email a friend
printable version
Yellow-eared Parrot Ognorhynchus icterotis
BirdLife Species Champion Become a BirdLife Preventing Extinctions Programme Supporter
BirdLife Species Guardian Fundación ProAves
For information about BirdLife Species Champions and Species Guardians visit the BirdLife Preventing Extinctions Programme.

This species is classified as Endangered because the known population of mature individuals is extremely small; however, intensive conservation action has stabilised its current range and resulted in a population increase. If the number of mature individuals continues to increase the species may be downlisted in the future.

Taxonomic source(s)
SACC. 2006. A classification of the bird species of South America. Available at:
Sibley, C. G.; Monroe, B. L. 1990. Distribution and taxonomy of birds of the world. Yale University Press, New Haven, USA.
Stotz, D. F.; Fitzpatrick, J. W.; Parker, T. A.; Moskovits, D. K. 1996. Neotropical birds: ecology and conservation. University of Chicago Press, Chicago.

42 cm. Macaw-like, yellow-and-green parrot. Green with large yellow ear-patches and frontal band, green throat and predominantly yellow underparts. Dark, heavy bill. Similar spp. Red-fronted Parakeet Aratinga wagleri is smaller and lacks yellow on the head. Golden-plumed Parakeet Leptosittaca branickii has much less yellow on sides of head and a smaller, paler bill. Voice Disyllabic, goose-like calls.

Distribution and population
Ognorhynchus icterotis formerly occurred in all three Andean ranges of Colombia, from Norte de Santander and Antioquia to Nariño and in north-western Ecuador, south to Cotopaxi. It persists in the Central Andes of Colombia (Krabbe 1998, López-Lanús et al. 1998, Salaman et al. 1999a), although its whereabouts for much of the year are unknown (Krabbe and Sornoza 1996, Salaman et al. 1999a). Once common to abundant, it is now potentially extinct in Ecuador (M. Sanchez in litt. 2013): although there have been unconfirmed reports of flocks of c.20 individuals in the Intag valley since 2000 (O. Jahn in litt. 2007), searches in 2008 in the last confirmed strongholds in Imbabura and Carchi failed to find the species (Anon. 2010). When re-discovered in Colombia in 1999 there were estimated to be only 81 birds, but intensive conservation actions have since seen the population dramatically recover. In 2004, the population reached a peak of 660 individuals (Salaman et al. 2006), although the population declined in 2005 and 2006 to 554 birds, thought to be caused by individuals leaving to start satellite populations which subsequently failed to establish. However, the population has continued to increase since, and in 2009 was recorded at over 1,000 individuals, with three separate breeding populations on the slopes of the Western, Central and Eastern Cordilleras. New locations have recently been reported, e.g. Apia, Tatamá and San Pedro de los Milagros (O. Cortes in litt. 2013, T. Donegan in litt. 2013, J. P. Lopez O. in litt. 2013); however, many of these observations are likely to be of recent colonisers and fly-overs by dispersing birds (T. Donegan in litt. 2013). A population at San Luis de Cubarral is estimated at c.84 individuals and is thought to have been in the area for over 30 years, based on the observations of local villagers (A. Murcia Nova in litt. 2013). Although breeding success is good, the species's breeding requirements and highly fragmented habitat will continue to challenge its recovery (Fundación ProAves in litt. 2010).

Population justification
The current population is thought to comprise 1,103 individuals. However, a maximum of only 212 individuals have bred in recent years (Fundacion ProAves in litt. 2010), hence this figure is used for the current population of mature individuals. The rest of the population is precautionarily assumed to be too young to breed.

Trend justification
Due to intensive conservation action the population has increased from 81 individuals to 1,103 individuals in 2009, of which 212 are mature (Fundación ProAves in litt. 2010).

It inhabits humid montane forest, elfin forest and partially cleared terrain at 1,200-3,400 m, favouring areas dominated by wax palms Ceroxylon quindiuense, in which it roosts, nests and feeds (Juniper and Parr 1998, Krabbe 1998, Salaman et al. 1999a, P. G. W. Salaman in litt. 1999). Although currently resident at one site (López-Lanús et al. 1998, Salaman et al. 1999b), other flocks wander seasonally in search of food (bark, buds and fruiting/seeding blooms of Ceroxylon, Citharexylon, Podocarpus and Sapium spp., as well as a variety of fern species) (Krabbe 1998, Salaman et al. 1999b, P. G. W. Salaman in litt. 1999, Arosa et al. 2009). The population at San Luis de Cubarral depends on the palm Dictyocaryum lamakcianum, as well as wax palms, and remains in the area year-round (Murcia Nova et al. 2009, A. Murcia Nova in litt. 2013). Two breeding cycles in April-November were noted at one colony (Juniper and Parr 1998, Salaman et al. 1999b). Breeding pairs enlist the help of 'brood-helpers' during the chick-rearing stage (Salaman 2001). Its ecology is discussed in further detail by Salaman et al. (2006).

Its range appears to be heavily restricted by the spread of exotic forest, as it only occurs in native forest (Ceia et al. 2009). It has suffered considerable habitat loss and fragmentation (90-93% of montane forest in Colombia) throughout its range (Salaman et al. 1999b, Snyder et al. 2000); however, several sizable areas of habitat remain within its historic range, suggesting additional causes of decline (Krabbe 1998, P. G. W. Salaman in litt. 1999). Wax palm mortality is accelerating and they suffer poor recruitment because cattle browse young trees, and logging in adjacent areas increases their susceptibility to disease (Krabbe 1998, Salaman et al. 1999a, Salaman et al. 1999b, P. G. W. Salaman in litt. 1999). Wax palms are incredibly long-lived and slow-growing (mature individuals are over 500 years old) (Salaman 2001), and are being unsustainably exploited for use in Palm Sunday celebrations within the species's range. In Ecuador, hunting for food was prolific (Krabbe and Sornoza 1996, Salaman et al. 1999b), and trapping has had some impact in Colombia, although the species is notoriously hard to keep in captivity (Salaman et al. 1999b, Salaman 2001).

Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix I and II. The traditional roost-site in Ecuador has been purchased and is being reforested (Snyder et al. 2000). Surveys took place in early 2008 in Ecuador to determine the species's status there (O. Jahn in litt. 2007). It is hoped that an awareness campaign for people living nearby has stopped the hunting of parrots for food (Krabbe 1998). In Colombia, awareness raising to reduce hunting pressure and the impact of Palm Sunday processions has involved poster campaigns, environmental education, community workshops, school visits and radio (Waugh 2004). Combined with on-the-ground actions such as surveys, fencing of breeding sites to allow wax palm regeneration, habitat restoration and provision of artificial nest boxes (Salaman 2001, Fundación ProAves in litt. 2012), the species's population size has increased significantly (Waugh 2004, Fundación ProAves in litt. 2010, 2012). Fundación ProAves owns two reserves where conservation efforts are focussed on this species, near Jardín (c.800 ha) and in Roncesvalles-Tolima (c.10,000 ha). In 2009, ProAves, the Loro Parque Fundación, the American Bird Conservancy and others established a corridor of over 16,000 acres (including the acquisition of over 10,000 acres) for Ognorhynchus and other threatened parrots across the Central Cordillera in Colombia (Fundación ProAves in litt. 2010, 2012). At San Luis de Cubarral, the use of artificial nests was initiated in 2011, and it is reported that the population has increased as a result (per O. Cortes in litt. 2013). More information on conservation initiatives is provided by Salaman et al. (2006).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Search for additional subpopulations, with a focus on determining status within the Intag valley, Ecuador (P. G. W. Salaman in litt. 1999, Snyder et al. 2000), and prepare habitat maps of the Volcán Ruiz-Tolima massif (Salaman et al. 1999b). Buy and protect further habitat (Salaman et al. 1999b, P. G. W. Salaman in litt. 1999, Snyder et al. 2000). Continue the current highly successful programme of conservation activities in Colombia and extend these to any sub-population identified within Ecuador in the future.

Related state of the world's birds case studies

American Bird Conservancy. 2008. Huge boost for Endangered Yellow-eared Parrot. Available at: #

Anon. 2010. Yellow-eared Parrots still have not returned to Ecuador. Cyanopsitta: 15.

Arosa, M. L.; Ramos, J. A.; Valkenburg, T.; Ceia, R.; Laborda, H.; Quintanilla, L. G.; Heleno, R. 2009. Fern feeding ecology of the Azores Bullfinch Pyrrhula murina: the selection of fern species and the influence of nutritional composition in fern choice. Ardeola 56(1): 71-84.

Ceia, R.; Heleno, R.; Ramos, J. A. 2009. Summer abundance and ecological distribution of passerines in native and exotic forests in São Miguel, Azores. Ardeola 56(1): 25-39.

Collar, N. J.; Gonzaga, L. P.; Krabbe, N.; Madroño Nieto, A.; Naranjo, L. G.; Parker, T. A.; Wege, D. C. 1992. Threatened birds of the Americas: the ICBP/IUCN Red Data Book. International Council for Bird Preservation, Cambridge, U.K.

Juniper, T.; Parr, M. 1998. Parrots: a guide to the parrots of the world. Pica Press, Robertsbridge, UK.

Krabbe, N. 1998. Das Gelbohrsittich-Projekt (Ognorhynchus icterotis) in Ecuador. Mitteilungen Zoologische Gesellschaft für Arten- und Populationsschutz 14: 18-20.

Krabbe, N.; Molina, F. S. 1996. The last Yellow-eared Parrots Ognorhynchus icterotis in Ecuador? Cotinga: 25-26.

Krabbe, N.; Sornoza M., F. 1994. Avifaunistic results of a subtropical camp in the Cordillera del Condor, southeastern Ecuador. Bulletin of the British Ornithologists' Club 114: 55-61.

López-Lanús, B.; Salaman, P.; Krabbe, N. 1998. Report on the preliminary results of "Proyecto Ognorhynchus" for the conservation of the Yellow-eared Parrot Ognorhynchus icterotis in Colombia. Papageienkunde 2: 197-200.

Murcia-Nova, M. A.; Beltrn-Alvarado, D.; Carvajal-Rojas, L. 2009. Un nuevo registro del loro orejiamarillo (Ognorhynchus icterotis: Psittacidae) en la Cordillera Oriental Colombiana. Ornitología Colombiana 8: 94-99.

Salaman, P. 2001. The Yellow-eared parrot: good news and an unexpected danger. Cyanopsitta 61: 18-19.

Salaman, P. G. W.; López-Lanús, B.; Krabbe, N. 1999. Critically endangered: Yellow-eared Parrot Ognorhynchus icterotis in Colombia. Cotinga 11: 39-41.

Salaman, P.; López-Lanús, B.; Krabbe, N. 1999. Proyecto Ognorhynchus: the conservation and study of Yellow-eared Parrot Ognorhynchus icterotis in Colombia.

Salaman, P.; Quevedo, A.; Mayorquin, A.; Castao, J. F.; Flórez, J.; Luna, J. C.; López-Lans, B.; Cortés, A.; Nieto, O.; Valle, H. M.; Rodríguez, Q.; Pacheco, A.; Silva, N.; Surez, G.; Borrero, A.; Mora, J.; Arango, J. D.; Cardona, G.; Caro, D. 2006. Biología y ecologia del Loro Orejiamarillo Ognorhynchus icterotis en Colombia. Conservación Colombiana: 12-33.

Salaman, P.; Quevedo, A.; Mayorquin, A.; Castao, J. F.; Flórez, J.; Luna, J. C.; López-Lans, B.; Cortés, A.; Nieto, O.; Valle, H. M.; Rodríguez, Q.; Pacheco, A.; Silva, N.; Surez, G.; Borrero, A.; Mora, J.; Arango, J. D.; Cardona, G.; Caro, D. 2006. La conservación del Loro Orejiamarillo Ognorhynchus icterotis en Colombia. Conservación Colombiana: 34-54.

Snyder, N.; McGowan, P.; Gilardi, J.; Grajal, A. 2000. Parrots: status survey and conservation action plan 2000-2004. International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.

Waugh, D. 2004. Recovery begins for Yellow-eared Parrot: international effort and innovative science boost threatened species. Winging it 16(7): 4.

Further web sources of information
Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE) species/site profile. This species has been identified as an AZE trigger due to its IUCN Red List status and limited range.

Detailed species account from the Threatened birds of the Americas: the BirdLife International Red Data Book (BirdLife International 1992). Please note, taxonomic treatment and IUCN Red List category may have changed since publication.

Recuento detallado de la especie tomado del libro Aves Amenazadas de las Americas, Libro Rojo de BirdLife International (BirdLife International 1992). Nota: la taxonomo

Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Bird, J., Capper, D., Isherwood, I., Sharpe, C J, Stuart, T., Symes, A. & Taylor, J.

Cortes, O., Donegan, T., Jahn, O., Lopez-O., J., Murcia Nova, A., Salaman, P. & Sanchez, M.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2014) Species factsheet: Ognorhynchus icterotis. Downloaded from on 13/07/2014. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2014) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 13/07/2014.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Additional resources for this species

ARKive species - Yellow-eared parrot (Ognorhynchus icterotis)

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Endangered
Family Psittacidae (Parrots)
Species name author (Massena & Souancé, 1854)
Population size 212 mature individuals
Population trend Increasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 80 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species