Aratinga pertinaxbrown-throated parakeet

Geographic Range

Brown-throated parakeets (Aratinga pertinax) are found across northern South America but primarily north of the Amazon River. Known populations inhabit Aruba, Barbados, Brazil, Columbia, easternmost Costa Rica, Dominica, French Guiana, Guyana, Mexico, Netherlands Antilles, Puerto Rico, Suriname, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. A. pertinax occurs in central Panama and islands of the Southern Caribbean as well. It is common for brown-throated parakeets to be found on the Pacific but not the Caribbean slope in Panama. The species lives in the Caribbean lowlands of northern and north-east Colombia from Rio Sinu east to the Guajira Peninsula. It is also found at low elevations in the eastern Andes and the upper Orinoco lowlands. Brown-throated parakeets are seen in Venezuela and on the north coast islands of Margarita, Tortuga (Venezuela), Curacao, Aruba and Bonaire (Dutch Antilles). The species varies throughout the Guianas and northern Brazil from Roraima to Amapa, and is distributed to upper Rio Tapajos catchment, Para, and in Rio Negro. (Forshaw, 2006; Juniper and Parr, 1998; Lexicon of Parrots, 2007)

Aratinga pertinax was introduced to St. Thomas, Saba, the Virgin Islands, and perhaps St. Croix. (Avianweb.com, 2006; Juniper and Parr, 1998; Lexicon of Parrots, 2007)

Habitat

Aratinga pertinax typically dwells in savannas and semi-open dry scrubby habitat filled with cacti and acacias. This species is also seen in mangrove woodlands, tropical deciduous forests (where it is often the most abundant parrot species), gallery and white sand forests, rhizophora mangroves, edges of humid evergreen forests, and agricultural areas with palms and various other trees. The elevation can vary from lowlands to 1,200 meters or higher, although they tend to stay below 1,200 meters. These parakeets inhabit man-made clearings such as city parks or gardens. (Forshaw, 1989; Forshaw, 2006; Juniper and Parr, 1998; del Hoyo, et al., 1997)

  • Range elevation
    1200 (high) m
    3937.01 (high) ft

Physical Description

Aratinga pertinax is a polytypic, black-billed, green conure with considerable variation in coloration. Its fourteen subspecies are distinguishable by the varied mixture of yellow and brown on their face and throat. The adults have a overall green plumage, but underneath they are paler and have more yellow. Aratinga pertinax has a narrow eye-ring that is white in most subspecies but is occasionally black. Most of the subspecies feature a larger, yellow ring of feathers surrounding the eye. Its forehead, face, and chin are an orange-yellow. Crown and upper breast are a brownish-green. The green flight feathers and tail are rimmed and tipped in blue. Their iris is yellow and their legs are gray. Aratinga pertinax displays no sexual dimorphism in that the males are larger than the females. Adult brown-throated parakeets can weigh between 76 and 102 g and average 25 cm in length.

Juveniles tend to lack the intense yellow that is vivid in adult individuals. Their forecrown is a dark greenish-blue. The throat and breast are greenish, while the belly is green with some orange or yellow. ("Supplementary Material 1", 2005; Biology Questions and Answers, 2003; Forshaw, 1989; Forshaw, 2006; del Hoyo, et al., 1997)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes alike
  • male larger
  • Range mass
    76 to 102 g
    2.68 to 3.59 oz
  • Average length
    25 cm
    9.84 in

Reproduction

Aratinga pertinax is monogamous. This species breeds after the rainy season, usually from February to April. Aratinga pertinax is a very social bird and gathers in large night roosts where potential mates are evaluated. Loud contact calls are also used when selecting a mate. There is no information on how brown-throated parakeets defend mates. (Burhman-Deever, et al., 1998; del Hoyo, et al., 1997)

The breeding season for Aratinga pertinax occurs after the rainy season, and ranges geographically from February through September. When conditions are favorable this species may breed several times a year. Aratinga pertinax is a colonial breeder and up to seven pairs have been noted nesting in close proximity. They are cavity nesters and select tree cavities, man-made nest boxes, or termite mounds to nest in. Nests are very minimal without any vegetation lining and eggs are often laid on the bare cavity floor. The number of eggs in a nest varies from two to seven. The female is the primary incubator, with incubation lasting thirty-six to thirty-seven days in the wild. Chicks fledge after 50 days, which occurs from mid-May to late June in eastern Puerto Rico populations. The fledglings join their parents and form small family groups until the parents nest again. No information is known for when brown-throated parakeets reach sexual maturity. (Avianweb.com, 2006; Forshaw, 2006; Lexicon of Parrots, 2007; Wiley, 1993; del Hoyo, et al., 1997)

  • Breeding interval
    Brown-throated parakeets may breed several times a year with favorable conditions.
  • Breeding season
    The breeding season depends on location, but occurs after the rainy season. This is most often between February and September.
  • Range eggs per season
    2 to 7
  • Range time to hatching
    36 to 37 days
  • Range fledging age
    50 (high) days

Female brown-throated parakeets are responsible for incubation throughout the day. The male will meet up with her at night, however his specific role in incubation is unknown. Once the altricial nestlings hatch, both parents take part in feeding and tending the brood. Males continue to feed the young after they fledge. Juveniles may join the parents to form small family groups. (Avianweb.com, 2006; Forshaw, 2006)

  • Parental Investment
  • altricial
  • female parental care
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
    • protecting
      • male
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • male
      • female
    • protecting
      • male
      • female
  • pre-independence
    • provisioning
      • male
    • protecting
      • male
  • post-independence association with parents

Lifespan/Longevity

Aratinga pertinax has an average lifespan in the wild of about ten years. However, when living in captivity with adequate supervision, brown-throated parakeets have been known to live up to twenty-five years. Captive A. pertinax individuals are often at risk for obesity which may reduce their lifespan significantly. (Avianweb.com, 2006; Miller, 2010)

  • Average lifespan
    Status: wild
    10 years
  • Typical lifespan
    Status: captivity
    25 (high) years

Behavior

Aratinga pertinax is a very social, non-migratory species. Brown-throated parakeets are active during the day, and can be seen traveling and eating in pairs or small groups. They also form breeding colonies of up to 7 pairs. Fast-flying flocks remain in tight formation and erratic calls are frequent during flight. They are very rowdy and loud before settling to roost at night. Nighttime roosts are a social site, and brown-throated parakeets use this time to evaluate other individuals in their flock. It is also hypothesized that these roosts serve as a source of information regarding good foraging or roosting sites. (Forshaw, 1989; Forshaw, 2006; Harms and Eberhard, 2003)

Home Range

Home ranges are variable depending upon the location and size of the colony. It is difficult to pinpoint an exact territory due to the fact that Aratinga pertinax is an avid flier, and encompasses a variety of habitats. (Forshaw, 2006)

Communication and Perception

In general, the call of Aratinga pertinax is a wild can-can-can continued regularly, accompanied by a sharp shrieking. During meal times and at rest there is a submissive prattle as well. They often congregate at large, noisy roosts, which are hypothesized to be a source of information regarding good foraging sites or other roosts. Normally, A. pertinax calls forcefully from the perch on the highest leafless branch of a dead or deciduous tree. While flying the species produces a swiftly recurring crik-crik…crak-crak, and when resting on a perch there is a two syllable cheer-cheedit, the second note held longer and then ending hastily. They call in flight likely to hold together a tight formation. Calls are used in mate selection and warning of predators as well. Like all birds, brown-throated parakeets perceive their environment through tactile, auditory, visual, and chemical stimuli. (Forshaw, 1989; Forshaw, 2006)

Food Habits

Brown-throated parakeets are generalist and consume seeds, fruits, nuts, blossoms, and occasionally insects. Feeding normally takes place during the day and is done in pairs or small flocks. Primary food sources includes seeds of Cassia and Acacia trees, fruit of Mangifera plants, and a variety of flowers. They forage in very vocal groups which often include macaws and Amazon parrots. Brown-throated parakeets are known crop pests, especially of maize in Columbia. They frequently raid the fruit plantations in the Netherlands Antilles, as well. (Forshaw, 2006; Harms and Eberhard, 2003; Juniper and Parr, 1998; del Hoyo, et al., 1997)

  • Animal Foods
  • insects
  • Plant Foods
  • leaves
  • seeds, grains, and nuts
  • fruit
  • nectar
  • flowers

Predation

There are no records of predation upon A. pertinax but possible nocturnal predators consist of feral house cats, burrowing owls, tropical screech owls, barn owls and snakes. Pearly-eyed thrashers are known destructive predators of the eggs and juvenile chicks of cavity-nesters. Red-tailed hawks are the largest significant danger to parrots in eastern Puerto Rico and likely pose a threat to local parakeet populations.

The large roosts formed by brown-throated parakeets serve to avoid predation. Larger groups of birds have more eyes and ears for better detection of threats. In addition, roosts are normally found in shrubbery that is taller or denser than adjacent flora, thus making the birds difficult to reach. Brown-throated parakeets may take refuge in nests formed by termites, and the host insects inadvertently defend the parrot while defending their nest. (Harms and Eberhard, 2003; Wiley, 1993)

Ecosystem Roles

Aratinga pertinax often nests within the nests of tree termites (Nasutitermes costalis) though this seems to have little effect on the termites. The termites seal off the bird's nest from the rest of the colony and will move back into the cavity once the nest has been abandoned. The insects inadvertently protect nesting brown-throated parakeets from local predators, such as pearly-eyed thrashers (Margarops fuscatus). In the wild, A. pertinax is not a large competitor for food amongst other species. Brown-throated parakeets are prey to a number of larger birds, including red-tailed hawks (Buteo jamaicensis). Though this species is primarily a granivore, it also preys upon insect species and their larvae thus impacting their populations. As much of their diet is comprised of seeds, they likely are an important seed disperser for local flora. (Forshaw, 2006; Wiley, 1993)

  • Ecosystem Impact
  • pollinates

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Aratinga pertinax is common in the pet industry and are favored for their affectionate behavior. Brown-throated parakeets are trapped for the pet trade or occasionally for food. As they are primarily granivores, they are significant seed dispersers which aid in the propagation of local flora and natural beauty of the land. (Avianweb.com, 2006; Windsor Research Centre, 2010)

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

The raucous calls of brown-throated parakeets are quite noisy and aggravate nearby neighbors, whether in the wild or in captivity. They are also a prominent pest to local agriculture. The species has been known to cause severe destruction, specifically to maize crops. (Forshaw, 2006; Windsor Research Centre, 2010)

  • Negative Impacts
  • crop pest

Conservation Status

Brown-throated parakeets are not a globally endangered species. Aratinga pertinax is locally abundant in Panama. The species is considered to be the most plentiful parrot in the Caribbean lowlands, llanos in Colombia, Guyana, North Surinam and all three of the Netherlands Antilles islands. A density of five to eighty-nine birds per square kilometer has been estimated in regions of northwest Venezuela. It is believed that mainland populations are increasing their ranges in response to increased forest conversion to ranchland. This species is often captured for marketing purposes, but there have been no severe implications with the exception of the subspecies Aratinga pertinax margaritensis and the small island race Aratinga pertinax tortugensis. Aratinga pertinax tortugensis is also vulnerable to harsh climate changes. (Juniper and Parr, 1998; del Hoyo, et al., 1997)

Contributors

Rachel Markowitz (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Phil Myers (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

Glossary

Neotropical

living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.

World Map

acoustic

uses sound to communicate

agricultural

living in landscapes dominated by human agriculture.

altricial

young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.

arboreal

Referring to an animal that lives in trees; tree-climbing.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

colonial

used loosely to describe any group of organisms living together or in close proximity to each other - for example nesting shorebirds that live in large colonies. More specifically refers to a group of organisms in which members act as specialized subunits (a continuous, modular society) - as in clonal organisms.

diurnal
  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.
endothermic

animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

female parental care

parental care is carried out by females

fertilization

union of egg and spermatozoan

forest

forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.

granivore

an animal that mainly eats seeds

herbivore

An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.

introduced

referring to animal species that have been transported to and established populations in regions outside of their natural range, usually through human action.

iteroparous

offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).

monogamous

Having one mate at a time.

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

oviparous

reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.

pet trade

the business of buying and selling animals for people to keep in their homes as pets.

scrub forest

scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.

sedentary

remains in the same area

sexual

reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

social

associates with others of its species; forms social groups.

suburban

living in residential areas on the outskirts of large cities or towns.

tactile

uses touch to communicate

terrestrial

Living on the ground.

tropical

the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.

tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.

savanna

A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5? N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.

visual

uses sight to communicate

year-round breeding

breeding takes place throughout the year

References

2005. "Supplementary Material 1" (On-line). Accessed April 17, 2010 at http://content.karger.com/ProdukteDB/miscArchiv/000/119/710/Supplementary-1.pdf.

Avianweb.com, 2006. "AvianWeb.com" (On-line). Brown-throated Conures - also known as the Brown-throated Parakeets or St. Thomas Conures. Accessed February 21, 2010 at http://www.avianweb.com/brownthroatedconure.html.

Biology Questions and Answers, 2003. "Biology Questions" (On-line). Birds Review from Biology Questions and Answers. Accessed April 18, 2010 at http://www.biology-questions-and-answers.com/birds.html.

Burhman-Deever, S., E. Hobson, A. Hobson. 1998. Individual recognition and selective response to contact calls in foraging brown-throated conures, Aratinga pertinax. Animal Behaviour, Volume 76/Issue 5: 1715-1725. Accessed March 09, 2010 at http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6W9W-4TFDY4F-5&_user=99318&_coverDate=11%2F30%2F2008&_rdoc=29&_fmt=high&_orig=browse&_srch=doc-info(%23toc%236693%232008%23999239994%23699666%23FLA%23display%23Volume)&_cdi=6693&_sort=d&_docanchor=&_ct=36&_acct=C000007678&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=99318&md5=e18e39f6cc6434fdb16e93ba4ca95dd4.

Forshaw, J. 2006. Parrots of the World: An Identification Guide. United Kingdom: Princeton University Press.

Forshaw, J. 1989. Parrots of the World: Third (Revised) Edition. Australia: Weldon Publishing.

Harms, K., J. Eberhard. 2003. ROOSTING BEHAVIOR OF THE BROWN-THROATED PARAKEET (ARATINGA PERTINAX) AND ROOST LOCATIONS ON FOUR SOUTHERN CARIBBEAN ISLANDS. Ornitologia Neotropical, 14: 79-89. Accessed February 21, 2010 at http://www.biology.lsu.edu/webfac/kharms/HarmsEberhard2003.pdf.

Juniper, T., M. Parr. 1998. Parrots: A Guide to the Parrots of the World. Sussex: Pica Press.

Lexicon of Parrots, 2007. "Lexicon of Parrots" (On-line). Aratinga Pertinax. Accessed February 21, 2010 at http://www.arndt-verlag.com/projekt/birds_3.cgi?Desc=E239.htm&Pic=239_1.JPG.

Miller, A. 2010. "Conures" (On-line). Accessed April 13, 2010 at http://parrotalert.org/Conures.html.

Wiley, J. 1993. Natural Range Expansion and Local Extirpation of an Exotic Psittacine- an Unsuccessful Colonization Attempt. Ornitologia Neotropical, 4: 43-54. Accessed February 22, 2010 at http://www.neotropicalornithology.org/pdf/revista/rev4/vol%204_1/ornitol_4_1_43-54.pdf.

Windsor Research Centre, 2010. "Birds" (On-line). Accessed April 16, 2010 at http://www.cockpitcountry.com/index.html.

World Parrot Trust, 2009. "World Parrot Trust" (On-line). Brown-throated Conure. Accessed February 21, 2010 at http://www.parrots.org/index.php/encyclopedia/profile/brown_throated_conure/.

del Hoyo, J., A. Elliott, J. Sargatal. 1997. Handbook of the Birds of the World. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions.