Avian Expert Articles

Saving The Cape Parrot

cape parrot in a tree
Cape parrot (Poicephalus robustus)

The exotic birds of Africa are estimated to number around 2,500 species. From steppe eagles to the colorful lilac-breasted roller, and the beautiful little bee eaters, native African birds are engaging and wonderful to look at. But as with the rest of the world, changing climates, modifying habitats, new introduction of predators, viruses, and a host of other challenges have proven to be just as devastating to all manner of creatures in this continent. One of those creatures being edged out is the rare Cape parrot.

Diminishing Habitats

The Cape parrot is a large bird with a distinct coloration of the head and body. The body is green and the head is yellow. Females have an orange patch on their foreheads. Native to just a few forests of South Africa, there are now estimated to be fewer than 2,000 of these magnificent birds left. The tree of choice for the Cape parrot is the forest’s yellowwood tree, a tall evergreen that supplies both nests and food for the parrots. With this favored tree being systematically harvested, the Cape parrot  is now without a dependable and trusted  resource, thus dwindling its fragile numbers to even more frightening levels. With the additional threat of a viral outbreak known as psittacine beak and feather disease (PBFD), little is on the birds’ side in the ability to help them survive the ecological and man-made assaults that could mean their eventual extinction in the wild.

Deforestation is guilty. But nature is as well. The Cape parrot has a natural predator in the sparrow hawk. Of course, we cannot deflect the instincts of the hawk to prevent the killing of the parrot, we can help to avoid man-created faults like curtailing, if not completely eliminating the deforestation of the yellowwood tree, coveted for its use to create furniture. Additionally, poaching these birds for easy money on the trade routes contribute to their near-extinct status. Unfortunately, education and a healthy dose of respect for the Cape parrot is in short supply among the poor of the region, where it’s said that even the children will bring down the birds to sell.

There are goals being set by conservationists and those who are especially aware of the plight of the Cape parrot. It is necessary to conserve some of the country’s native yellowwood trees for these birds. The hope is that soon, a government-protected reserve can be established to assist the Cape parrot in its need to breed and strengthen its numbers enough to give the bird a fighting chance at survival. The one agency established to assist the Cape parrot is the Cape Parrot Project.

As the name of the organization suggests, the protection of the Cape parrot is the project’s sole cause of existence. Administered by the Wild Bird Trust, this organization hopes to help reforest areas of the habitat for the bird, as well as to act as a forum for public awareness. The CCP actively oversees the development and upkeep of yellowwood nurseries to assist toward reforestation.

The Facebook page of the CPP posts photos of the birds as they’re photographed in the wild. You will also find a lively engagement of discussion as well. For readers, you can help in this cause by donating to the Cape Parrot Project by way of the Wild Bird Trust website (here). As with hope, every little bit helps to bring our world closer to a self-sustaining arboretum of safety.

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