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Mauritiana
(Mauritius) Echo Parakeet
Perruche de Maurice - Gro kato ver
Psittacula echo

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/Images/pixel.gif" . . . .
 Mauritius Echo Parakeet
Echo Parakeet - Psittacula eques echo
Young Echo Parakeet - Photograph © Peter M.C. Werner
 
 

 Description

Scientific Name

Psittacula echo

English Name

Mauritius Parakeet

Alias English Name

Echo Parakeet

French Name

Perruche de Maurice

Creole Name

Gro Kato ver

German Name

Echosittich, Mauritius Halsbandsittich

Dutch Name

Mauritius Parkiet, Echo Parkiet

Habitat

Geographic Range

Mauritius

First Description

A. Newton & E. Newton, 1876

CITES Status

I - Protected

   

 Classification

Kingdom
Phylum
Sub phylum
Class
Order
Family
Genus
Species

Animalia
Chordata
Vertebrata
Aves
Psittaciformes
Psittacidae
Psittacula
Psittacula echo

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.

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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 is scarce.

Young Echo Parakeets - Psittacula eques echo
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 two months.

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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 tree holes.

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.

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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

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Description: 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.

Female 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 black.

Immatures as female, but with shorter tail-feathers.

Length: 42 cm, wing length 175 - 190 mm, tail length 162 - 200 mm.

Distribution: Mauritius, perhaps formerly on Réunion as well.

Habitat: Today restricted to Macchab; forest of Black River George in southwestern Mauritius over 500 m; formerly in all forested parts of island.

Status: 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.

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Behaviour: 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.

Call: Call disyllabic.

Natural diet: Buds, leaves, young shoots, fruits, seeds, flowers, bark and sap; fruit proportion 93% from January to August.

Nesting: 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.

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Aviculture: 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.

Diet: Various fruit, seeds of local plants, buds and leaves, small seed mix of safflower, millet, hemp, oats and canary grass; millet spray.

Clutch: 2 - 3 eggs.

Incubation: 22 -24 days.

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Endemic Birds

Echo Parakeet

 

The Captive Breeding Program

Kestrel
Pink Pigeon
Mauritius Fody
Paradise Flycatcher
Cuckoo Shrike
Grey White-Eye
Olive White-eye
Black Bulbul

Rodrigues Warbler
Yellow Fody

   
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.

Sites

 

Macchabee-Bel Ombre Nature Reserve
Macchabee Forest Road
Gerald Durrell Endemic Wildlife Sanctuary

   
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References

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.

Groombridge, J. J., Jones, C. G., Nichols, R. A., Carlton, M. and Bruford, M. W. (in press). Molecular phylogeny and morphological change in the Psittacula parakeets. Molecular Phylogenetics & Evolution


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Links

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Earth endangered creatures
Wildlife Preservation Trust Canada
Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust
Mauritius Wildlife Foundation
APN Arbeitsgemeinschaft Papageien-Netzwerk
World Parrot Trust


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Acknowledgements

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My thanks go to Mr. Vikash Tatayah of the Mauritius Wildlife Foundation for letting me have access to the Conservation Area where I was able to take photographs of the endemic birds held at the Black River aviaries.

I thank particularly Mrs. Frédérique Koenig, Aviararies Manager, who was a helpful, friendly and competent guide.

Peter M.C. Werner
February 2004



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