El Oro Parakeet Pyrrhura orcesi


Justification of Red List category
This species has a very small population. Remaining habitat is fragmented, and both range and population are thought to be declining. As a result, the species qualifies as Endangered.

Population justification
The largest population is found at Buenaventura Reserve, where a population size of 171 individuals was estimated in 2005-2006 (Garzón and Juiña 2007, H. M. Schaefer in litt. 2012), and 300 in 2014 (Waugh 2014) and c. 250-260 in 2019 (Garzón et al. 2019, H. M. Schaefer in litt. 2020). Outside of Buenaventura, a survey recorded maximum numbers of 77 individuals in Ñalacapac, 97 in Palo Solo and 80 in Paccha (Echeverría and Garzón 2016). The population in El Oro province is currently estimated at 550-609 individuals, with an additional 86-91 individuals in Azuay province (Garzón et al. 2019). The species's cooperative breeding system means that the number of breeding birds may be significantly fewer (H. M. Schaefer in litt. 2012). It is thus best placed in the band 250-999 mature individuals, which equates to 375-1,499 individuals in total, rounded here to 350-1,500 individuals.

Trend justification
Numbers at the type-locality in the Buenaventura Reserve were stable from 2002-2007 (Juniper and Parr 1998), estimated at 171 birds in 2005-2006 (Garzón and Juiña 2007, H. M. Schaefer in litt. 2012), 300 in 2014 (Waugh 2014) and 250 in 2020 (H. M. Schaefer in litt. 2020). The stabilisation of the population in Buenaventura is likely the consequence of intensive conservation action, including habitat restoration and the provision of artificial nestboxes (Fundación Jocotoco undated, H. M. Schaefer in litt. 2020). Nevertheless, outside of the reserve habitat loss and fragmentation are ongoing and the species is trapped in small numbers for the cagebird trade (Waugh 2019). Moreover, climate change is apparently causing a rapid upslope shift of the distribution range, which is leading to a drastic decrease in habitat availability and range size (Hermes et al. 2017). Based on these threats a slow and ongoing population decline is inferred.

Distribution and population

Pyrrhura orcesi occurs on the west slope of the Andes in south-west Ecuador (El Oro and Azuay), where it was discovered in 1980. It is apparently confined to an area only 100 km from north to south, and a maximum of 5-10 km wide (Juniper and Parr 1998), containing highly fragmented habitat, and with a population estimated at fewer than 1,000 individuals (Garzón and Juiña 2007). About 50% of the global population is found in the Buenaventura Reserve and its vicinity in El Oro province, with additional populations in Azuay province (Garzón et al. 2019).


The species inhabits very humid, tropical forest. It is primarily found from 800-1,300 m, occasionally as low as 300 m and as high as 1,800 m (H. M. Schaefer in litt. 2020). It has been reported to tolerate some habitat fragmentation (Schaefer and Schmidt 2003). It mostly occurs in groups of 4-15 individuals, although a flock of 60 has been observed. It feeds on various fruit (including figs [Ficus sp.]), fruits and Cecropia flowers (Snyder et al. 2000). It appears to favour Dacryodes peruviana (Burseraceae) for nesting (Garzón and Juiña 2007), but a pair exhibited pre-nesting behaviour in the cavity of a small Meliaceae tree in 1997 (Snyder et al. 2000). Nests have been reported in natural cavities 1.8-24 m above the ground in a variety of tree species (Schaefer and Schmidt 2003). About 75% of the population breed cooperatively (Klauke et al. 2013). The breeding season lasts from November to March (Garzón and Juiña 2007). Seasonal movements to lower altitudinal forests have been reported at Buenaventura (H. M. Schaefer in litt. 2007).


Below 900 m, the rate of deforestation in west Ecuador was 57% per decade in 1958-1988, although in the higher parts of its range, with steeper terrain and a harsher climate, deforestation is slower and a greater proportion of forest remains (Dodson and Gentry 1991). In particular, rapid rates of logging around Piñas and Manta Real occurred during the late 1980s and 1990s (N. Simpson in litt. 2000). Typically, these areas were then burnt for cattle-farming. Mining is an additional threat (H. M. Schaefer in litt. 2012). Lack of suitable nesting trees may be a limiting factor and nesting at suboptimal sites may increase predation by species such as Crimson-rumped Toucanet Aulacorhynchus haematopygus (Anon. 2006, Garzón and Juiña 2007, Waugh 2007, Garzón et al. 2020). Its favoured nesting tree Dacryodes peruviana is highly sought after and frequently targeted for human use (Garzón and Juiña 2007). Subpopulations may be isolated due to habitat fragmentation; for example, genetic differentiation was found between groups only 2 km apart (Klauke et al. 2016). Owing to the cooperative breeding system, only ~50% of mature individuals reproduce in a given breeding season. The species suffers from limited genetic diversity, as reproductive output is directly related to the genetic diversity of flocks (Klauke et al. 2013). Inbreeding is known to occur, although its effects are unclear (H. M. Schaefer in litt. 2020). Climate change is apparently causing a very pronounced upslope shift in distribution (now 900-1,800 m within the Buenaventura valley where it was originally 600-1,100 m in the 1980s; Klauke et al. 2016), with a corresponding drastic shrinking of distribution size and available habitat similar to Ecuadorian Tapaculo (Hermes et al. 2017).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix II. Forest at Buenaventura is gradually being purchased and incorporated into a reserve, with the aim of ensuring its long-term conservation; managed by Fundación Jocotoco, the reserve currently covers 2,900 ha. It protects approximately 250 individuals (H. M. Schaefer in litt. 2020). A nest box scheme implemented by Fundación Jocotoco has increased reproductive success and at least 429 individuals fledged since 2007 (H. M. Schaefer in litt. 2020). An education programme involves excursions to the reserve and talks in local schools (Schaefer and Schmidt 2003, Waugh 2007). The species may occur in the extensive Cordillera de Molleturo Protection Forest, but logging and mining occurs within and around this reserve (N. Simpson in litt. 2000, H. M. Schaefer in litt. 2012). An ecological corridor has been declared in 2019 to protect the cloud forests of El Oro province.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Extend the nest box scheme further. Secure a second, well-protected site within the species's range (H. M. Schaefer in litt. 2020). Investigate the Cordillera de Molleturo Protection Forest's suitability for wildlife conservation.


22 cm. Overall green parakeet with variable amount of red on lores, forehead and carpal area, bluish primaries, breast lightly scalloped greyish, dull red patch on belly and reddish undertail. Similar spp. No sympatric Pyrrhura parakeets. Red-masked Parakeet Aratinga erythrogenys is much larger and has more extensive red on forehead. Voice Metallic trilling tchreeet tchreeet calls in flight. Quiet chirping when perched.


Text account compilers
Hermes, C.

Benstead, P., Harding, M., Isherwood, I., Khwaja, N., Schaefer, H.M., Sharpe, C.J., Simpson, N., Stuart, T. & Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Pyrrhura orcesi. Downloaded from http://datazone.birdlife.org/species/factsheet/el-oro-parakeet-pyrrhura-orcesi on 07/12/2023.
Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2023) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://datazone.birdlife.org on 07/12/2023.