Emu Emu Society
Journal of BirdLife Australia

Population size, provisioning frequency, flock size and foraging range at the largest known colony of Psittaciformes: the Burrowing Parrots of the north-eastern Patagonian coastal cliffs

Juan F. Masello A B C G , María Luján Pagnossin D , Christina Sommer E and Petra Quillfeldt F

A Institut für Ökologie, Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena, Germany.

B Ecology of Vision Group, School of Biological Sciences, University of Bristol, UK.

C Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, Vogelwarte Radolfzell, Schlossallee 2, D-78315 Radolfzell, Germany.

D Facultad de Ciencias Naturales y Museo, Universidad Nacional de La Plata, La Plata, Argentina.

E Institut für Biologie/Verhaltensbiologie, Freie Universität Berlin, Berlin, Germany.

F School of Biosciences, Cardiff University, UK.

G Corresponding author. Email: masello@orn.mpg.de

Emu 106(1) 69-79 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/MU04047
Submitted: 1 November 2004  Accepted: 10 January 2006   Published: 10 March 2006


We here describe the largest colony of Burrowing Parrots (Cyanoliseus patagonus), located in Patagonia, Argentina. Counts during the 2001–02 breeding season showed that the colony extended along 9 km of a sandstone cliff facing the Altantic Ocean, in the province of Río Negro, Patagonia, Argentina, and contained 51 412 burrows, an estimated 37 527 of which were active. To our knowledge, this is largest known colony of Psittaciformes. Additionally, 6500 Parrots not attending nestlings were found to be associated with the colony during the 2003–04 breeding season. We monitored activities at nests and movements between nesting and feeding areas. Nestlings were fed 3–6 times daily. Adults travelled in flocks of up to 263 Parrots to the feeding grounds in early mornings; later in the day, they flew in smaller flocks, making 1–4 trips to the feeding grounds. Overall, the most frequent flock size was two, indicating that the pair is the basic social unit during the breeding season. The average flight-speed was 36.9 km h–1. Terrestrial and aerial surveys during the 2003–04 and 2004–05 breeding seasons suggest that Burrowing Parrots performed long daily movements in order to feed in the remaining patches of natural vegetation, travelling 58 and 66 km over the two main routes to the feeding areas. The colony is seriously threatened by human activity, and surrounding habitat is being rapidly transformed to agricultural land. Based on the data presented, we recommend monitoring the colony using detailed counts of numbers of nests, the documentation of the extent of the entire colony, together with data on breeding success, nestling growth and feeding rates. The number of non-breeders associated with the colony should be monitored, and as an additional index of abundance, counts from stationary locations should be continued.


Angulo R. J. Casamiquela R. M. 1982 Estudio estratigráfico de las unidades aflorantes en los acantilados de la costa norte del Golfo de San Matías (Río Negro y extremo austral de Buenos Aires) entre los meridianos 62°30 y 64°30W. Mundo Ameghiniano 2 20 73

Beeton R. J. S. 1985 The little corella: a seasonally adapted species. Proceedings of the Ecological Society of Australia 13 53 63

Beltrami M. Naranjo J. Sarmiento C. Ulloa L. Alfaro L. Olguin P. 1995 Reproductive behaviour of Cyanoliseus patagonus byroni in semi-captive conditions. Boletín Museo Nacional de Historia Natural de Chile 45 19 29

Benson C. W., Benson F. M., Stuart S. N., and Fry C. H. (1988). Order Psittaciformes. In ‘The Birds of Africa. Vol. III’. (Eds C. H. Fry, S. Keith and E. K. Urban.) pp. 1–25. (Academic Press: London.)

Boussekey M. Saint-Pie J. Morovan O. 1991 Observations on a population of red-fronted macaws Ara rubrogenys in the Río Caine valley, central Bolivia. Bird Conservation International 1 335 350

Brandt A. Machado R. B. 1990 Área de alimentação e comportamento alimentar de Anodorhyncus leari. Ararajuba 1 57 63

Brereton J. le G. (1971). A self-regulation to density-independent continuum in Australian parrots, and its implication for ecological management. In ‘The Scientific Management of Animal and Plant Communities for Conservation’. (Eds E. Duffey and A. S. Watt.) pp. 207–221. (Blackwell: Oxford, UK.)

Bucher E. H. (1992). Neotropical parrots as agricultural pests. In: ‘New World Parrots in Crisis: Solutions From Conservation Biology’. (Eds S. R. Beissinger and N. F. R. Snyder.) pp. 201–219. (Smithsonian Institution Press: New York and London.)

Bucher E. H. Rinaldi S. 1986 Distribución y situación actual del loro barranquero (Cyanoliseus patagonus) en la Argentina. Vida Silvestre Neotropical 1 55 61

Bucher E. H. Rodríguez E. N. 1986 Sobre la presencia del loro barranquero (Cyanoliseus patagonus) en el Uruguay. Hornero 12 303 304

Bucher E. H. Bertin M. A. Santamaria A. B. 1987 Reproduction and molt in the burrowing parrot. Wilson Bulletin 99 107 109

Cabrera A. L. 1971 Fitogeografía de la República Argentina. Boletín de la Sociedad Argentina de Botánica 14 1 42

Cannon C. E. 1984 Flock size of feeding Eastern and Pale-headed Rosellas (Aves: Psittaciformes). Australian Wildlife Research 11 349 355

Chapman C. A. Chapman L. J. Lefebvre L. 1989 Variability in parrot flock size: possible functions of communal roosts. Condor 91 842 847

Chapman C. A. Chapman L. J. Wrangham R. 1993 Observations on the feeding biology and population ecology of the grey parrot Psittacus erithacus. Scopus 16 89 93

Cook J. M. Haslam J. L. Matterson C. Sears H. Wicks C. P. 1984 The status and feeding ecology of the Jamaican amazon parrots: Amazona collaria (Yellow-billed Amazon) and Amazona agilis (Black-billed Amazon). Parrot Society Magazine 18 225 241

de la Vega S. G. (2003). ‘Patagonia, las Leyes de la Estepa.’ (Contacto Silvestre Ediciones: Buenos Aires.)

Duarte da Rocha C. F. de Godoy Bergallo H. Siciliano S. 1988 Migração circadiana em cinco espécies de psitacídeos em Parintins– AM. Acta Amazonica 18 371 374

Emison W. B. Nicholls D. G. 1992 Notes on the feeding patterns of the Long-billed Corella, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo and Galah in southeastern Australia. South Australian Ornithologist 31 117 121

Emison W. B. Beardsell C. M. Temby I. D. 1994 The biology and status of the long-billed corella in Australia. Proceedings of the Western Foundation of Vertebrate Zoology 5 211 247

Forshaw J. M. (1978). ‘Parrots of the World.’ (David & Charles: London.)

Forshaw J. M. (1989). ‘Parrots of the World.’ (Lansdowne: Sydney.)

Gilardi J. D. Munn C. A. 1998 Patterns of activity, flocking, and habitat use in parrots of the Peruvian Amazon. Condor 100 641 653

Grilli P. (2005). El estado de las poblaciones del loro barranquero (Cyanoliseus patagonus) en la provincia de Buenos Aires, Argentina y consideraciones sobre su manejo. Primera etapa. In ‘Libro de Resúmenes. XI Reunión Argentina De Ornitología’. pp. 112. (Aves Argentinas: Buenos Aires.)

Guix J. C. Jover L. Ruiz X. 1997 Muestreos del comercio de psitácidos neotropicales en la ciudad de Barcelona, España: 1991–1996. Ararajuba 5 159 167

Hampe A. 1998 Field studies on the black parrot Coracopsis nigra in western Madagascar. Bulletin of the African Bird Club 5 108 113

Hardy J. W. 1965 Flock social behavior of the orange-fronted parakeet. Condor 67 140 156

Harris G. (1998). ‘A Guide to the Birds and Mammals of Coastal Patagonia.’ (Princeton University Press: Princeton, NJ.)

Krebs E. A. Cunningham R. B. Donnelly C. F. 1999 Complex patterns of food allocation in asynchronously hatching broods of crimson rosellas. Animal Behaviour 57 753 763

Loyn R. H. Lane B. A. Chandler C. Carr G. W. 1986 Ecology of Orange-bellied Parrots Neophema chrysogaster at their main remnant wintering site. Emu 86 195 206

Masello J. F. Quillfeldt P. 2002 Chick growth and breeding success of the Burrowing Parrot. Condor 104 574 586

Masello J. F. Quillfeldt P. 2003 a Body size, body condition and ornamental feathers of Burrowing Parrots: variation between years and sexes, assortative mating and influences on breeding success. Emu 103 149 161

Masello J. F. Quillfeldt P. 2003 b The breeding colony of Burrowing Parrots at El Cóndor, Río Negro, Patagonia, Argentina. PsittaScene 15 4 12 13

Masello J. F. Quillfeldt P. 2004 a Are haematological parameters related to body condition, ornamentation and breeding success in wild burrowing parrots Cyanoliseus patagonus? Journal of Avian Biology 35 445 454

Masello J. F. Quillfeldt P. 2004 b Consequences of La Niña phase of ENSO for the survival and growth of nestling Burrowing Parrots on the Atlantic coast of South America. Emu 104 337 346 DOI

Masello J. F. Quillfeldt P. 2004 c Burrowing Parrots news from El Cóndor, Patagonia, Argentina. PsittaScene 16 2 7 9

Masello J. F. Pagnossin G. A. Palleiro G. E. Quillfeldt P. 2001 Use of miniature security cameras to record behaviour of burrow-nesting birds. Die Vogelwarte 41 150 154

Masello J. F. Sramkova A. Quillfeldt P. Epplen J. T. Lubjuhn T. 2002 Genetic monogamy in burrowing parrots Cyanoliseus patagonus? Journal of Avian Biology 33 99 103

Masello J. F. Pagnossin M. L. Lubjuhn T. Quillfeldt P. 2004 Ornamental non-carotenoid red feathers of wild Burrowing Parrots. Ecological Research 19 421 432 DOI

Pezzola A., Winschel C., and Sánchez R. (2004). Estudio multitemporal de la degradación del monte nativo en el partido de Patagones – Buenos Aires. Boletín Técnico No. 12, pp. 1–11. Ediciones Instituto Nacional de Tecnología Agropecuaria, Ascasubi, Buenos Aires.

Pitter E. Christiansen M. B. 1995 Ecology, status and conservation of the red-fronted macaw Ara rubrogenys. Bird Conservation International 5 61 78

Pizo M. A. Simão I. Galetti M. 1995 Diet and flock size of sympatric parrots in the Atlantic forests of Brazil. Ornitologia Neotropical 6 87 95

Pizo M. A. Simão I. Galetti M. 1997 Daily variation in activity and flock size of two parakeet species from southeastern Brazil. Wilson Bulletin 109 343 348

Renton K. Salinas Melgoza A. 1999 Nesting behavior of the lilac-crowned parrot. Wilson Bulletin 111 488 493

Rinke D. 1989 The reproductive biology of the red shining parrot Prosopeia tabuensis on the island of ′Eua, Kingdom of Tonga. Ibis 131 238 249

Roth P. 1984 Repartição do habitat entre psitacídeos simpátricos no sul da Amazônia. Acta Amazonica 14 175 221

Rowley I. (1990). ‘Behavioural Ecology of the Galah Eolophus roseicapillus in the Wheatbelt of Western Australia.’ (Surry Beatty: Sydney.)

Rowley I. Chapman G. 1991 The breeding biology, food, social organisation, demography and conservation of the Major Mitchell or pink cockatoo, Cacatua leadbeateri, on the margin of the Western Australia wheat-belt. Australian Journal of Zoology 39 211 261

Siegel R. B. Weathers W. W. Beissinger S. R. 1999 Assessing parental effort in a Neotropical parrot: a comparison of methods. Animal Behaviour 57 73 79 DOI

Skead C. J. 1964 The overland flights and the feeding habits of the Cape parrot Poicephalus robustus (Gmelin) in the eastern Cape Province. Ostrich 35 202 232

Snyder N., McGowan P., Gilardi J., and Grajal A. (2000). ‘Parrots. Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan 2000–2004.’ (IUCN: Gland, Switzerland, and Cambridge, UK.)

Toyne E. P. Flanagan J. N. M. 1997 Observations on the breeding biology, diet and behaviour of Red-faced Parrot Hapalopsittaca pyrrhops in southern Ecuador. Bulletin of the British Ornithologists’ Club 117 257 263

Waltman J. R. Beissinger S. R. 1992 Breeding behaviour of the green-rumped parrotlet. Wilson Bulletin 104 65 84

Wermundsen T. 1998 Colony breeding of the Pacific Parakeet Aratinga strenua Ridgway 1915 in the Volcan Masaya National Park, Nicaragua. Tropical Zoology 11 241 248

Westcott D. A. Cockburn A. 1988 Flock size and vigilance in parrots. Australian Journal of Zoology 36 335 349

Wilson K.-J. 1993 Observations of the Kurämoó Vini peruviana on Aitutaki Island, Cook Islands. Notornis 40 71 75

Wirminghaus J. O. Downs C. T. Symes C. T. Perrin M. R. 2000 Abundance of the Cape Parrot in South Africa. South African Journal of Wildlife Research 30 43 52

Wirminghaus J. O. Downs C. T. Perrin M. R. Symes C. T. 2001 Abundance and activity patterns of the Cape Parrot (Poicephalus robustus) in two afromontane forests in South Africa. African Zoology 36 71 77

Wright T. F. Toft C. A. Enkerlin-Hoeflich E. González-Elizondo J. Albornoz M. Rodríguez-Ferraro A. Rojas-Suárez F. Sanz V. Trujillo A. Beissinger S. R. Berovides A. V. Gálvez A. X. Brice A. T. Joyner K. Eberhard J. Gilardi J. Koenig S. E. Stoleson S. Martuscelli P. Meyers J. M. Renton K. Rodríguez A. M. Sosa-Asanza A. C. Vilella F. J. Wiley J. W. 2001 Nest poaching in Neotropical parrots. Conservation Biology 15 710 720

Wyndham E. 1980 Diurnal cycle, behaviour and social organization of the Budgerigar Melopsittacus undulatus. Emu 80 25 33

Yorio P. and Harris G. (1997). Distribución de aves marinas y costeras coloniales en Patagonia: relevamiento aéreo Bahía Blanca–Cabo Vírgenes, noviembre 1990. Informes Técnicos del Plan de Manejo Integrado de la Zona Costera Patagónica No. 29.

Export Citation