Cape Parrots

Every year, for the past 20 years, volunteers spend chilly early mornings and evenings watching out for Cape Parrots.

In 2017 the Cape Parrot Big Birding Day takes place on the afternoon of the 6th and morning of the 7th May.

Flocks of Cape Parrots (Poicephalus robustus) are a regular sighting in the Midlands as they fly between indigenous forest patches in search of food, squawking loudly. There are between 1000 and 1500 birds left in the wild and they are listed as Critically Endangered.

Cape Parrot - D. Clulow - MBR
Cape Parrot eating pecan nuts by David Clulow

The birds are bright green, about 30cm tall and weigh around 300grams.  Their large, unmistakable beak helps them break open the pods and seeds that they eat.  Dead Yellowwood trees are their favourite nesting sites and they hatch between two and four chicks in a good breeding season.

Cape Parrots face numerous threats including habitat destruction and especially, the removal of dead trees from the mist-belt forests.  They have adapted their diet to include a range of commercially produced fruit and seed as their preferred food sources become unavailable. This makes them susceptible to malnutrition and disease.  Unfortunately, they are also captured and sold to the pet trade.  Cape Parrots can live for up to 60 years.

cape parrots pecan
Cape Parrot by David Clulow

Do join enthusiasts and scientists to count and monitor the birds in an effort to conserve them, this Autumn.  Contact Sally at to join in.

Professor Colleen Downs co-ordinates the Cape Parrot Working Group Cape. She is so grateful to the enthusiasts and citizen scientists who turnout each year to assist with this important conservation exercise.

Colleen’s Tips for Spotters:

“Parrots are usually active in the early morning (around sunrise especially so you need to get out there before day break) and late afternoon until dark. This year the count is particularly important to determine if the effects of the beak and feather disease are wide spread and if numbers have declined. Cape Parrots make inter-forest movements and because of their distinct piercing call while flying are easy to spot on these inter-forest flights. Cape Parrots at a distance can be confused with African Olive (Rameron) Pigeons. However, Cape Parrots usually call in flight thereby making this sort of identification virtually impossible.  All adult birds have orange on the shoulder (bend of wing) and ankles (tibia), while females have orange on the forehead. Males usually lack orange on the forehead, but there are exceptions where a small amount of orange is present, usually only visible at very close quarters. Juveniles have orange only on the forehead, and absence of orange on the ankles and wing. The head and neck are also slightly darker in juveniles and these birds often solicit food from their parents. If you observe Cape Parrots feeding, please try and identify the tree species. If the birds are active near your post and you are able to watch the behaviour of the birds, please record these including types of calls, allopreening behaviour, aggressive behaviour, wing displays and anything else you may find interesting or unusual eg. birds with yellow feathers or “bald” birds.”

Cape Parrot. cropped
Cape Parrot by Katie Robinson

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