Golden-plumed Parakeet Leptosittaca branickii


Justification of Red List Category
Very high levels of forest clearance, fragmentation and degradation have presumably resulted in this species undergoing rapid population declines, qualifying it as Vulnerable. Total numbers are difficult to assess, but the population may be small.

Population justification
The population is estimated to number 2,500-9,999 individuals based on an assessment of known records, descriptions of abundance and range size. This is consistent with recorded population density estimates for congeners or close relatives with a similar body size, and the fact that only a proportion of the estimated Extent of Occurrence is likely to be occupied. This estimate is equivalent to 1,667-6,666 mature individuals, rounded here to 1,500-7,000 mature individuals.

Trend justification
A rapid and on-going population decline is suspected on the basis of large-scale habitat destruction, degradation and fragmentation.

Distribution and population

Leptosittaca branickii is widely but locally distributed in Colombia (both slopes of the central Andes, the southern base of the east Andes and one record from Cerro Munchique, Cauca, in the west Andes), Ecuador (isolated massifs in the far north and south, but only in the south on the main Andean ridges) and Peru (Cordillera de Colán and the east Andean slope, with one record on the west slope of the Cordillera Central in La Libertad). It has declined considerably in Colombia and Ecuador, and may now be declining in Peru (where it has generally been considered to be stable) due to increasing habitat destruction (H. Lloyd in litt. 2007). The Nevado del Ruíz-Nevado del Tolima Massif, Colombia, harbours 1,000-3,000 birds (P. G. W. Salaman in litt. 1999). In forests of the Cordillera de Chilla, Ecuador, densities of c.2.3 birds/km2 and c.6.6 birds/km2 have been estimated (Jacobs and Walker 1999).


It inhabits temperate cloud and elfin forest at 2,400-3,400 m, occasionally down to 1,400 m (Juniper and Parr 1998), in areas characterised by trees in the Melastomataceae and Cunoniaceae (Montes and Verhelst 2011). Some populations are nomadic, possibly owing to a heavy dependence on Podocarpus cones. It nests in dead Ceroxylon wax palms, even where these trees are scarce (Sornoza Molina and López-Lanus 1999). The two most important plants for feeding are Brunellia goudoti and Podocarpus oleifolius (Montes and Verhelst 2011). Nesting probably corresponds to food availability, and may not be seasonal (Sornoza Molina and López-Lanus 1999).


Habitat loss and fragmentation has been considerable throughout its range, with 90-93% of montane forest lost in Colombia, but less in Peru (Salaman et al. 1999b, P. G. W. Salaman in litt. 1999). The cutting of wax palms for Palm Sunday services is a serious problem in parts of Ecuador, and palms also suffer poor recruitment because cattle browse young trees, and logging in adjacent areas increases their susceptibility to parasites and disease (Salaman et al. 1999b). Road construction is on-going throughout many areas of elfin and cloud forest in Peru and has caused severe habitat loss in areas such as Abra Malaga (H. Lloyd in litt. 2007). In Colombia, it is trapped as a maize pest and as a pet (Salaman et al. 1999b). Many protected areas are affected by the burning and grazing of páramo, settlement, clearance for agriculture, logging, narcotics and gold mining (Wege and Long 1995, Salaman et al. 1999b).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix II. It is known from many protected areas (Wege and Long 1995), including Los Nevados and Cueva de los Guácharos national parks in Colombia, and Podocarpus National Park in Ecuador (P. G. W. Salaman in litt. 1999, Clements and Shany 2001). Of all these reserves, Ucumarí Regional Natural Park, Puracé National Park (Colombia), Huashapamba Protection Forest (Ecuador) and Río Abiseo National Park (Peru) are apparently well-protected (Wege and Long 1995). In Ecuador, a campaign organised by Aves y Conservación and the Jocotoco Foundation and supported by the government aims to reduce unsustainable harvesting of wax palms. The Jocotoco Foundation have installed nest boxes in their reserves, which are being used (even in preference to natural cavities) by this and other species of parakeet (D. Waugh in litt. 2010).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Assess its status in Peru (Flanagan et al. 2000). Establish the degree of dependence on wax palms in different regions (Sornoza Molina and López-Lanus 1999). Develop a network of protected montane forests. Protect the Nevado del Ruiz-Nevado del Tolima Massif and the Cordillera de Chilla (Jacobs and Walker 1999, P. G. W. Salaman in litt. 1999, López-Lanus et al. in press).


35 cm. Predominantly green parakeet. Mostly vivid green with orange frontal band over bill and yellow streak running below eye and extending into tufts behind eye. White ocular patch. Yellowish central belly with diffuse orange barring, dull reddish undertail. Similar spp. Only large, long-tailed parakeet in its range. Voice Macaw-like. In flight, noisy chree-ah, feeding flocks chatter continuously, also harsh scraart.


Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Harding, M., Isherwood, I., Sharpe, C J, Stuart, S., Symes, A.

Waugh, D., Salaman, P., Lloyd, H.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2020) Species factsheet: Leptosittaca branickii. Downloaded from on 06/07/2020. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2020) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 06/07/2020.