Monday, January 31, 2011

Parakeet roost count

Pacific Parakeets
Last Saturday, I and other members of the Salvadoran branch of Partners in Flight, a local association of bird observers and bird conservationists, counted the parakeets roosting on the grounds of the Universidad Centroamericana José Simeon Cañas ("UCA") in Antiguo Cuscatlán, a neighborhood in San Salvador, the capital of El Salvador.

This roost is visited primarily by two Aratinga species - Pacific Parakeet and Red-throated Parakeet. The former roosts there in the hundreds and hundreds, while the latter is usually encountered as scattered individuals here and there for a total of 10-20 birds. Because the two species are very similar and difficult to distinguish in flight, it is likely that the actual number of Red-throated Parakeets roosting there is a little higher, several tens perhaps.

Red-throated Parakeets
Our count Saturday reached 1,150 Green Parakeets, among which we were able to find at least 12 Red-throated Parakeets. Simultaneously, other observers covered areas nearby, where in the past these parakeets have also roosted. However, it turned out that those roosts were not currently used and that all birds congregated in the main roost in the UCA.

A guard at the UCA told us that he has seen larger species - parrots - among the parakeets. We did not detect any Amazona parrots using the roost, although we did see two pairs of Amazona sp. fly high over the roost a little after 6 PM, when most parakeets had already arrived at our roost. When we arrived at the roost site, we saw a pair of Orange-chinned Parakeets, a much smaller species that does not roost in large groups, but is commonly found throughout the city.

Red-throated Parakeets grooming each other
Within the cacophony of the roost at large, most parakeets are paired off and can be seen perched in duos grooming each other, a very romantic sight.

As I said in the previous post, count results will be shared with parrot researchers at the universities of Leiden and Heidelberg.

Note that taxonomy of the Aratinga genus is still somewhat unclear - at least to me. Some sources consider strenua to be a subspecies of Aratinga holochlora (Green Parakeet), others claim it's a species in its own right (Pacific Parakeet). Some consider Aratinga rubritorquis (Red-throated Parakeet) to be its own species, others claim it is a subspecies of Aratinga holochlora.

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