Conservation

Parrots Among Most-Threatened Bird Groups

Polly doesn’t want a cracker, he wants a future.

Parrots have it all—sharp wit, rich (albeit sometimes naughty) vocabulary, and dramatic plumage...it’s no wonder they’ve made bird lovers swoon for centuries. Unfortunately, their celebrity status has made them a favorite in the wildlife trade, and it’s catching up to them. Poaching, along with rapid habitat loss from logging, agriculture, and urban sprawl, has put these rockstar birds on a turbulent path towards extinction.

A new study published in Biodiversity Conservation found that more than half of all parrot species are in precipitous decline, with 28 percent already listed as globally threatened. Their large size, nesting habits, and small pockets of distribution make parrots more vulnerable to human-caused impacts and, in turn, exposes them to a higher rate of extinction than similar bird groups, including seabirds and raptors.

Scientists identified 10 countries across three continents where the threat of extinction is particularly imminent—specifically, places primarily in Africa, a swath of Southeast Asia and Oceania, and South America, and on a country level, in Australia, Indonesia, and Brazil. The study calls on environmental groups and governments to heed habitat conservation efforts, increase public awareness, and implement stricter protections to save the world’s remaining parrots. For some species, the warning bells may have rung too late. Earlier this year new data revealed that the ever chatty African Grey Parrot, a bird saturating the pet trade, has all but disappeared from its native Ghana as a result of deforestation and illegal poaching.

For a deeper look at some of the causes ransacking parrot populations, especially in the Neotropics, check out Plundering Eden: Wildlife Trafficking in Latin America, a deeply reported three-part series chronicling the overwhelming odds stacked against the region’s parrots and other native species.

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