Ruppell's Parrot

25th June 2010

Distribution: Rüppell's Parrot (Poicephalus rueppellii) has a small range in coastal south-western Africa, from central Namibia to the adjoining south-western part of Angola. One of the main problems when studying this species is its sparse distribution.

Status: It is a protected species, listed on CITES appendix II, as are all parrots. It is rated as "Least Concern" by the IUCN, though, and considered not threatened.

However, there is growing concern about this species conservation. Indeed, the wild population is estimated to be barely 9,000 individuals, and its population numbers are threatened by the cage bird trade, with an estimated 600 to 1000 birds exported annually to South Africa and Europe - about 60-70% of which die while in transit. Illegal trapping has been blamed for the declining flock sizes in very recent years. Rüppell's Parrot is also vulnerable because of its restricted range, much of which has been turned into farmland.

Rüppell Parrots seem not interest in plank nest-boxes sometimes provided for them, so natural logs were erected in two localities. Fortunately, in Namibia, some tree species used by Rüppell's are already protected by law.

Habitat: Rüppell's Parrot can be found in habitats ranging from riparian woodland to Acacia, dry steppe and thornveld as well as palm tree stands, such as Northern lala palm (Hypheane petersiana) in the northern parts of its range..In the southerly parts of its range, it also occurs in mixed Acacia woodland and cluster-leafs stands (Terminalia). It is generally more common near streams or rivers, be they dry river beds, and can live at altitudes of up to 1250m.

General habits: This bird generally stays near water, in small flocks up to 20 birds. It can congragate in greater numbers, though, where food is plentiful. Rüppell's Parrot is nomadic to a degree, appearing regularly in certain places. This makes it harder to the estimate its population numbers.

Feeding habits: seeds, kernels, nuts, fruit Rüppell's Parrot's diet varies according to the time of year. It mostly eats a range of plants, consuming various parts: buds, shoots, nectar, flowers, seeds, pods, fruit, kernels, nuts. Occasionally it will also eat insects and insect larvae.

Breeding habits: Egg-laying season is from January to June, peaking in February-March, although juvenile birds have beenreported in September. Breeding may, actually be linked rather to the rainfall than to the season.

Nest: This species nests in tree cavities, either natural or excavated by woodpeckers. It especially favours cluster-leafs (Terminalia, Camel thorn (Acacia erioloba) and African olive (Olea europea), trees that are fairly common in some of its usual habitats.

Eggs: Rüppell's Parrot lays 3 to 5 white rounded eggs, measuring 27.0 x 24.0mm. Eggs are incubated mainly by the female for about 24 to 30 days.

Young: The chicks leave the nest about 68 days after hatching (sometimes as early as 50 days, at least in captivity).One captive individual has been recorded living a bit more than 34 years.
Juveniles look almost like females but have a duller plumage, their rump and uppertail coverts are paler, their lower abdomen to undertail coverts are brown washed with dull blue, they have brown thighs and lesser wing coverts. Their bill is horn coloured, the cere and eye ring are a paler grey, and their eyes are brown.

Call: This species' call are monotonous, quick and sharp notes. Its alarm calls are shrieks increasing in pitch. Rüppell's Parrot is generally quieter than the other Poicephalus.

Description: Rüppell's Parrot is 22–25 cm long and weighs 116 to 156 g. It has an overall dark brown colour and its head is dark greyish. Both adult male and female birds have some yellow feathers on the leading edge of the wings, and yellow feathers covering their upper legs; in immatures, the yellow is dull or missing. They are sexually dimorphic; adult female birds have blue feathers on the lower back and the rump, whilst male birds loose this blue feather colouration as they become mature.

Did you know: The name commemorates the German naturalist and explorer Eduard Rüppell.

Rüppell's Parrots are subject to substantial predation by mammals and reptiles, as well as attempted predation by raptors at water holes during the dry season.

In recent years Rüppell's Parrot has started to become available in Europe. Some of these are legally imported birds, captive-bred in South Africa. Unfortunately, others are illegally exported wild-caught birds. Responsible aviculturists should not buy any bird which is not closed ringed, as illegal capture is a real threat to Rüppell's Parrots.

All parakeets and parrots have very sensitive respiratory systems and should not be exposed to cigarette smoke, aerosols, harsh cleaning products, or other toxic fumes.

Rüppell's Parrot is also called: Ruepell's parrot, Brown Parrot, Damara Parrot [English]; Bloupenspapegaai [Afrikaans]; Rüppell-papegaai, Ruepells papegaai [Dutch]; Rüppellpapagei [German]; Rüppells långvingepapegoja [Swedish]; Perroquet de Rüppell [French]; Lorito de Rüppell [Spanish]; Papagaio de Rüppell [Portuguese]