Aratinga guarouba (also Guarouba guarouba)
status: Endangered, IUCN Endangered, ESA
Description and biology
Parakeets belong to the parrot family: they are, in fact, small parrots. The golden parakeet, also known as the golden conure, has a distinctive yellow-and-green plumage (covering of feathers). Because these colors are the same as those making up the national flag of Brazil, some Brazilians believe the golden parakeet should be adopted as the national bird.
This parakeet forages in the treetops for fruits, berries, seeds, and nuts. It also feeds on some farm crops, especially corn. Depending upon its environment, the bird faces different predators. Toucans prey on the golden parakeet's eggs and young in clearings. In the forest, monkeys and snakes are its main predators.
The golden parakeet is a very social creature. It roosts (rests or sleeps) with up to 9 fellow parakeets in a single tree hole.
When moving between roosting and feeding areas, the birds move in flocks of up to 30. Breeding season lasts between December and April. Females in a group all lay their eggs—2 to 3 apiece—in a single nest located in the cavity of an isolated tree 50 to 100 feet (15 to 30 meters) tall. The cavity is usually in the highest part of the trunk or in a high, thick branch. Both males and females incubate (sit on or brood) the eggs for about 30 days. They also share in raising the young after the nestlings have hatched.
Habitat and current distribution
The range of the golden parakeet in northern Brazil extends from the northwestern part of the state of Maranhao west through the state of Pará. Scientists have recently discovered a small population in the western Brazilian state of Rondônia. This has led them to believe that the bird may have expanded its historic range. No estimates of the golden parakeet's total population size currently exist.
The golden parakeet prefers to inhabit tropical rain forests. During breeding season, it seeks out cleared areas with isolated trees near forests.
History and conservation measures
Scientists have long considered the golden parakeet rare. Where good forest remains, the bird may still be seen regularly. Nonetheless, the overall number of golden parakeets has declined sharply.
Habitat destruction is the primary threat to the golden parakeet. Wanton (merciless) clearing of the tropical forest to build roads and settlements has destroyed much of the bird's habitat in Maranhao. Major development projects such as railroad construction, lumbering, cattle ranching, and gold mining have also contributed to the decline of its habitat.
Another serious threat to the golden parakeet is illegal capture. It is among the most highly prized birds in the world, selling to collectors for more than $15,000. Despite legal protection, the golden parakeet is still smuggled within Brazil and around the world. In addition to live capture, the bird is hunted for food or sport and is killed because it eats corn crops.
The only nature reserve currently in the golden parakeet's western range is the Tapajós (Amazonia) National Park in Pará. Further areas in its range must be protected and managed so the golden parakeet can survive and breed.