Red-crowned parakeet

Cyanoramphus novaezelandiae (Sparrman, 1787)

Order: Psittaciformes

Family: Psittacidae

New Zealand status: Endemic

Conservation status: Relict

Other names: red-headed parakeet, kākāriki, kakariki, kaka-wairiki, kawariki, porete, powhaitere, redcrowned parakeet, red crowned parakeet

Geographical variation:

Three extant subspecies recognised: cyanurus on the Kermadec Islands, novaezelandiae from the Three Kings Islands south to the Auckland Islands, including the main islands, and chathamensis on the Chatham Islands. The taxonomic relationships of extinct populations on Lord Howe Island (subflavescens) and Macquarie Island (erythrotis) requires further study.

Red-crowned parakeet. Adult male. Tiritiri Matangi Island, November 2007. Image © Neil Fitzgerald by Neil Fitzgerald Neil Fitzgerald: www.neilfitzgeraldphoto.co.nz

Red-crowned parakeet. Adult male. Tiritiri Matangi Island, November 2007. Image © Neil Fitzgerald by Neil Fitzgerald Neil Fitzgerald: www.neilfitzgeraldphoto.co.nz

Red-crowned parakeets are medium-sized, emerald green parrots with an obvious red crown. Although they are widely distributed throughout the New Zealand region, and very common on some islands, they are now rare on the two main islands. Red-crowned parakeets occupy a variety of habitats ranging from tall forests to grass and shrublands. In the late 1800s, this species sometimes occurred in large flocks with two other species of Cyanoramphus parakeets, causing considerable damage to orchards.

Identification

Red-crowned parakeets are medium-sized, long-tailed parrots with broad, rounded wings and predominantly emerald green plumage. They have a crimson forehead and fore-crown, and patches of the same colour behind the eyes and on each flank, at the base of the tail. The leading edge of the primary wing feathers are a rich cyan blue of varying extent depending on subspecies. Males are larger than females. Their flight appears to be erratic when crossing open spaces, but they are capable of crossing open ocean in excess of 100 km.

Voice: a characteristic parakeet chatter, with variety of softer tur-tur-tur calls.

Similar species: where parakeet distribution overlaps, field identification can be difficult. A good view of crown colouration is the only reliable feature. Other differences are subtle, including plumage tone (bluish-green to yellowish-green), the width and intensity of blue on the wings, and slight difference in the pitch of calls, with the larger red-crowned parakeet having a lower pitched call than those of yellow-crowned parakeets.

Distribution and habitat

Formerly common throughout New Zealand, red-crowned parakeets are now largely restricted to pest-free offshore and outlying islands, from the Kermadec Islands east to the Chatham Islands and south to the Auckland Islands. Occasional mainland sightings are likely to be vagrants, released or escaped captive birds, or birds dispersing from nearby offshore islands. Locally common on pest-free offshore islands from sub-tropical Kermadec Islands (especially Raoul and Macauley Islands), Three Kings Islands, Poor Knights, many islands in the Hauraki Gulf, Alderman Islands, Mercury Islands, Bay of Plenty Islands, Kapiti Island, Whenua Hou/Codfish Island some of the Mutton Bird Islands and subantarctic Enderby and Adams Islands (Auckland Islands). Reintroduced to Tiritiri Matangi, Cuvier, Motuhora/Whale Islands, Matiu/Somes, and Motuihe Islands, and Zealandia (Wellington). Red-crowned parakeets inhabit a variety of habitats, ranging from grass-covered islands (e.g. Macauley and Burgess Islands) to large heavily forested islands (e.g. Hauturu/ Little Barrier Island).

Population

Red-crowned parakeets are locally common to abundant in suitable habitat. Large fluctuations in population size not uncommon, and are dependent on interannual environmental conditions particularly availability of food and (on some islands) water. Few population estimates are available. The population on 306 ha Macauley Island (Kermadec Islands) was estimated at 10,000 birds in November 1980, 17,000 to 20,000 birds in September 1988, fewer than 2,000 birds in November 1988, and 3,500 birds in July 2002.

Threats and conservation

North Island and South Island mainland populations were eliminated through predation by introduced mammals (particularly rats, stoats and cats). Several island populations have been established or re-established by translocation of wild birds (e.g. Matiu/Somes, Motuihe and Tawharanui Peninsula) or captive-reared birds (e.g. Tiritiri Matangi, Cuvier & Motuhora/Whale Islands). Red-crowned parakeets are commonly kept in captivity in New Zealand and overseas (particularly Australia). This species is known to hybridise with other Cyanoramphus species in the wild and in captivity. Genetic ‘pollution’ of the captive stock has resulted in a ban on these birds being used for any further captive to wild translocations. Hybridisation between Chatham Island red-crowned parakeets (C.n. chathamensis) and Forbes’ parakeet (C. forbesi) on highly modified Mangere Island resulted in a hybrid swarm severely threatening the genetic integrity of endangered Forbes’ parakeets. Although common on many islands, red-crowned parakeets populations remain vulnerable to introduction (or reintroduction) of these pests and to introductions of parrot-specific diseases (e.g. Parrot Beak and Feather Disease).

Breeding

Red-crowned parakeets have been recorded breeding year round, with the main breeding period subject to regional variations. They are cavity-nesters, preferring hollows in trees but also using holes in the ground, in cliff faces, talus slopes and under dense vegetation. The average clutch size for the nominate subspecies is 7 (range 4 to 9). Female parakeets are responsible for all nest preparation, incubation, brooding and feeding of chicks until 10-14 days of age, with all food provided to her by her mate. Thereafter, male and female parakeets feed chicks at the nest until fledging and independence. Egg-laying takes several days to complete, with incubation usually commencing after the second egg is laid. Incubation takes approximately 23 days, and the chicks hatch asynchronously, so there is a large variation in chick size within a brood. Nestling period varies widely depending on hatch order (nestling period 32-49 days). The last chicks to hatch usually fledge at an earlier age and are less developed than their older siblings. More than one brood may be attempted if the initial nest fails or if food supply allows.

Behaviour and ecology

Red-crowned parakeets have colonised and adapted to a range of environments and habitats on islands from the tropics to the subantarctic. Despite their rather erratic flight they are strong fliers and readily move within island groups searching for seasonal foods. When environmental conditions are good they are able to breed quickly, leading to rapid increases in population size. Red-crowned parakeets often forage for food on the ground or within low shrubby vegetation, making them vulnerable to ground-hunting predators.

Food

Red-crowned parakeets are omnivorous, but eat mainly seeds, flowers and fruit from numerous plant species. Invertebrates, particularly scale insects, are eaten in spring before breeding. Kermadec red-crowned parakeets have been recorded scavenging marine molluscs on Macauley Island.

Websites

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red-crowned_Parakeet

http://www.terranature.org/parakeetred-crowned.htm

References

Greene, T.C. 1998. Foraging ecology of the red-crowned parakeet (Cyanoramphus novaezelandiae novaezelandiae) and yellow-crowned parakeet (C. auriceps auriceps) on Little Barrier Island, Hauraki Gulf, New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Ecology 22: 161-171.

Greene, T.C. 2003. Breeding biology of red-crowned parakeets (Cyanoramphus novaezelandiae novaezelandiae) on Little Barrier Island, Hauraki Gulf, New Zealand. Notornis 50: 83-99.

Higgins, P.J. (ed.) 1999. Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic birds. Vol. 4, parrots to dollarbird. Oxford University Press, Melbourne.

Miskelly, C.M.; Powlesland, R.G. 2013. Conservation translocations of New Zealand birds, 1863-2012. Notornis 60: 3-28.

Taylor, R.H. 1985. Status, habits and conservation of Cyanoramphus parakeets in the New Zealand region. ICBP Tech. Publ. 3: 195-211.

Veitch, C.R.; Miskelly, C.M.; Harper, G.A.; Taylor, G.A.; Tennyson, A.J.D. 2004. Birds of the Kermadec Islands, south-west Pacific. Notornis 51: 61-90.

Recommended citation

Greene, T.C. 2013. Red-crowned parakeet. In Miskelly, C.M. (ed.) New Zealand Birds Online. www.nzbirdsonline.org.nz

Red-crowned parakeet

Breeding season
  • Jul
  • Aug
  • Sep
  • Oct
  • Nov
  • Dec
  • Jan
  • Feb
  • Mar
  • Apr
  • May
  • Jun
Egg laying dates
  • Jul
  • Aug
  • Sep
  • Oct
  • Nov
  • Dec
  • Jan
  • Feb
  • Mar
  • Apr
  • May
  • Jun

Kermadec parakeet

Social structure
monogamous
Breeding season
  • Jul
  • Aug
  • Sep
  • Oct
  • Nov
  • Dec
  • Jan
  • Feb
  • Mar
  • Apr
  • May
  • Jun
Nest type
burrow, tree hole
Nest description
Natural cavities, usually within trunk or large limb of tree but will use cavities on ground, rock piles, cliffs, abandoned petrel burrows and dense ferns.
Maximum number of successful broods
More than 1 with food abundance
Clutch size (mean)
2-5
Clutch size (min)
2
Clutch size (max)
5
Mean egg dimensions (length)
27.10 mm
Mean egg dimensions (width)
21.20 mm
Egg colour
Lustreless white
Egg laying dates
  • Jul
  • Aug
  • Sep
  • Oct
  • Nov
  • Dec
  • Jan
  • Feb
  • Mar
  • Apr
  • May
  • Jun
Interval between eggs in a clutch
Unknown
Incubation behaviour
female only
Incubation length (mean)
Unknown
Nestling type
altricial
Nestling period (mean)
32-40 days
Nestling period (min)
32 days
Nestling period (max)
40days
Age at fledging (mean)
32-40 days
Age at fledging (min)
32days
Age at fledging (max)
40days
Age at independence (mean)
Unknown
Age at first breeding (typical)
First breeding < 1 years
Maximum longevity
Unknown
Maximum dispersal
Unknown

Red-crowned parakeet

Social structure
monogamous
Breeding season
  • Jul
  • Aug
  • Sep
  • Oct
  • Nov
  • Dec
  • Jan
  • Feb
  • Mar
  • Apr
  • May
  • Jun
Nest type
tree hole
Nest description
Natural cavities usually in trunk or large limb of tree but will use cavities on ground, rock piles and cliffs.
Nest height (mean)
2.90 m
Nest height (min)
0.00 m
Nest height (max)
6.40 m
Maximum number of successful broods
More than 1 with food abundance
Clutch size (mean)
7
Clutch size (min)
4
Clutch size (max)
9
Mean egg dimensions (length)
25.80 mm
Mean egg dimensions (width)
20.70 mm
Egg colour
Lustreless white
Egg laying dates
  • Jul
  • Aug
  • Sep
  • Oct
  • Nov
  • Dec
  • Jan
  • Feb
  • Mar
  • Apr
  • May
  • Jun
Interval between eggs in a clutch
1-3 days
Incubation behaviour
female only
Incubation length (mean)
23.6 days
Incubation length (min)
23days
Incubation length (max)
25days
Nestling type
altricial
Nestling period (mean)
40.8
Nestling period (min)
32 days
Nestling period (max)
49days
Age at fledging (mean)
40.8 days
Age at fledging (min)
32days
Age at fledging (max)
49days
Age at independence (mean)
28-35 days
Age at independence (min)
28 days
Age at independence (max)
35 days
Age at first breeding (typical)
<1 year
Maximum longevity
Unknown
Maximum dispersal
Unknown

Chatham Island red-crowned parakeet

Social structure
monogamous
Breeding season
  • Jul
  • Aug
  • Sep
  • Oct
  • Nov
  • Dec
  • Jan
  • Feb
  • Mar
  • Apr
  • May
  • Jun
Nest type
tree hole
Nest description
Natural cavities, usually in trunks or large limb of tree but will use cavities on the ground, rock piles, cliffs and dense vegetation.
Maximum number of successful broods
More than 1 with food abundance
Clutch size (mean)
5-7
Clutch size (min)
5
Clutch size (max)
7
Mean egg dimensions (length)
25.60 mm
Mean egg dimensions (width)
20.90 mm
Egg colour
Lustreless white
Egg laying dates
  • Jul
  • Aug
  • Sep
  • Oct
  • Nov
  • Dec
  • Jan
  • Feb
  • Mar
  • Apr
  • May
  • Jun
Interval between eggs in a clutch
Unknown
Incubation behaviour
female only
Incubation length (mean)
Unknown
Nestling type
altricial
Nestling period (mean)
Unknown
Age at fledging (mean)
Unknown
Age at independence (mean)
Unknown
Age at first breeding (typical)
<1year
Maximum longevity
Unknown
Maximum dispersal
Unknown

Macquarie Island parakeet

Social structure
monogamous
Breeding season
  • Jul
  • Aug
  • Sep
  • Oct
  • Nov
  • Dec
  • Jan
  • Feb
  • Mar
  • Apr
  • May
  • Jun
Nest type
tree hole
Egg laying dates
  • Jul
  • Aug
  • Sep
  • Oct
  • Nov
  • Dec
  • Jan
  • Feb
  • Mar
  • Apr
  • May
  • Jun
Incubation behaviour
female only