Justification of Red List Category
The species occupies a wide range, and hence it does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population is suspected to be undergoing only a slow decline, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is fairly large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Population density estimates of 2.3-6.6 individuals/km2 have been recorded in the Cordillera de Chilla region of Ecuador (Jacobs and Walker 1999). This is also 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. Using the best available information therefore, the overall population of the species is estimated to number 11,000-30,000 individuals, roughly equivalent to 7,300-20,000 mature individuals.
Forest loss within the species's range has reduced substantially in recent years (Tracewski et al. 2016, Fundación ProAves in litt. 2020, Global Forest Watch 2020). Assuming that the population is declining at the same rate as forest loss therefore, the population is thought to to be undergoing a slow, suspected decline of <2% within a 3-generation period (10 years; Bird et al. 2020). Although other threats may compound population declines, there is little evidence that the species is facing significant threats.
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 had declined considerably in Colombia and Ecuador, with declines extending to Peru (where it was generally 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). Explorations in Potosí and La Leona in Cajamarca (Quindío) found 134 birds (Botero-Delgadillo and Páez 2011b). Overall, the species has seen records on 2,194 Colombian checklists, with a population estimate of 5,000-7,500 individuals that is now likely increasing (Fundación ProAves in litt. 2020). It is common within localised sites here (Fundación ProAves in litt. 2020). It is also not uncommon on the western slope of the Central Cordillera, with the species recorded in National Parks such as Los Nevados, Purace, and Las Hermosas (Cortés et al. 2020). The species may also be seen on the eastern slope of the Central Cordillera, but records from the Western range remain skeptical (Cortés et al. 2020). 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 observed at 1,400-1,800 m (Juniper and Parr 1998, Botero-Delgadillo and Páez 2011b) or as high as 3,600 m (Williamson 2020), 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. In Ecuador, it nests in dead Ceroxylon wax palms, even where these trees are scarce (Sornoza Molina and López-Lanus 1999). In Colombia, this species is also known to nest in the trunks of Weinmannia sp. and utilize Tullandsia sp. for obtaining water (Carantón 2004; Quevedo et al. 2006). Across the Colombian Cordillera Central region, the species was also shown to exhibit preferences towards well-preserved mature forests, although secondary forests were also commonly used (Quevedo et al. 2006, Botero-Delgadillo and Páez 2011a). The two most important plants for feeding are Brunellia goudoti and Podocarpus oleifolius (Montes and Verhelst 2011). Nesting likely corresponds to food availability, and may not be seasonal in many areas (Sornoza Molina and López-Lanus 1999); however, consistent nesting in locations such as Tapichalaca Reserve in southern Ecuador from approximately December through April suggests that this species may nest regularly in some parts of its range (Williamson 2011, Williamson 2016).
Habitat loss and fragmentation was previously considered considerable throughout its range, with 90-93% of montane forest lost in Colombia, but less in Peru (Salaman et al. 1999, P. G. W. Salaman in litt. 1999). However, recent evidence suggest that previous forest loss may have been overestimated (Tracewski et al. 2016, Global Forest Watch 2020). The cutting of wax palms for Palm Sunday services is considered a problem in parts of Ecuador, and palms also suffer poor recruitment because cattle browse young trees, with logging in adjacent areas increasing their susceptibility to parasites and disease (Salaman et al. 1999). In the Loja province of Ecuador, cattle ranching and felling of trees for construction products and fuel has previously led to encroachment of habitats (Snyder et al. 2000). 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 was trapped as a maize pest, whilst hunting was also previously persistent (Salaman et al. 1999, Quevedo et al. 2006). 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. 1999). Burning of pasture is additionally known to inhibit plant succession of the primary habitats occupied by this species (Quevedo et al. 2006). At Tapichalaca Reserve in southern Ecuador, occupation of nest boxes by honeybees (Apis mellifera) and predation by snakes and mammals such as Mustela frenata may pose dangers to both nestlings and adults (Williamson 2011, 2016). Competition between nesting sites by other resident parrot species and predation by large birds of prey such as the Variable hawk (Geranogetus polyosoma) and Black-chested buzzard-eagle (Geranogetus melanoleucus) may also threaten survival of juveniles (Quevedo et al. 2006).
Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix II. It is known from many protected areas (Wege and Long 1995), including Los Nevados, Cueva de los Guácharos, Municipal Reserve El Mirador, and Loro Corniazul Reserve national parks in Colombia (the latter two in which are Alliance for Zero Extinction locations; Botero-Delgadillo and Páez 2011b), and Podocarpus National Park in Ecuador (P. G. W. Salaman in litt. 1999, Clements and Shany 2001), as well as Tapichalaca Reserve. 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). It is also included in the Colombian Threatened Parrot Conservation Action Plan 2010-2020, with the establishment of the Loro Aliazul bird nature reserve helping to protect the habitat of the species (Botero-Delgadillo and Páez 2011). In Ecuador, a campaign ("Campaña de Loros Palmeros y Palma de Ramos") organised by Aves y Conservación, Jocotoco Foundation, Fundación ProAves and supported by the government aims to reduce unsustainable harvesting of wax palms and promote use of sustainable wax palms as alternatives for Palm Sunday (Williamson 2020). Trapping and hunting are resultantly thought to have stopped (Fundación ProAves in litt. 2020). The Loro Parque Fundación operating in southern Ecuador monitored breeding success in 2008 following successful occupation of 11 out of 17 installed nest boxes (Waugh 2009). The Jocotoco Foundation has additionally installed nest boxes at Tapichalaca Reserve, which are being used (even in preference to natural cavities) by this and other species of parakeet (D. Waugh in litt. 2010, Williamson 2011, 2016). Fundación ProAves also continues to work across the Cordillera Central region of Colombia, testing artificial nest sites, protecting habitats using designated schemes, applying reforestation schemes, and educating local communities through workshops (Quevedo et al. 2006). Propagating plants that make up the primary diet of the species in specialised nursaries are additionally enabling shielding against habitat changes across the species's range (Botero-Delgadillo and Páez 2011).
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., Botero-Delgadillo, E., Fundación ProAves, Harding, M., Isherwood, I., Lloyd, H., Salaman, P.G.W., Sharpe, C.J., Stuart, S., Symes, A. & Waugh, D.
BirdLife International (2021) Species factsheet: Leptosittaca branickii. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 29/07/2021. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2021) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 29/07/2021.