Yellow-eared Parrot Ognorhynchus icterotis is currently classified as Endangered under criterion D of the IUCN Red List on the basis that the known population of mature individuals is extremely small.
This species 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 is unknown (Krabbe and Sornoza 1996, Salaman et al. 1999a). Once common to abundant, it is now potentially extinct in Ecuador: 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 only estimated to be 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 establish satellite populations which subsequently failed to establish. However, the population has since continued to increase as a result of intensive conservation action, and in 2009 was recorded at over 1,000 individuals, with three separate breeding populations on the slopes of the Western, Central and Eastern Cordillera. Although breeding success is good, the species’s breeding requirements and highly fragmented habitat will continue to challenge its recovery (Fundación ProAves de Colombia in litt. 2010).
The current population is thought to comprise 1,103 individuals. A maximum of only 212 individuals have bred in recent years (Fundación ProAves de Colombia in litt. 2010); this figure was previously used for the current population of mature individuals and subsequently, the justification for classifying this species as Endangered. However, IUCN guidelines state that “the number of mature individuals is the number of individuals known, estimated or inferred to be capable of reproduction” and thus, should include those capable of breeding, even if they do not breed in a given year. As a result, the number of mature individuals is likely to be higher than currently proposed. If the population does contain 250-1,000 mature individuals, and is not continuing to decline, this species would no longer qualify as Endangered and would warrant downlisting to Vulnerable under criterion D1 of the IUCN Red List.
Comments are invited on this potential category change, and further information is requested on the Yellow-eared Parrot’s likely population size and trends.
Krabbe, N. (1998) Das Gelbohrsittich-Projekt (Ognorhynchus icterotis) in Ecuador. Mitteilungen Zoologische Gesellschaft für Arten- und Populationsschutz 14: 18-20.
López-Lanús, B., Salaman, P. and 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.
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