Santa Marta Parakeet Pyrrhura viridicata


Justification of Red List Category
This species has a very small population, which is declining mainly due to the loss and fragmentation of its habitat and low levels of hunting. It therefore qualifies as Endangered.

Population justification
The population has long been estimated to number 5,000-10,000 individuals, roughly equating to 3,300-6,700 mature individuals. More recently however, population densities of 4.1–7.1 individuals/km2 have been found (Botero-Delgadillo et al. 2012). Based on this density, the population has been extrapolated to c. 2,790-4,140 (Renjifo et al. 2016) or 2,900-4,800 individuals, respectively (Botero-Delgadillo et al. 2012). These estimates equate to roughly 1,800-3,200 mature individuals. It is nevertheless feared that the population size may be substantially smaller (P. Salaman in litt. 2020).

Trend justification
The species is undergoing a slow decline caused by habitat loss through logging and forest fires, as well as hunting and persecution (Renjifo et al. 2016; Botero-Delgadillo 2020; P. Salaman in litt. 2020). Until recently the species was judged to be fairly common, but it has surely become less abundant (Ridgely 1981; Hilty and Brown 1986; Renjifo et al. 2016).
Over the past three generations (11.4 years; Bird et al. 2020), tree cover loss within the range has been very slow, amounting to ~2% over this period (Global Forest Watch 2021, using Hansen et al. [2013] data and methods disclosed therein). As the species tolerates some forest degradation and fragmentation (Botero-Delgadillo 2020), forest loss alone is unlikely to drive rapid population declines. A projection of deforestation within the range for the period 2015-2040 suggests that habitat loss will continue at a rate of 3% over the next three generations (Negret et al. 2021). The impact of hunting has not been quantified, but is suspected to be low (Botero-Delgadillo 2020). Therefore, it is suspected that population declines do not exceed 10% over three generations.

Distribution and population

Pyrrhura viridicata occurs only in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Colombia. Flocks of 5-30 birds are observed daily or every few days (Salaman and Giles 1995; P. Boesman in litt. 1998; Snyder et al. 2000) on the relatively well-watched San Lorenzo Ridge. It is also known from Taquina, where specimens were collected in 1914 and the species was recorded commonly in 2010 (C. Olaciregui in litt. 2012), and a population on the west flank of the río Frío which was located in 2001 (Strewe and Navarro 2004). The area of land on the north slope of the massif within its altitudinal range is less than 600 km2, within which as little as 200 km2 of primary forest may remain (T. Arndt in litt. 1993). The total remaining habitat within the known extant range, including primary forest and secondary growth, was calculated to cover 680 km2 (Botero-Delgadillo et al. 2012).


The species inhabits mostly humid mature forests and secondary growth, but is also found in early successional forest and shrubland, and occasionally in cultivated areas or plantations (Hilty and Brown 1986; Botero-Delgadillo and Páez 2011; Botero-Delgadillo and Verhelst 2011). It forages in small groups for fruits and seeds (Botero-Delgadillo et al. 2010, 2011; Botero-Delgadillo and Páez 2011). The species is sedentary, but may undergo local movements on the onset of the breeding season (Botero-Delgadillo and Verhelst 2011). The species breeds cooperatively with up to five helpers per nest (Olaciregui et al. 2020). Nests are placed in cavities of  standing dead Wax Palms; also artificial nestboxes are readily adopted (Olaciregui et al. 2020). The breeding season lasts from February to October (Olaciregui et al. 2020).


Within the range, up to 47% of natural habitat has already been lost (Renjifo et al. 2016). The main current threat is the expansion of non-native tree plantations, such as those of pine and eucalyptus, along with ongoing clearance of land for livestock farming (C. Olaciregui in litt. 2012). Historically, conversion of forest to marijuana and coca plantations was also a major threat (L. G. Olarte in litt. 1993; L. M. Renjifo pers. comm. 1993, 2000; J. Fjeldså verbally 2000; C. Olaciregui in litt. 2012), which was compounded by the government spraying herbicides on the sierra (L. G. Olarte in litt. 1993; L. M. Renjifo pers. comm. 1993, 2000). Other threats that followed human immigration to the area from the 1950s onwards include logging and burning (Dinerstein et al. 1995; Snyder et al. 2000; Salazar and Strewe undated; P. Salaman in litt. 1999, 2020). Currently, habitat loss within the range amounts to c.3% over three generations (Global Forest Watch 2021, using Hansen et al. [2013] data and methods disclosed therein; Negret et al. 2021).

The species is known to be hunted in the río Frío valley, and in San Pedro district individuals in blackberry plantations have been shot. The species has not been found in the local bird trade, but is occasionally kept as a pet in local communities (Strewe 2005; Renjifo et al. 2016).
Climate change may pose an additional risk, as the dry season is intensifying each year (P. Salaman in litt. 2020).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix II. The species is considered Endangered at the national level in Colombia (Renjifo et al. 2016). Large parts of the species's range are protected within the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta National Park and the private reserves of El Dorado and La Cumbre: The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta is protected by two national designations and is an international biosphere reserve (IUCN 1992), however this has not conserved the massif's ecosystems effectively as logging and agricultural expansion is suspected to occur in some parts (Botero-Delgadillo and Páez 2011; E. Botero-Delgadillo in litt. 2020). All known sites for the species lie within Indian reservations where indigenous people have management rights and it is not possible to control management or hunting (Strewe 2005). In 2006, 1,600 acres of northwest Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta were protected through the American Bird Conservancy, Fundación ProAves and Conservation International and renamed as El Dorado Nature Reserve (Anon. 2005). The reserve currently encompasses 2,250 acres. Within its boundaries, Fundación ProAves has overseen an on-going pine eradication project since 2006, removing thousands of trees and saplings and planting native trees appropriate to Santa Marta Parakeet's foraging and nesting requirements (C. Olaciregui in litt. 2012). Artificial nestboxes have been used since 2006 (Olaciregui and Borja 2011).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Estimate current population levels and the area of remaining suitable habitat, particularly in currently undersurveyed areas outside of San Lorenzo ridge and río Frío valley (Snyder et al. 2000; E. Botero-Delgadillo in litt. 2020). Evaluate the state of the population at known sites, and localise new populations according to distribution models (Botero-Delgadillo and Páez 2011; C. Olaciregui in litt. 2012). Study habitat tolerance and population densities in different forest-types (Snyder et al. 2000; Salazar and Strewe undated). Research its ecology, breeding biology, patterns of dispersal and movement, particularly in relation to food availability, and its conservation status (Snyder et al. 2000; Botero-Delgadillo and Páez 2011). Quantify the use of artificial nestboxes and assess the impact on the population size (Renjifo et al. 2016; E. Botero-Delgadillo in litt. 2020). Investigate the genetic structure and assess gene flow across the range (Botero-Delgadillo and Páez 2011). Establish a long-term population monitoring scheme to understand population dynamics and trends (Botero-Delgadillo and Páez 2011).
Work with local communities and regional institutions to identify and prioritise conservation and management strategies (Salazar and Strewe undated). Establish education programmes working with local communities to combat hunting and persecution (Strewe 2005). Establish training programmes to empower local communities to design initiatives for a long-term cost-effective population monitoring (E. Botero-Delgadillo in litt. 2020).


25 cm. Overall green parakeet with red frontal band, white orbital ring, maroon ear-coverts, red band on belly, red-orange carpal and primary coverts, blue primaries and red underside of tail. Similar spp. Red-fronted Parakeet Aratinga wagleri is larger, has more red on forecrown, all-green tail and different coloration on wings and belly. Voice Screeching descending flight calls. Soft chatterings from feeding birds.


Text account compilers
Hermes, C.

Arndt, T., Benstead, P., Boesman, P., Botero-Delgadillo, E., Capper, D., Fjeldså, J., Isherwood, I., Khwaja, N., Olaciregui , C., Olarte, L.G., Renjifo, L.M., Salaman, P.G.W., Sharpe, C.J., Stuart, T. & Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Pyrrhura viridicata. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 03/02/2023. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2023) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 03/02/2023.