Once one of the world's most endangered birds, the Mauritius
Echo Parakeet population in 1990 was reduced to a about
12 birds but Carl Jones and his team (Mauritius
Wildlife Foundation) were then beginning a programme
that has now raised numbers to over 100 and have helped
improve the habitat in the process.
The Echo Parakeet has dark green plumage with a black collar.
Males have a red beak whereas females and juveniles have
black beaks. It is arboreal, usually found in upper tree
branches. Feeding during the day, it mainly eats fruit and
flowers, supplemented by leaves, seeds, buds, shoots, twigs,
and bark; more leaves are eaten in the winter when fruit
|Young Echo Parakeets - Photograph
© Peter M.C. Werner
Breeding usually takes place between September and February.
Clutch size is two to four, although two young are usually
raised. After fledging, the young remain dependent for around
The Mauritius parakeet primarily inhabits native upland
forest and scrublands (dwarf forest); it also occurs in
areas of native lowland and middle-altitude forest. It roosts
in sheltered areas, including hillsides and ravines, and
spends most of its time in dense, mature stands of trees.
Remaining birds center their activities on the Macabe ridge
and favor some of the largest native trees left on Mauritius.
Nests are located at least 32 feet up in rain-sheltered
In the 1700s and early 1800s, this parakeet was apparently
very common on Mauritius. Between the 1870s and 1900s, the
population was noted to be gradually falling, and, by the
1950s, it was considered very close to extinction. Surveys
in the early 1970s estimated the population at 50 to 60
birds and reported very limited nesting success. Initial
population on Reunion is unknown, but the parakeet was probably
extinct there before 1800.
The reasons for the extinction of this bird on the island
of Reunion are not fully known, but hunting pressure is
thought to have been a factor, aggravated by clearing of
the native lowland forest. A number of factors have been
implicated in the decline of the parakeet on Mauritius.
The single most critical factor is habitat loss; clearance
in 1971 to 1974 of half of the upland dwarf forest at Les
Mares on Plaine Champagne for plantation forestry was probably
responsible for the drastic decline of the species. Nest
predation by monkeys was also thought to have been a factor,
but even when this problem was controlled, the bird's reproductive
success remained poor. Competition for nest sites from introduced
birds such as the ring-necked parakeet (Psittacula krameri)
and the Indian mynah (Acridotheres tristis) is thought
to be a problem, but to what extent is unknown. Food shortages
at the end of winter are attributed to the gradual degradation
of native forest and to competition for and destruction
of fruit by black rats and monkeys.
In 1974 remaining native forest habitat received almost
complete protection when the Macabe-Bel Ombre Nature Reserve
was created by linking a number of smaller reserves.
Captive breeding attempts were begun in the 1970s, but
without success. The first two captive-bred parakeets were
born in 1993. In the 1999/2000 wild Season, the program
became a full success with 19 captive-bred parakeets released.
Captive Breeding Program
Green; back of head to side of cheek area suffused with
blue; broad cheek-stripe to side of nape and narrow line
from cere to eye black; collar to side of nape pink; abdomen
and under wing-coverts slightly brighter green; upperside
of tail-feathers green, underside dirty yellow; upper mandible
red; lower mandible black; iris yellowish; feet grey.
with dark green stripe to cheek and without pink band to
nape; yellow-green collar; blue tinge to back of head absent;
middle tail-feathers washed with blue; upper and lower mandible
as female, but with shorter tail-feathers.
42 cm, wing length 175 - 190 mm, tail length 162 - 200 mm.
Mauritius, perhaps formerly on Réunion as well.
Today restricted to Macchab; forest of Black River George
in southwestern Mauritius over 500 m; formerly in all forested
parts of island.
Extremely endangered; population in 1991 was some 15 to
20 birds, of which only three were female; cause is clearing
of virgin forest; also introduced plants and animals such
as pigs, deer, monkeys, rats, mynah birds and Ring-necked
Parakeets, which destroy habitat or compete for food.
Found singly, in pairs or small groups; never comes down
to ground; trusting; can be approached as close as 3 m;
flies several kilometres in search of food; rests at midday
and preens feathers; at this time occasionally gathers on
tall trees; mutual feeding, preening, billing and cooing
has been observed throughout year; shortly before dusk they
fly around in group; then noisy and unsettled; roosts at
night in secluded trees with thick foliage; also roosts
occasionally in tree hollows; call disyllabic.
diet: Buds, leaves, young shoots, fruits, seeds, flowers,
bark and sap; fruit proportion 93% from January to August.
Breeding season from August to January; copulation mostly
observed September and October; pairs have fixed territories;
nonetheless little squabbling or disputes between pairs
when they meet; courtship display similar to Ring-necked
Parakeet (Psittacula krameri); nests in tall, dominating
trees; prefers Calophyllum, Canarium, Mimusops and Sideroxylon;
nest located mostly in horizontal branches; entrance hole
10 to 15 cm and sheltered from rain water; chamber usually
20 cm wide and 50 cm deep; clutch 2 to 3 eggs; incubation
22 to 24 days; young initially fed by male; female also
forages for food for young from third week; young fledge
by end of February at latest; remain two or three months
with parents; assistance from unpartnered male also possible.
In captivity, breeding results until 1993 were poor primarily
due to poorly understood dietary requirements and disease.
Since then captive breeding results have improved dramatically.
Not only are the birds breeding in captivity, but selected
wild eggs are pulled from the wild (the parakeets will lay
a second clutch) as a method of increasing productivity.
Various fruit, seeds of local plants, buds and leaves, small
seed mix of safflower, millet, hemp, oats and canary grass;
2 - 3 eggs.
22 -24 days.