Research Articles

Fifteen years of annual Cape Parrot Poicephalus robustus censuses: current population trends and conservation contributions

DOI: 10.2989/00306525.2014.959088
Author(s): Colleen T DownsSchool of Life Sciences, South Africa, Morgan PfeifferSchool of Life Sciences, South Africa, Lorinda A HartSchool of Life Sciences, South Africa


The Cape Parrot Poicephalus robustus is endemic to South Africa and numbers have reportedly declined since the early 1900s. It is a forest specialist and food nomadic, moving between patches depending on fruit availability. This makes it difficult to estimate numbers accurately and to determine its distribution. The annual Cape Parrot Big Birding Day was initiated in 1998 as a national census to determine a population estimate. Volunteers assist in monitoring and counting the Cape Parrot in the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo provinces in indigenous forests as well as sites where the parrots are known to feed outside of forests. Here, a summary of 15 years of census data is presented. In all years, with the exception of 2009, less than 1 600 Cape Parrots were recorded in the wild. The census data showed a slight increase in Cape Parrots, although this may be largely explained by an increase in coverage of suitable habitat and stabilisation in the population since 2005. A current distribution map for the Cape Parrot, based on census data, is presented. The distribution remains largely unchanged from that presented in the 1970s. This study highlights the value of public participation in monitoring an Endangered species and the need to conserve the forests where these parrots occur, due to their nomadic feeding behaviour.

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