Maroon-fronted Parrot Rhynchopsitta terrisi


Justification of Red List Category
This species is considered Endangered because its very small population comprises a single sub-population and is thought to be in decline owing primarily to habitat loss and degradation within its very small and declining range.

Population justification
The population was recently estimated at c.3,500 individuals; however, the species is thought to reach reproductive maturity at about four years of age (R. Valdés-Peña in litt. 2010), thus the number of mature individuals is conservatively estimated at fewer than 2,500 and placed in the band 1,000-2,499 mature individuals.

Trend justification
The species's habitat suffered significant forest fires in 1998 and 2006, affecting one of the most important nesting colonies of the species, which used to hold c.44% of the breeding population in the late 1990s (R. Valdés-Peña et al. in litt. 2007). By 2007, this colony had declined by 75% compared to numbers in 1998. Data suggest that between 1999 and 2008, more than 15,400 ha of pine forests were destroyed in the species's breeding range, representing 11.9% of its total distribution (S. G. Ortiz-Maciel et al. in litt. 2010). A general trend of declines in the numbers of nesting pairs has been noted in the rest of its known colonies (R. Valdés-Peña et al. in litt. 2007). Based on these data and observations, the species is suspected to have undergone a rapid decline during the last  three generations.

Distribution and population

Rhynchopsitta terrisi is restricted to the Sierra Madre Oriental in Nuevo León, Coahuila and Tamaulipas, Mexico, where there is presently no more than 5,000 km2 of suitable habitat (R. Valdés-Peña et al. in litt. 2007, 2010). During winter 1998, some birds were recorded in the Sierra Gorda, Querétaro (R. Pedraza in litt. 1998), suggesting wanderers reach the south of the Sierra Madre Oriental. By 1998, 21 colonies had been identified (Snyder and Enkerlin 1996, Macias Caballero 1998), with 23 known by 2006 (Ortiz-Maciel et al. 2006), but it is still unclear whether it breeds c.25 km south of that range at Cerro Potosí. Counts of large wintering aggregations and productivity data from 1996 to 2007 suggest that the known colonies could account for almost the entire breeding population (R. Valdés-Peña et al. in litt. 2007, 2010). There are four main colonies (El Taray, El Condominio, San Antonio de la Osamenta and Santa Cruz [Macias Caballero 1998], with El Taray the most important [Valdés-Peña and Ortiz Maciel 2007]). Population estimates are hampered by its seasonal movements, but numbers were put at 2,500-3,000 individuals in 1996 (Macias Caballero 1998), and c.2,500 individuals following surveys in 2006-2007 (R. Valdés-Peña et al. in litt. 2007, 2010). An estimate of c.3,500 individuals was put forward in 2008 (Valdés-Peña et al. 2008); however, given that the species is thought to reach reproductive maturity at around four years, there are probably fewer than 2,500 mature individuals (R. Valdés-Peña et al. in litt. 2007, 2010). Comparisons with the 1,400 and 1,600 birds estimated in the 1970s indicate that population levels were relatively stable up until the mid-1990s (Snyder and Enkerlin 1996, Macias Caballero 1998). However, numbers of breeding pairs at known colonies have been declining, there is poor breeding success and the species's habitat is being destroyed (R. Valdés-Peña et al. in litt. 2007, 2010). It appears that less than 10% of the population is breeding successfully each year (R. Valdés-Peña et al. in litt. 2007, 2010).


It inhabits mature pine, pine-oak and mixed conifer forest at 2,000-3,500 m, and exceptionally 1,300-3,700 m. Habitat preferences during the breeding season vary between years (Ortiz-Maciel et al. 2010). It nests colonially in solution holes in limestone cliffs. Breeding follows the fruiting pattern of pines, with pairs arriving between April and May, laying in early July, and fledging in October-November (Macias Caballero 1998, Valdés-Peña and Ortiz Maciel 2007). Pairs produce an average of two chicks (range 1-4), and the whole population produces up to 150 young per year (Macias Caballero 1998, R. Valdés-Peña et al. in litt. 2007, 2010). It feeds almost exclusively on pinions, depends on daily access to free-flowing water and groups congregate at clay licks to eat earth (Snyder and Enkerlin 1996, Snyder et al. 2000). In addition to pinions, it also eats agave flowers, fruits and acorns (Valdés-Peña and Ortiz Maciel 2007, R. Valdés-Peña et al. in litt. 2007, 2010). Seasonal migrations or relatively predictable nomadic movements occur between the northern and southern range limits. Following the post-breeding migration to the southern part of its range, it forms large aggregations (Ortiz-Maciel et al. 2006).


Intensive grazing and agricultural conversion have destroyed and degraded forest (Snyder et al. 1996, Macias Caballero 1998). Annual fires burn large areas (in 1998, 20 km2 of foraging habitat were lost [Gómez-Garza and Garza-Tobón 1998], and 20 km2 of pine forest, including 90% of El Taray Sanctuary, were lost to two wildfires in 2005-2006 [Valdés-Peña and Ortiz Maciel 2007, R. Valdés-Peña et al. in litt. 2007, 2010]), which regenerate as dense (and unsuitable) chaparral vegetation (Snyder et al. 1996, Macias Caballero 1998). Data suggest that between 1999 and 2008 more than 15,400 ha of pine forest in the species's breeding range were destroyed by wildfires (S. G. Ortiz-Maciel et al. in litt. 2010). Droughts fuel fires and dry up natural water sources (in 1994, at least 50 birds drowned whilst attempting to drink from a cement-walled water tank [Snyder et al. 2000]). Additionally, the species is affected by low pinion production, and pressure from local people who collect pinions as an alternative income source (R. Valdés-Peña et al. in litt. 2007, 2010). Forest is also cleared for timber extraction (Valdés-Peña and Ortiz Maciel 2007) and forest loss throughout the species's range is currently estimated at ~2.5% across three generations (Tracewski et al. 2016). Climate change may also affect this species, as with a shift towards a drier environment may have a negative effect on breeding performance (Ortiz-Maciel et al. 2014), and could lead to the complete disappearance of this species's currently occupied habitat by 2090 (Monterrubio-Rico et al. 2015). The species is affected by some trapping and shooting (Ortiz-Maciel et al. 2006, Valdés-Peña and Ortiz Maciel 2007) and may experience years of low breeding success (Ortiz-Maciel et al. 2006, 2014) or even zero recruitment (R. Valdés-Peña et al. in litt. 2007, 2010).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix I and II. The species is protected by Mexican law; formerly considered 'threatened' in Mexico, its status was recently revised to Endangered (SEMARNAT 2010). In October 2008, a bill was signed into law banning the capture and export of Mexican wild parrots (Pham 2008). The El Taray Sanctuary encompasses 3.5 km2 of habitat (Macias Caballero 1998) and was set up in 1995 with the main aim of preserving this species (Marroquín-Flores 2004). However, this is not effectively protected (R. Valdés-Peña et al. in litt. 2007, 2010). A conservation plan has been put in effect, focusing on the main colony of El Condominio, including effective protection of 15 km2 through contracts with individual land-owners and owners of ejidos (communally owned land) (R. Valdés-Peña et al. in litt. 2007, 2010). Significant numbers breed in Cumbres de Monterrey National Park, but this is not effectively protected (Macias Caballero 1998, C. Macias Caballero and E. C. Enkerlin-Hoeflich in litt. 1999). Since 1995, nesting has been monitored at the 23 known breeding colonies (Ortiz-Maciel et al. 2006, R. Valdés-Peña et al. in litt. 2007, 2010). Plans had been made in 2006 to involve local people in the restoration of areas affected by fires, wildlife monitoring and the prevention of soil erosion (Valdés-Peña and Ortiz Maciel 2007). There are no protected sites in the species's wintering areas (Ortiz-Maciel et al. 2006), but conservation efforts include future projects for the protection of 80 km2 of forest (R. Valdés-Peña et al. in litt. 2007, 2010).  Captive breeding populations exist although no breeding success has yet been acheived (Reinschmidt 2013).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Protect all nesting colonies and wintering areas (R. Valdés-Peña et al. in litt. 2007, 2010). Conduct surveys to search for undiscovered colonies. Extend captive breeding efforts. Monitor rates of habitat loss and degradation throughout its range. Actively control fires. Restore habitat affected by fires (Valdés-Peña and Ortiz Maciel 2007). Determine precise habitat usage (Macias Caballero 1998). Implement a permanent environmental education programme for local communities (R. Valdés-Peña et al. in litt. 2007, 2010). Develop alternative sustainable activities for local people in order to decrease pressure on habitat (R. Valdés-Peña et al. in litt. 2007, 2010, Ortiz-Maciel et al. 2010).


40-45 cm. Macaw-like, heavy-billed, dark green parrot. Adults have maroon forehead and eye-stripe, dark red shoulder and thighs, yellow eye ring, long and pointed tail. Flight feathers and graduated tail appear blackish from below. Very heavy, dark bill. First year birds have pale bill and lack maroon on eyebrow, red on shoulder and yellow eye ring. Similar spp. Military Macaw Ara militaris is larger, has longer tail and blue in flight feathers and rump. Thick-billed Parrot R. pachyrhyncha is a similar green colour but is smaller, and has yellow in underwing, and red head markings. Voice High, rolling cr-a ak. Distant groups sound like Acorn Woodpecker Melanerpes formicivorus.


Text account compilers
Everest, J.

Benstead, P., Capper, D., Enkerlin-Hoeflich, E.C., Gilardi, J., Macias-Caballero, C., Marroquín-Flores, R., Mazar Barnett, J., Monterrubio-Rico, T., Ortiz-Maciel, S., Pedraza, R., Pilgrim, J., Sharpe, C.J., Taylor, J., Valdés-Peña, R. & Westrip, J.R.S.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Rhynchopsitta terrisi. Downloaded from http://datazone.birdlife.org/species/factsheet/maroon-fronted-parrot-rhynchopsitta-terrisi on 10/06/2023. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2023) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://datazone.birdlife.org on 10/06/2023.