Quaker Parrot or Parakeet - Myiopsitta Monachus - Least Concern
The Quaker Parrot (Myiopsitta monachus), also known as the Monk Parakeet, is a species of true parrot in the family Psittacidae. It is a small, bright-green parrot with a greyish breast and greenish-yellow abdomen. Its average lifespan is 20–30 years. It originates from the temperate to subtropical areas of Argentina and the surrounding countries in South America. Self-sustaining feral populations occur in many places, mainly in North America and Europe.
Systematics and taxonomy: The monk parakeet is one of two species in the genus Myiopsitta, the other being the cliff parakeet (Myiopsitta luchsi). The two parakeets were previously considered to be a single species. However, due to morphological and behavioral differences, as well as dissimilarities geographically, the cliff parakeet has been elevated to species status by Josep del Hoyo, the editor of the Handbook of the Birds of the World. Other taxonomic systems still recognize them as a single species. The cliff parakeet's altitudinal range apparently does not overlap, and that it is thus entirely, but just barely, allopatric. The American Ornithological Society has deferred recognizing the cliff parakeet as distinct "because of insufficient published data".
Three subspecies are recognized:
Myiopsitta monachus monachus - Argentina from southeastern Santiago del Estero Province throughout the Río Salado and lower Paraná basins to Buenos Aires Province and Uruguay. It is the largest subspecies
Myiopsitta monachus calita - Andean foothills up to 1,000 m ASL, from southeastern Bolivia (Santa Cruz and Tarija departments) to Paraguay and northwestern Argentina, then west of the range of monachus, extending into the lowlands again in Río Negro and possibly Chubut provinces. Smaller than monachus, wings more prominently blue, gray of head darker.
Myiopsitta monachus cotorra - Southwestern Brazil throughout the Río Paraguay and middle Paraná basins as well as the Gran Chaco. Essentially identical to calita but reported as less yellow below and brighter overall.
The subspecies' ranges meet in the general area of Paraguay, and there they are insufficiently delimited. The distinctness and delimitation of M. m. calita and M. m. cotorra especially require further study.
Like the other neotropical parrots, the monk parakeet is usually placed in the tribe Arini, which might warrant elevation to subfamily rank as the Arinae. M. monachus belongs to the long-tailed clade of these – macaws and conures, essentially, which would retain the name Arini/Arinae if this polyphyletic group were split.
Description: The nominate subspecies of this parakeet is 29 cm (11 in) long on average, with a 48 cm (19 in) wingspan, and weighs 100 g (3.5 oz). Females tend to be 10–20% smaller, but can only be reliably sexed by DNA or feather testing. It has bright-green upperparts. The forehead and breast are pale gray with darker scalloping and the rest of the underparts are very light-green to yellow. The remiges are dark blue, and the tail is long and tapering. The bill is orange. The call is a loud and throaty chape(-yee) or quak quaki quak-wi quarr, and screeches skveet.
Domestic breeds in colors other than the natural plumage have been produced. These include birds with white, blue, yellow, and grey in place of green. As such coloration provides less camouflage, feral birds are usually of wild-type coloration.
Ecology and behavior: The monk parakeet is the only parrot that builds a stick nest, in a tree or on a man-made structure, rather than using a hole in a tree. This gregarious species often breeds colonially, building a single large nest with separate entrances for each pair. In the wild, the colonies can become quite large, with pairs occupying separate "apartments" in nests that can reach the size of a small automobile. These nests can attract many other tenants including birds of prey such as the spot-winged falconet (Spiziapteryx circumcincta), ducks such as the yellow-billed teal (Anas flavirostris), and even mammals. Their five to 12 white eggs hatch in about 24 days.
Unusually for a parrot, monk parakeet pairs occasionally have helper individuals, often grown offspring, which assist with feeding the young (see kin selection).
The lifespan of monk parakeets has been given as 15–20 years[ or as much as 25–30 years; the former might refer to typical lifespans in captivity and/or in the wild, while the latter is in the range of maximum lifespans recorded for parakeets.
Distribution: The monk parakeet is globally very common. n Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay, monk parakeets are regarded as major agricultural pests (as noted by Charles Darwin, among others). Their population explosion in South American rural areas seems to be associated with the expansion of eucalyptus forestry for paper pulp production, which offers the bird the opportunity to build protected nests in artificial forests where ecological competition from other species is limited.
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Page last updated: 1/1/2320