Thick-billed Parrot Rhynchopsitta pachyrhyncha


Justification of Red List Category
This species has a very small population which is declining owing to ongoing habitat loss and degradation. These factors mean that it qualifies as Endangered.

Population justification
In 2004, the population was thought to number 3,000-6,000 individuals, although more recent systematic counts gave a potential global population of 2,097 individuals (Cruz-Nieto et al. 2012). The population size is currently placed at c.2,800 mature individuals, derived from the statement by Ortiz Maciel and Cruz Nieto (2004) that an estimate of up to 140 nests in the Bisaloachic-Cebadillas region represented c.10% of the total known breeding population. Thus the number of mature individuals is assumed to fall within the range 2,000-2,800. However, these figures may represent an over-estimate, as not all of the nest cavities surveyed are used every year (M. A. Cruz-Nieto et al. in litt. 2007), and surveys in 2011 found 177 breeding pairs - estimated to be potentially 42% of the breeding population (Cruz-Nieto et al. 2011).

Trend justification
The species's population is suspected to be declining rapidly, in line with the clearance and degradation of its habitat, in particular the loss of breeding sites.

Distribution and population

Rhynchopsitta pachyrhyncha is largely restricted to the Sierra Madre Occidental, Mexico, in north-east Sonora, west Chihuahua, south and west Durango and Michoacán (two collected in April 1987 and 200 birds in April-May 1990 [J. Salgado in litt. 1998, Specimens in UMSNH per A. T. Peterson in litt. 1999] are the first records since 1941). Smaller, occasional or extirpated populations have occurred in Sinaloa and Jalisco. Seasonal migrations occur to the states of Nayarit, Jalisco, Colima and Michoacán (Ortiz Maciel and Cruz Nieto 2004). Pre-1960 records of Rhynchopsitta parrots from Coahuila, México and Veracruz may pertain to wanderers. It formerly occurred in USA, in Arizona and New Mexico, but had disappeared by the early 1990s (Ortiz Maciel and Cruz Nieto 2004). Attempts to establish a reintroduced population in Arizona have not proved successful (Snyder et al. 1999). The population was estimated at between 1,000-4,000 in 1995 (Lammertink et al. 1996). In 2004, the population was thought to number 3,000-6,000 individuals, including c.2,800 mature individuals (Ortiz Maciel and Cruz Nieto 2004). These figures may represent an over-estimation, as not all of the nest cavities surveyed are used every year (M. A. Cruz-Nieto et al. in litt. 2007) and more recent systematic counts gave a potential global population of 2,097 individuals (Cruz-Nieto et al. 2012). In 2011 only 177 breeding pairs were found, and this was estimated to make up 42% of the breeding population (Cruz-Nieto et al. 2011). Anecdotal observations by the rural residents of ejidos (communally owned lands) indicate a continued general decline in flock sizes and the frequency of sightings throughout its range, including the disappearance of some local populations (Ortiz Maciel and Cruz Nieto 2004).


It inhabits temperate conifer, mature pine-oak, pine and fir forests at 1,200-3,600 m, but breeds from 2,000 to 2,700 m (Monterrubio-Rico et al. 2006). It nests in tree-cavities (especially in pine snags and Pseudotsuga menziesii [M. A. Cruz-Nieto in litt. 1998, Monterrubio-Rico and Enkerlin-Hoeflich 2004]), often originally excavated by woodpeckers. The selection of tree species in which pairs nest appears to shift in reaction to changes in local availability (Monterrubio-Rico and Enkerlin-Hoeflich 2004). Breeding coincides with the peak in production of pine-seeds, which are the species's primary food resource (Ortiz Maciel and Cruz Nieto 2004). The egg-laying period is mid-June to late July (Monterrubio-Rico and Enkerlin-Hoeflich 2004). Flocks roost on cliffs, but reintroduced birds have used trees. Outside the breeding season, it is nomadic in response to variations in cone abundance.


Less than 0.06% remains of the original forest cover in the Sierra Madre Occidental ecoregion (Ortiz Maciel and Cruz Nieto 2004). There has been extensive modification of old-growth pine forests for timber and woodpulp. In the Sierra Madre Occidental, 80-85% of forest cover remains, but only 0.6% is old-growth (Lammertink et al. 1996). In 1994, there was extensive penetration and degradation of habitat in south Chihuahua by drug-growers, loggers and huge numbers of cattle. In the same year, forest stands at Mesa de Guacamayas were heavily burned (Monterrubio-Rico and Enkerlin-Hoeflich 2004). Fire remains a serious threat to the species (M. A. Cruz-Nieto et al. in litt. 2007). Logging has been intensive in the Sierra Madre Occidental, with no large fragments of old growth forest remaining in northern areas (Monterrubio-Rico and Enkerlin-Hoeflich 2004). Commercial logging in the area involves the removal of larger trees and standing dead wood, and appears to reduce nest-site availability by leaving few snags and pine trees large enough for the species to nest in. Such large-scale logging operations across the species's historic range may be responsible for its decline (Monterrubio-Rico and Enkerlin-Hoeflich 2004). As a result of habitat loss, breeding is now concentrated in two areas; Cebadillas de Yahuirachi and Madera (Monterrubio-Rico et al. 2006). Illegal trade in the species has fluctuated with peaks in the early 1970s and mid-1980s. Unofficial records confirm that the species is taken for illegal trade, but the extent of trapping is not known (M. A. Cruz-Nieto et al. in litt. 2007). Climate change may have an impact on habitat availability for this species (Monterrubio-Rico et al. 2015).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix I and II and protected in the USA. The species is managed as part of the Association of Zoos and Aquaria's Parrot Taxon Advisory Group (Parrot TAG) and has been the subject of field studies since 1994.  A permanent research team, located in the Sierra Madre Occidental ecoregion, monitors nesting sites and studies its breeding biology (Ortiz Maciel and Cruz Nieto 2004) with the goal of developing sustainable forest management practices that incorporate the species's needs (Ortiz Maciel and Cruz Nieto 2004). Breeding or foraging sites at Tancítaro, El Carricito, Monte Oscuro, Mexiquillo, Las Bufas and Cebadillas have varying degrees of protection (Lammertink et al. 1996, J. M. Lammertink in litt. 1998, J. Salgado in litt. 1998, Anon. 1998, Specimens in UMSNH per A. T. Peterson in litt. 1999, E. C. Enkerlin-Hoeflich in litt. 2000, Monterrubio-Rico and Enkerlin-Hoeflich 2004). In 2003-2004, the Madera nesting area (the second most important breeding area) was in the process of being declared a National Forest Reserve, and efforts were underway for the protection of Mesa de Guacamayas (Monterrubio-Rico and Enkerlin-Hoeflich 2004). In 2002, a moratorium on timber extraction was signed by the Tutuaca Ejido at Bisaloachia (Cebadillas), which will protect 10% of the breeding population for 15 years (Enkerlin-Hoeflich 2000, Lurie and Snyder 2001, Ortiz Maciel and Cruz Nieto 2004). The agreement involves reimbursement of half of the value of the uncut timber to the ejido by NGOs, whilst the same organisations will also assist the community in recouping the other half of the value through alternative income sources (Ortiz Maciel and Cruz Nieto 2004). Such agreements are being promoted in the Madera region and to the Conoachi Ejido (Ortiz Maciel and Cruz Nieto 2004). Pseudotsuga menziesii is protected in Mexico (M. A. Cruz-Nieto in litt. 1998). Two captive-breeding facilities in USA have raised 127 chicks to fledging (S. Healy in litt. 1999) but reintroduction attempts have failed owing to disease, the inability to develop flocking behaviour, and predation by raptors.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Monitor population trends through regular surveys. Protect all current and historic breeding sites (Monterrubio-Rico and Enkerlin-Hoeflich 2004, Monterrubio-Rico et al. 2006), including those at Mesa Las Guacamayas and Cebadilla/Yahuirachic and Cocono/Cienaga de la Vaca from the exploitation of snags (Lammertink et al. 1996). Adopt forestry policies that have longer rotation cycles and retain snags (e.g. a minimum of five large snags per ha [Monterrubio-Rico and Enkerlin-Hoeflich 2004]). Restore degraded areas to a more mature condition (Monterrubio-Rico and Enkerlin-Hoeflich 2004). Implement forestry management practices that recognise the needs of the species (Monterrubio-Rico and Enkerlin-Hoeflich 2004), and incorporate tree species required for nesting and feeding (Monterrubio-Rico et al. 2006). Supplement natural nest cavities with nest boxes (to accomodate for the suitable maturation of trees, which may take 40 years) (Monterrubio-Rico et al. 2006). Study movements using satellite-tracking.


38 cm. Macaw-like, heavy-billed, green parrot. Red forecrown, eye-stripe, shoulder and thighs. Yellow underwing-coverts conspicuous in flight. Flight feathers and graduated tail appear blackish from below. Large dark bill. Similar spp. Military Macaw Ara militaris is larger with proportionally longer tail and blue flight feathers and rump. Lilac-crowned Amazon Amazona finschi has shorter tail, lacks yellow underwing and calls differently. Maroon-fronted Parrot R. terrisi is a similar green in colour, but is larger, has maroon head markings and lacks yellow underwing. Voice Like high-pitched macaw. Variety of screeches, squawks, screams and shrieks. Harsh, rolling cra-ak, graa-ah and laughing calls.


Text account compilers
Westrip, J., Benstead, P., Isherwood, I., Capper, D., Taylor, J., Sharpe, C J

Salgado, J., Peterson, A., Cruz-Nieto, M.Á., Monterrubio-Rico, T., Cruz, J., Lammertink, M., Valdés-Peña, R., Healy, S., Juarez, E., Enkerlin-Hoeflich, E., Ortiz-Maciel, S., Cruz-Nieto, J., Torres-Gonzales, L., Torres-Gonzalez, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2020) Species factsheet: Rhynchopsitta pachyrhyncha. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 30/11/2020. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2020) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 30/11/2020.