Thursday, March 23, 2017

Field identification of the orange-fronted parakeet (Cyanoramphus malherbi): pitfalls for the unwary

TitleField identification of the orange-fronted parakeet (Cyanoramphus malherbi): pitfalls for the unwary
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsKearvell, JC, Connor, C, Farley, M
Type of ArticleFull Article

The field identification of the orange-fronted parakeet (Cyanoramphus malherbi) has been a problem since the species was first described in 1857. Separating this critically endangered species from its more common, but also declining sympatric relative, the yellow-crowned parakeet (C. auriceps), can be difficult, as both species are cryptic and phenotypically similar. To develop criteria for consistent identification, we assessed >2700 field observations on the orange-fronted parakeet and >10,000 field observations for the yellow-crowned parakeet, where the phenotypes of each bird was compared to the traits of the genetically defined species and verified type specimens. Observations on 117 nests also allowed observations of young from nestling to independence. We concluded that only 2 field marks can be used to reliably separate the 2 species but a clear view of either the frons or rump patch must be seen. The orange-fronted parakeet has an obvious orange frons and rump patch while these areas on the yellow-crowned parakeet are crimson. No other field traits consistently separated the 2 species. Even then, identification can be unreliable when observing juveniles, when light conditions are poor, or if the bird is high in the canopy. We recommend that unless the observer sees a clear and obvious colour in the frons or rump patch, then that bird must remain as unidentified to species.

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