Nannopsittaca dachilleae O'Neill, Munn & Franke, 1991
The Manu Parrotlet (Nannopsittaca dachilleae) or Amazonian Parrotlet is a recently described species of parrot native to the western Amazon basin, from southern Peru to northwest Bolivia. It is found in lowland forests near bamboo and rivers. It has a stocky build akin to a small Amazon parrot. It has green plumage, with powder-blue lores and forehead, paler yellow-green cheeks and chin.
It is little known, but considered near threatened. It eats primarily seeds and fruit and seems to nest in bromeliads or other epiphytes. Flocks are small, under 20 individuals.
The Manu Parrotlet was discovered in 1985 by John P. O’Neill, Charles A. Munn, and Irma Franke while exploring the Manú River in the Manú National Park in eastern Peru. They noticed flock of small green parrots foraging on the forest floor, which resembled birds of the genus Forpus. However, they did not exhibit any sexual dimorphism and could not be assigned to any species recorded within the park or any nearby lowlands of eastern Peru. The new species was named after the scientists' colleague Barbara D’Achille, a conervationist and journalist of Latvian origin who fell victim to the internal conflict in Peru on May 31, 1989, while investigating conservation projects in Huancavelica Department. The Manu Parrotlet has been difficult to photograph or even locate subsequently, and was feared to have become extinct in the early 1990s, until recorded again in the mid 1990s.
In 1987 P. Marra and T. Meyer were on the banks of the Shesha when they collected two specimens from the Forpus, upon further investigation it was evident that these birds were not of the genus Forpus, but the same birds that O’Neill, Munn, and Franke discovered. After discovering that the Manu Parrotlet wasn’t a member of the genus Forpus, it was then reclassified in the genus Nannopsittaca.
The description of the Manu Parrotlet has been described as the upper parts, nape, auriculars, dorsum, tertials, wing covers, rump, upper-tail, and rectrices are bright green. The forehead, anterior crown, and ores are a pale blue. The malar area, breast, belly, and under-tail are a paler more yellowish green. No sexual dimorphism has been described as yet, although this could be because so little is known about the species.
The flock size of the Manu Parrotlet is still not completely certain. The thoughts of the scientist who study the Manu Parrotlet is that the flock size is somewhere between 10 and 20 birds. It has been said that the Manu Parrotlet can be seen along the Man on top of trees across from the Altamira beach about 25 minutes from the Manu Resort. It is typical that if one bird makes any noise that the whole flock will take flight and will disappear from sight.
There are many other parrots and parrotlets that live in the same habitat as the Manu Parrotlet. The Manu Parrotlet is hardly ever spotted on its own; instead it is usually seen in the company the larger parrotlets and parrots of the region. It is common for multiple flocks to gather in the morning to feed. It was studied that the smallest birds observed in Gilardi and Munn’s evaluation traveled in small flocks; this is more comparative to how the larger birds flock. When comparing these findings to those in O’Neill et al.’s study the Manu Parrotlet must be unique in how it nest and flocking patterns compared to other small birds.
When the Manu Parrotlet is spotted, it is either eating on clay licks or foraging on the ground eating seeds and taking in the mineral deposits left by the river. Many parrots in the Peruvian Forest tend to feed in the early mornings and in the early evenings. Guadua Bamboo is common in the Peruvian Forest, and it is common for many of the parrots and parrotlets in this region to feed on the seeds from this bamboo. Guadua Bamboo is found mainly in the transitional forest. The bamboo grows in monotypic stands, which is unusual in tropical plant communities. (Kratter 1997). The Guadua Bamboo is important because the rich bamboo forest produce a generous amount of seed, which provides a reliable food source for the birds of the Peruvian Forest.
Another important source of nutrients for the Manu Parrotlet is the clay licks along the riverbeds. The popular clay lick in the Manú River is a narrow horizon exposed to a vertical bank. The clay licks are sought after because nutrients are deposited along the river bed walls after being washed down the river. Birds and other herbivores then visit the licks to consume nutrients not easily available elsewhere. Sodium is one that is sought after by many species, and is in abundance on mineral licks. The Manu Parrotlet appeared every second or third day about midday with groups of Dusky-billed Parrotlet (Forpus sclateri), Tui Parakeet (Brotogeris sanctithomae), and Cobalt-winged Parakeet (B. cyanoptera), with the Manu Parrotlet eating clay for about 30 minutes.
The Peruvian Forest is crucial for the Manu Parrotlets and other parrots in this region to thrive. The Manu Parrotlet avoids open areas, and the forest provides the shelter, food, and temperature that they need to thrive in. The Manu Parrotlet feeds on the Guadua Bamboo frequently for the seeds that it produces. There are other reasons why the Guadua Bamboo is important to the survival of the Manu Parrotlet. The Guadua Bamboo grows in rich dense forest; it serves a dual purpose, it provides the birds with the food, as well as a safe shelter and habitat. The Manu National Park is a closed canopy ecosystem, sprawling from Southwestern Peru to Northwestern Bolivia. This park is crucial to the survival of the Manu Parrotlet and other species because poaching, logging, and hunting are scarce in this area.
The Manu Parrotlet is a scarce bird that is rarely spotted or photographed. Conservation of the rainforest is crucial to its survival. There are many threats to the ecosystem the Manu Parrotlet lives in; these include harvesting of the Guaua Bamboo, habitat fragmentation, and pollution.
Caused mainly by human encroachment on wilde ecosystems, habitat fragmentation is the process of subdividing a contiguous habitat into smaller pieces (Andren 1994). Commercial growth has been booming in Peru, this causes the humans to expand where they are living and to infiltrate habitats which many animals rely. In 1927 it was still common to see primitive modes of transportation used in Peru. It wasn’t until the commercialization of the land took over that Peru really started to see a change in the country (Jones 1927). Now more than ever are humans taking over the landscape. Agriculture and mining have started to take importance over the natural scenery. Farmers in Bolivia and in Peru tend to use up land till they use up all of its resources, then they move onto the next plot by burning down the forest. This vicious cycle is continuing on as the exporting of goods becomes more crucial to the economy of both Bolivia and Peru.
Habitat fragmentation disables species from roaming around freely. This can cause many problems, but one of the major problems is that as habitats become more fragmented it may be harder for animals to reproduce. This causes the decline in numbers which makes it difficult for any species to thrive. None of these hotspots have more than one-third of their pristine habitat remaining (Brooks et al. 2002).
Another threat that the Manu Parrotlet is facing is that the Guaua Bamboo Forest are quickly decreasing. The Guaua Bamboo Forest used to be plentiful, but now as humans continue to take siege on the natural habitat of the Amazonian Forest, the number of bamboo forest are decreasing. The Guaua Bamboo is popular because the stalks are extremely strong and make great housing along the coastal lines. This bamboo can stand up to a strong storm and also provides a good sturdy shelter to those living in the area. As the popularity of Guaua increases, the threats to the Amazonian Parrotlet increase. If the bamboo continues to get harvested, the Amazonian Parrotlet will have to find a new shelter and food source. Unfortunately, the montane forest of the Andean region, where more of the woody bamboo species are found, is decreasing at a high rate owing to both natural and anthropogenic disturbances If the great diversity of the Andean Region with all its utilitarian species and potentially utilitarian species is to be conserved, then some quick actions are required to find solutions that combine legal protection, sustainable development and reforestation of native species.
Pollution affects every species in the World on a daily basis. In South America it having affects to the habitat and climate due to pollution. As mining becomes more popular in countries in the Andes Region, the pollution rates in these areas will also go up. “Mercury has been extensively used in South America by Spanish colonizers for precious metal recovery. It is estimated that between 1550 and 1880, nearly 200,000 metric tonnes of mercury was released to the environment. During the present gold rush, Brazil is first in South America and second in the world in gold production (with 90% coming from informal mining orgarimpos). At least 2000 tonnes of mercury has been released to the environment in the present gold rush” (Malm 1998). The modern day gold rush is a concern for the Manu Parrotlet. As the pollution and mercury gets washed downstream, deposits are being left on the river banks and on the clay licks. The clay licks are important to the Manu Parrotlet, and they feed on clay licks multiple times a day. As more mercury and other pollutants get washed down the water ways and left on the clay licks, more species will be affected and killed. “Artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) provides an important source of livelihood for rural communities throughout the world. These activities are frequently accompanied by extensive environmental degradation and deplorable socio-economic conditions, both during operations and well after mining activities have ceased” (Hinton et al. 2003). As mining in Bolivia and Peru is not just for the larger companies, but the local level gets involved too. The smaller mines are an issue because they are harder to regulate and the money to purchase higher technologies is too expensive. For an artisanal miner to increase their use of better technologies there a few influencing factors that they take into place: (1) increased or comparable simplicity, (2) quick recovery of the economic mineral, and (3) demonstrated financial gain (Hinton et al. 2003).
This could be the thought that we need to express most to the countries in the Andes region. For environmentalist to get the message across that the environment needs improving, they need to start at the local level. It is easier to tax a larger corporation than it is to tax a low budget small miner. This holds true in other aspects. If we want to try and save the Andes and the species that live in it such as the Manu Parrotlet we need to educate the locals in these areas. We need to find ways to make the locals want to improve their agriculture practices and mining practices. Through education this is possible. One route that we could take to educating these locals is to try and introduce them to the wildlife that share their location. In my opinion we need to build relationships. Usually when a relationship is formed people care. If we can get the locals to care about protecting the Manu Parrotlet’s habitat, not only will they be caring about this small bird, but they will also be helping the other animals in that ecosystem.
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