The Cape Parrot is the only parrot endemic to South Africa. Two disjunct populations, with less than 650 individuals, exist in the country and in the Yellowwood forests of the Eastern Cape. They are found in indigenous forest patches of the Eastern Cape, KZN and Limpopo Provinces. There are no Cape Parrots in Mpumalanga.
A mature Cape Parrot stands 30cm high and can weigh up to 350g. Like all parrots, it has a robust beak that is used to crack open nuts and seeds. The favoured food are the kernels of the Yellowwood tree and their availability greatly influences seasonal movements of these birds.
The Cape Parrot also feeds on other forest trees, especially the NatalPlum and White Stinkwood.If the indigenous food source is in short supply, the parrots are sometimes forced to feed outside forests and will raid fruit orchards or Pecan Nut Trees. They are active and inquisitive birds that are often seen flying around and above forest patches in the early morning or late afternoon. They have a characteristic loud squawk, usually heard when the birds are in flight or as contact calls between roosting birds.
The Cape Parrot population in Limpopo is estimated to be about 70 birds. It is endangered due to the felling of mature Yellowwood trees, its preferred food and nest site, as well as being traded as pets. The Limpopo population is particularly important, as it is isolated from the rest of the country and has no signs of bird and feather diseases which are present in the Eastern Cape population.
Every year, there is a Cape Parrot Big Birding Day (CPBBD). This annual national census of the Cape Parrot was initiated in 1997, in an effort to establish the number of parrots left in the wild. Groups of volunteer observers are positioned at certain vantage points, throughout the parrots' range, where they record presence or absence, the number of birds, direction of flight and time observed.
Observation takes place from 3-4 hours before sunset untill sunset and again for 3-4 hours from just before first light the following day. Results of neighbouring counts are later compared to prevent duplication and over-estimation of population size. We need to know how many and where they are in order to save them and their forest habitat.
Those interested in helping in the national count every year in May can contact:
Ø Overall count co-ordinator:
Professor Colleen Downs 033-260-5127 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Ø BirdLife South Africa-Cape Parrot Working Group co-ordinator:
Kate Henderson 072-447-4485 or email@example.com