The Cape Parrot is endemic to South Africa and is only found in the afromontane yellowwood forests found in KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern Cape and Limpopo. These trees are utilised by the Cape Parrot for food and nesting sites, but due to habitat destruction, these forests are becoming more and more fragmented, leaving the parrot with less and less place to live.
Habitat loss, illegal trade, as well as diseases, are also taking their toll on the Cape Parrot, and populations are declining. The parrots are intelligent and gentle, making for good pets and this has led to them being sold on the black market as pets.
In June 2013, an impressive flock of about 120 airborne Cape Parrots were spotted, an amount that is highly unusually due to the species being classified as critically endangered. The flock, after gliding through the air, landed to join another incredible amount of 90 parrots occupying an orchard.
A Cape Parrot Big Birding Day takes place each year in May, when volunteers count the numbers of these parrots at certain sites in the three provinces where they occur. These counts have been taking place since 1997, and are helping to form a good picture of the conservation status of these birds, as monitored by the University of KZN.
The 2014 Cape Parrot Big Birding Day, organized by Professor Colleen Downs from UKZN's School of Life Sciences, had proved to be a huge success. "This year at least 260 volunteers were posted at 98 localities in the three provinces," said Downs. The afternoon count had resulted in a total of 1 166 bird sightings while the following morning had seen 1 176 of the rare parrots.
The Phalaborwa Bird Club arranges for volunteers to visit Magoebaskloof, to assist with this monitoring programme. Club members and other interested birders from the area brave misty mornings and wet wintry evenings of the mountains to scan the horizon for even a glimpse of these rare birds.
In 2009, the Cape Parrot Project was launched by The Wild Bird Trust, Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology and the World Parrot Trust. The project aims to safeguard the species that is on the decline in South Africa. Part of the project involves growing large numbers of yellowwoods to create protected areas for the parrots to habituate.
The Wild Bird Trust
Too Much Too Many
University of KwaZulu-Natal