins between half past six and seven in the morning when groups of three to five birds can be seen flying through the palm grove followed by more numerous groups, they make vocalizations and before half past seven they leave the place dispersing in separate groups.

At midday the yellow-eared parrots that are not in reproductive condition come down from the high mountains foraging in the intermediate zones and arrive at the nesting colonies between fifteen and sixteen thirty hours taking advantage of the fruits offered by the Sparrowhawk and the Mantequillo tree or Sapium utile.

Behavior

The breeding pairs of Yellow-eared Parrot tend to visit their nest twice a day to feed the chicks, these visits usually occur from nine to eleven in the morning and from thirteen to fourteen thirty hours, all these data are different from the curiosities of the Blue-bellied Parrot

The perching or roosting sites of the yellow-eared parrot serve for foraging as well as socializing. When evening arrives, yellow-eared parrots vocalize at their perching sites, spreading out on wax palm fronds and high branches of leafless trees, where pairs of yellow-eared parrots can be observed preening for fifteen to thirty minutes. They explore the high branches of the trees looking for water in the Bromeliad plants whose species most visited by the bird is the Guzmania.

The yellow-eared parrot spends the night in the branches of wax palms and tends to change roosts frequently. They are also seen foraging in areas where the Drago tree or Croton magdalenensis and the Mantequillo tree are abundant.

Now, the movements or displacements made by the yellow-eared parrot are associated with the general availability of fruits and it is in Antioquia where there are more wax palms as well as the other trees mentioned that the yellow-eared parrot uses to subsist, such is the case of the Drago and the Nadador tree or Sapium stylare.

The preferred roosts of the yellow-eared parrot are the wax palms that begin to shelter these birds from sixteen hours to eighteen and a half hours, when all the yellow-eared parrots are grouped towards the middle or heart of the tree that protects them from rain and wind.

Another thing we should add in relation to the behavior of the yellow-eared parrot is that are gregarious birds , tend to be vulnerable to the presence of humans and are birds little tameable. The female Yellow-eared Parrot likes to frequent the same nesting area each year. She uses wax palms to build her nest.

This species of bird chooses to dig a hole in the lower part of the leaves about twenty-five meters high and the construction is started by one member of the pair who will then be replaced by the other and so they take turns until they have completely made their nest to begin laying eggs.

Yellow-eared Parrot feeding

If we ask ourselves how to feed a parrot we must know the feeding of the yellow-eared parrot, which involves the fruits of the wax palm as well as those given by other trees, so it could be argued that the diet of the yellow-eared parrot is very varied and more if we consider the following trees found in Tolima such as the Gavilan, the Mantequillo, the Nogal or Cordia, the Candelo and the Cafeto or Guettarda.

Drago Tree

It has been verified that when the Gavilán is in harvest season it is visited by flocks of yellow-eared parrots that consume the fruit of this tree in abundance. On the other hand, in Antioquia the most relevant tree species for the feeding of the yellow-eared parrot is the Drago tree as well as the Bromeliads, specifically those of the genus Briesia from which it acquires water.

Mantequillo Tree

Also, it is interesting to note that the yellow-eared parrot when it locates the clusters of the wax palm prefers as much as possible to eat the fruits that have not yet matured , from these it absorbs the internal liquid but, the most important tree in the diet of the yellow-eared parrot is the Gavilan of which it consumes its green and ripe fruits, drinks the liquid that they bring inside while the rest of the fruit falls to the ground.

I also recommend you to see this article about the best Parrot Feeding Troughs

Yellow-eared Parrot Reproduction

Regarding the reproductive biology of the Yellow-eared Parrot, we can say that the reproduction of this bird is located in the limits between the departments of Antioquia and Caldas. According to a study carried out in the first semester of two thousand five and two thousand six it has been determined that the total duration of the reproductive period of the yellow-eared parrot covers one hundred thirty-six days, begins in the second week of March and ends in the penultimate week of July.

In turn, about fifty behaviors related to the different events during the reproductive season have been identified, and the development of the chicks shows a particular evolution depending on the body region and age.

The Yellow-eared Parrot’s reproduction is linked to the Wax Palm which is a plant species categorized as an “endangered” species, as well as to the White Barred Palm or Dictycaryum lamarckianum which it uses as a dormitory and nesting site.

Characterization of Yellow-eared Parrot nests

The nests of the yellow-eared parrot tend to have more than forty centimeters of internal diameter, have a wide central mound with sawdust and other fragments of the internal wall of the palm, which by being in an elevated position as well as away from the walls manages to remain drier than the other materials of the edge.

In the case of Tolima, the nests of the yellow-eared parrot are located in open areas or pastures with high concentrations of wax palm, which are surrounded by remnants of forests of variable intervention and size and these areas also have other trees that enter into the diet of the yellow-eared parrot.

Breeding behaviors

Although the Yellow-eared Parrot is not known for being an aggressive bird, apparently when the breeding season arrives it increases its level of aggressiveness in relation to individuals of the same species.

As an example, we have the fact that during the selection season and defense of a potential nest there are constant surveillance relays between pairs, which are accompanied by loud vocalizations and in some cases even aggression to pairs that are nearby.

Females lay two to three eggs and the youngest chick to hatch from the egg is placed in the middle of its two older siblings.

By the way, regarding the growth of the chicks it is known that the beak of the baby yellow-eared parrot grows continuously until it stabilizes in the seventh week of life, the growth in length of the tarsus shows two constant increases, the first is seen from the third week to the fifth week and the second happens from the seventh to the ninth week of age, in general, each chick is growing from the third to the ninth week of life.

Within this section it is essential to know four behavioral blocks associated with the reproduction of the yellow-eared parrot:

1-Cavity exploration: here pairs of yellow-eared parrots visit various dead palms looking for potential nests. One of the individuals enters the dead palm while the other perches at the top of the palm. The inspection of the palm consists of repeated entries of the parrot into the selected palm, entering using either the upper cavity or a side cavity.

There are even pairs that with their beaks remove small pieces of the palm bark in the entrance cavities, this actually works as a kind of readjustment of the entrance hole and the estimated duration of the inspection is variable, ranging from two to five minutes and the same pair can explore up to four palms within a radius of one hundred meters.

2-Copulas: in the specific case of Tolima it has been proven that copulations of yellow-eared parrots last about four minutes and happen in Gavilan trees. It is of vital importance to know that seventy-five percent of copulations occur in January, five percent tend to occur in October and the rest of the percentage occurs between copulations that happen in March and June.

At the same time, an interesting fact is that seventy-five percent of these copulations occurred in the afternoon, after fourteen hours.

3-Parental care: the care given by yellow-eared parrots to their offspring is observed during incubation, egg hatching and after hatching. Parental care begins with the laying of the first egg and incubation, carried out by the female who remains in the nest until fifteen days after hatching and is assisted by the male during this period.

When the male arrives at the nesting area, he emits sounds and perches on a perch near the nest, the female leaves the nest and perches with her pair making a particular vocalization and moving her wings, a behavior that serves to stimulate the male in the regurgitation of food that lasts ten seconds at different intervals and is repeated five or more times per visit.

After the eggs hatch, the male goes into the nest to check on the condition of his young and when he has finished, he leaves to return to his perch. During this period the female takes the opportunity to preen herself and return to the nest. The males focus on defending the nest and act as sentinels from nearby perches.

After the neonatal period of ten to fifteen days, the female leaves the nest and returns to visit the nest at the same times and intervals as the male.

When the adults arrive in the area, the male remains silent on the perch while the female comes in to feed the chicks, then leaves to perch on the male’s perch, who takes over and enters the nest. After this stage of feeding the chicks of the yellow-eared parrot, the pairs leave the area going to foraging areas.

4-Departure of juveniles or family groups: in this regard the researchers point out that in Tolima the departure happened between the months of June and July observing family groups of yellow-eared parrots composed of three to five individuals. In August, the groups merge to give way to flocks in the area and in September, they decrease in number and the pairs reappear.

However, a week before leaving the nest the chicks peek out of the cavities or holes used by their parents to enter to feed them, attempts to peek out occur when a parent arrives and when it leaves.

Once they have the ability to reach the main upper orifice they peek out when they hear the vocalizations of their parents and in the last few days they are fed directly into the entrance cavity.

Breeding behaviors

1-Feeding contact: in which a transverse coupling of the beaks occurs for the conduction or else regurgitation of food stored in the crop. For the purpose of transferring the food, a vertical body rocking movement is required as well as neck stretching movements of the regurgitator.

This behavior is seen during the visit of the incubating or brooding individual or during chick feeding.

2-Companion: here what we see is an altruistic interaction behavior in which the individual of the species that is not of the breeding pair remains perched in the peripheral tree, nest entrance perch or inside the nest with the objective of supporting the feeding and care of the nestlings.

This behavior is accompanied by peripheral flights to the nest by the parents, foraging flights, communication with other members or pairs and the use of the nest for roosting.

3-Nest preparation: the adult or else the young yellow-rumped parrot on the eve of the exit of the nest climbs the internal walls of the cavity from the bottom or base towards the lateral nest gates or entrances, it does so with a succession of movements in which the fingers grasp the cylindrical fibers that form the walls while the beak is used as a lever and anchor.

During gait, flapping may occur to help it stabilize or maintain balance.

4-The first flight: the chick perches at the entrance of the nest and launches into the air gliding with few and awkward wing movements to a nearby perching site, which is usually the same one in which their parents perch, this first flight is characterized by being short and presenting an unstable appearance.

In addition, all these behaviors are weather-dependent and can affect the development of the chicks as well as the presence of predators.

The endangered yellow-eared parrot

Despite having a bright green plumage to mimic its environment, the yellow-eared parrot is in danger of extinction , due to causes such as the decrease of its habitat that has suffered drastic processes of deforestation of trees that offer food and shelter, the Wax Palm, which is also in danger of extinction because it is a very valuable tree for its wax as well as for the fact that it is preferred by the believers when Holy Week arrives, who cut it down to obtain the palms for Palm Sunday.

Another thing that has put the yellow-eared parrot in danger of extinction is its indiscriminate hunting and the consumption of its meat, without forgetting that the powerful people do not think of this bird but rather of cattle raising and agriculture as more productive activities than the conservation of such a parrot.

Although the outlook is critical, the yellow-eared parrot struggles to survive by reproducing whenever it can and allowing itself to be helped by researchers and selfless people who have supported the initiative of making artificial nests and fencing off large areas of land so that these parrots can live peacefully and their population can grow.

It is known that the population of yellow-eared parrots in the year two thousand six was six hundred and fifty-six individuals and the number has been growing in areas such as Tolima and Antioquia.

Natural predators of the yellow-eared parrot

Among the natural threats or known predators of the Yellow-eared Parrot are animals such as some birds of prey, the Tufted Caracara or Caracara plancus, the White-tailed Hawk or Buteo albicaudatus, the Marmora’s Hawk or Elanus leucurus and the American Kestrel or Falco sparverius, the latter chasing the Yellow-eared Parrot in its nesting areas.

Efforts to conserve the yellow-eared parrot

The efforts that have been carried out to increase the population of the Yellow-eared Parrot in Colombia range from the Project mentioned above, to talks that raise awareness about this bird, these talks are given in educational centers as well as in the various communities that constitute their habitat and food. In addition, the installation of nests made with wooden boxes glued to the wax palms.

Well, we hope that with this article your knowledge about the yellow-eared parrot will expand and you will be able to generate proposals for its conservation.