The Ouvea Parakeet (Eunymphicus cornutus uvaeensis)

by Pierre Primot, Lifou, Nouvelle Calédonie

The Ouvea Parakeet is an endemic bird to New Caledonia precisely to Ouvea in the Loyalty Islands.
The parakeet is listed in Appendix I of CITES and the IUCN considers her conservation status as critical. This species is threatened of extinction because her population is alone and declining, with a low number, a limited home range and a habitat declining.

The ASPO was founded in 1993 to conserve this natural inheritance. It includes customary chiefs from Ouvea, scientist and inhabitants of the island.

The ecology of this bird is now better known and a recovery plan was edited.

Ecology

Zoological classification

Order : Pssittaciformes
Family : Pssitacides
Genus Eunymphicus (endemic to New Caledonia)
Species : Eunymphicus uvaeensis

Description

Ouvea ParakeetThe Ouvea parakeet is a medium-sized parakeet (32 cm about and which the weight is about 100-150 g.), green cleared underside of the body. The front and the front of the crown are red, the face is blacked green. The crest is constituted by 6 long, ranged, non-erectiles and black finished of green feathers. The edge of the wings and the remiges are blue. The legs and the beak are grey. The male is more big and tall as the female, his beak is also larger.

Geographical dispersion

The Ouvea parakeet is endemic to this island in the Loyalty archipelago. It's one of the birds which as the smallest geographical repartition in the world.
The core of the population is in the "Great forest" at the north of the island, but it's possible to see parakeets in parts of the forest in the Northwest, isthmus and South.
The population size is estimated at 5-600 bird with a minimum of 270.

Habitat

The typical habitat is the forest, composed of primary forest and all the successive stages since melanasian fallow fields to the secondary forest.
The parakeet lives in the canopy. The distribution of the parakeet is very heterogeneous. The area of the territory in breeding season, studied by radiotracking, is limited to 1-2 ha around the nest.

Reproduction

Like majority of parrots, the reproduction of the Ouvea parakeet is dominated by a fidelity of pairs, an attachment to nest sites (in the trunk of hollow trees), the absence of territoriality for food and reproduction areas very limited.
The nesting period lasts from August to January.
2 to 4 (generally 3) eggs are laid and hatched by the female during 21 days. She's breaking of only to be feed by the male, who call her from the exterior.
The female gets out and swallow the contents of the crop of her companion : 4 at 6 feedings take place quotidienly.
The two first little birds hatch in 24 hours, the following after 48 hours. They weigh 5 at 6 grammes, they are blind and recovered of a fine white down. During the breeding period, the young are feeding by both the parents.
At the age of 10-15 days their eyes open and the chicks recover of a darked grey and dense down.
Rapidly, they put on weight. The feathers of the wings and the tail get out at 3 weeks. Then the feathers of the body.
At 6 weeks the plumage is complete, the beak is yellow, the red mark on the forehead appear thus the feathers of the crest.
Between 3 and 6 months, the beak progressively colours in grey.
The young's are like adults in all points.
They will reach their sexual maturity at 2 years for the female and 3 years for the male.
A second clutch is possible in the season, without apparently relation with the success of the first.
However there are an important proportion of adults that doesn't reproduce.

Few results in natural conditions

Nutrition

Like majority of parrots, the Ouvea parakeet eats seeds of a big variety of trees (about 30).
She completes her regime with introduced species : papaw, passiflore, and capsicum, which are growing spontaneously and abundly in the fallow.
She utilises her beak and a leg to shell the seeds and eat the kernel.
A study on the phenology of these plants shows that there are any shortages all along the year.

Predation and threats

The Brown Goshawk (Accipiter flavus) , the Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus nesiotes) and the Barn Owl (Tyto alba lifuensis) are presents on Ouvea and they are known predators of parrots, the latter two are unlikely to have significant impact on the parakeet because the Peregrine Falcon is rare and the Barn Owl nocturnal.
The Pacific Rat, the Pacific Boa (Candidoia bibronii), the Coconut Crab (Birgus latro) and the feral Cats are potential nestling eaters.
The low rate of nestling predation is tie up with the absence of Black rat (Rattus rattus) and Norway Rat (Rattus norvegicus) as they are presents on the others Loyalty Islands and the Grande-Terre.
The nestling suffer of a large predation exerced by human; The habitat regressing, the nests access is more and more easily and the proportion of nests harvest grow.
A hole is generally dig in the trunk to take the chicks, so that the nest is unusable for later nestling.
The number of harvest young is estimated at 30-40 per year.
The birds are sending on the Grande-Terre and more rarely in Europe.

Specific bibliography

Robinet O., Beugnet F.,Dulieu D., Chardonnet P., 1995, The Ouvéa parakeet - state of knowledge and conservation status, Oryx, 29 (2), 143-154.

Hannecart, F. (1988). Les oiseaux menacés de la Nouvelle Calédonie et des Iles proches. In: Livre rouge des oiseaux menacés des régions françaises d'outre-mer CIPO Monographies n°5 Thibault, J. C. et Guyot, I. scient. ed. Cambridge U.K. 1988 : p. 143-165.

Hannecart, F.&Y.Letocart.1983. Oiseaux de Nouvelle-Calédonie et des Iles Loyauté. Tome 1 et 2. Ed. Cardinalis, Nouméa, Nouvelle-Calédonie

Robinet, O., Beugnet, F., Dulieu, D. & Chardonnet, P. 1995. The Ouvea parakeet - state of knowledge and conservation status. Oryx vol. 29 n°2 : 143-150.

Robinet, O., Barré, N. & Salas M. (1996). Population estimate for the Ouvea Parakeet Eunymphicus cornutus uvaeensis: its present range and implications for conservation. EMU vol.96.

Robinet, O. & Salas, M. (1996). Absence of Ship Rat, Rattus rattus, and Norway Rat, Rattus norvegicus, on Ouvea (Loyalty Islands, New Caledonia). Consequences for conservation. Pacific Conservation Biology

Robinet, O., 1997, Ecology and conservation of the Ouvea Parakeet, PhD thesis, University of Auckland, 147 p.

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