An open-content, electronic journal published by the Animal Demography Unit
at the University of Cape Town

Interactions between birds of prey and the Cape Parrot in the Eastern Cape.

Kate F. Carstens, Johann C. Carstens, Kirsten Wimberger

Abstract: Worldwide, parrots are most vulnerable to attack when congregating around feeding and drinking sites. Flocking is a way of minimising vulnerability to predation, but can increase predation risk when flocks are unusually large and conspicuous. The Cape Parrot Poicephalus robustus is endemic to South Africa and is listed as endangered, with an estimated 1250 mature individuals remaining in the wild. Predation attempts have been previously documented on individuals flying over natural forests. However, unusually large flocks gather during autumn and winter to feed on exotic Pecan Carya illinoinensis nuts growing in orchards in Eastern Cape, South Africa, and this may increase their risk to predation. Observations conducted on 13 mornings and seven afternoons during March-June 2017 revealed frequent flushing and chasing by raptors such as African Goshawk Accipiter tachiro and Black Sparrowhawk Accipiter melanoleucus. No predation events were witnessed, and carcasses found on the ground beneath pecan trees suggests either predation or individuals that succumbed to Psittaccine Beak and Feather Disease. Ongoing observations at pecan orchards during the pecan season would better evaluate predation levels, and other threats to this endangered species at these feeding sites away from Afromontane habitat.

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