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Poicephalus robustus

Poicephalus robustus

Superregnum: Eukaryota
Cladus: Unikonta
Cladus: Opisthokonta
Cladus: Holozoa
Regnum: Animalia
Subregnum: Eumetazoa
Cladus: Bilateria
Cladus: Nephrozoa
Superphylum: Deuterostomia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Infraphylum: Gnathostomata
Megaclassis: Osteichthyes
Cladus: Sarcopterygii
Cladus: Rhipidistia
Cladus: Tetrapodomorpha
Cladus: Eotetrapodiformes
Cladus: Elpistostegalia
Superclassis: Tetrapoda
Cladus: Reptiliomorpha
Cladus: Amniota
Classis: Reptilia
Cladus: Eureptilia
Cladus: Romeriida
Subclassis: Diapsida
Cladus: Sauria
Infraclassis: Archosauromorpha
Cladus: Crurotarsi
Divisio: Archosauria
Cladus: Avemetatarsalia
Cladus: Ornithodira
Subtaxon: Dinosauromorpha
Cladus: Dinosauriformes
Cladus: Dracohors
Cladus: Dinosauria
Ordo: Saurischia
Cladus: Eusaurischia
Subordo: Theropoda
Cladus: Neotheropoda
Cladus: Averostra
Cladus: Tetanurae
Cladus: Avetheropoda
Cladus: Coelurosauria
Cladus: Tyrannoraptora
Cladus: Maniraptoromorpha
Cladus: Maniraptoriformes
Cladus: Maniraptora
Cladus: Pennaraptora
Cladus: Paraves
Cladus: Eumaniraptora
Cladus: Avialae
Infraclassis: Aves
Cladus: Euavialae
Cladus: Avebrevicauda
Cladus: Pygostylia
Cladus: Ornithothoraces
Cladus: Ornithuromorpha
Cladus: Carinatae
Parvclassis: Neornithes
Cohors: Neognathae
Cladus: Neoaves
Cladus: Telluraves
Cladus: Australaves
Ordo: Psittaciformes

Familia: Psittacidae
Subfamilia: Psittacinae
Tribus: Psittacini
Genus: Poicephalus
Species: Poicephalus robustus

Poicephalus robustus (Gmelin, 1788)

Psittacus robustus (protonym)


Gmelin, J.F. 1788. Caroli a Linné systema naturae per regna tria naturae, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis. Tomus I. Editio decima tertia, aucta, reformata. - pp. i–xii, 1–500. Lipsiae. (Beer). DOI: 10.5962/bhl.title.545 p. 344 BHL Reference page.

Vernacular names
English: Cape Parrot

The Cape parrot (Poicephalus robustus) or Levaillant's parrot is a large, temperate forest dwelling parrot of the genus Poicephalus endemic to South Africa. It was formerly grouped as a subspecies along with the savanna-dwelling brown-necked parrot (Poicephalus fuscicollis) and grey-headed parrot (P. f. suahelicus), but is now considered a distinct species.


The Cape parrot was described in 1781 by the English ornithologist John Latham under the English name, the "robust parrot".[2] When in 1788 the German naturalist Johann Friedrich Gmelin revised and expanded Carl Linnaeus's Systema Naturae, he included the Cape parrot with a short description, coined the binomial name Psittacus robustus and cited Latham's work.[3] The type locality is South Africa.[4] The Cape parrot is now placed with nine other species in the genus Poicephalus that was introduced by the English naturalist William John Swainson in 1837.[5][6] The genus name is from the Ancient Greek phaios "grey" and -kephalos "headed". The specific epithet rubustus is Latin for "strong" or "robust".[7] The species in monotypic: no subspecies are recognised.[6]

The Cape parrot was formerly considered to be one of the three subspecies of the brown-necked parrot (Poicephalus fuscicollis). The Cape parrot is smaller than the other two taxa and has an olive-yellow rather than a silvery-grey head.[8] A detailed genetic analysis of the three taxa published in 2015 confirmed the distinctness of brown-necked and cape parrots, and suggested that ancestors of the two had diverged between 2.13 and 2.67 million years ago in the late Pliocene to early Pleistocene epoch. This period was a period of changes in climate, where grassland and forest were expanding and contracting, which presumably led to isolation and eventually speciation of separate populations.[9]

The Cape parrot is a short-tailed moderately large bird with a very large beak used to crack all sorts of hard nuts and fruit kernels, especially those of African yellowwood trees (Podocarpus spp.). This contrasts with the closely related savanna species (Poicephalus fuscicollis) which feeds on and a wide variety of tropical woodland trees such as marula, Commiphora spp. and Terminalia spp. These species are sexually dimorphic, with females typically sporting an orange frontal patch on the forehead. Juveniles also show a larger orange - pink patch on the forehead but lack the red on shoulders and legs of adults.[10] These plumage characteristics vary among individuals and among the three recognized forms.[11]
Distribution and habitat

The Cape parrot is endemic to South Africa. It occurs in Afromontane forests at moderate altitudes in eastern South Africa from the coastal escarpment near sea-level to the midlands at around 1000m. These forests occur as a series of small patches around the south and east of South Africa and are dominated by yellowwood trees (Podocarpus latifolius, Podocarpus falcatus and Podocarpus henkelii). Cape parrots have a disjunct distribution with the largest population around in the Amathole mountains of the Eastern Cape Province and extending east, with several large gaps, through the Mthatha escarpment and Pondoland in the Eastern Cape and the southern midlands of KwaZulu-Natal Province to Karkloof, near Pietermaritzburg. A very small population, of around 30 individuals occurs over 600 km to the north in the Magoebaskloof area of Limpopo Province. Cape parrots are absent from large areas of afromontane forests such as those along the southern coast of South Africa, near Knysna, the higher altitude Afromontane forests in the Drakensberg mountains of KwaZulu-Natal, or the moderate-altitude forests of northern KwaZulu-Natal province and Eswatini, which separate the KwaZulu-Natal midlands and Limpopo escarpment populations.[12] All of these areas are within the dispersal range of the parrots and there are old records of Cape parrots from northern KwaZulu-Natal.

Over one hundred P. robustus parrots are kept as cage birds, most of which are wild-caught birds although they do breed reasonably well in captivity. To date there have not been any successful releases of captive birds and the survival of this species is dependent on habitat conservation to maintain wild populations. Trade and export of wild-caught Cape parrots from South Africa has been made illegal by the international CITES agreement (appendix list II) and by South African law. They are rare as pets, despite low-levels of ongoing illegal collection and trade. Those that are kept have demonstrated wonderful personalities, and a talking ability that rivals their larger cousin the grey parrot. A small trade still persists in the related Grey-headed and brown-necked parrots.
Conservation status

The IUCN Redlist 3.1, which uses the Birdlife International checklist, lumps the common and widespread grey-headed parrot with Cape parrots and brown-necked parrots, each of which are more narrowly distributed and more threatened, leading to an assessment of least concern.[13] This contrasts with alternative assessments of the South African endemic P. robustus, as endangered[14] and possible threatened status of the brown-headed parrot of West Africa. There are only about 400 in the wild[dubious – discuss], and the Cape Parrot Project is trying to save them.

Hundreds of volunteers participate on the first weekend each May in the "Cape Parrot Big Birding Day" which is an annual count of the population throughout its distribution. The parrots are relatively easy to count at any forest patch due to their distinctive silhouettes, slow, 'rowing' flight and raucous calls. Counts are made in the evening as parrots arrive at roost patches and in the following morning as the parrots leave. A complete census of the population is difficult to achieve, however, as these forests are naturally fragmented and there are insufficient volunteers to count the more remote patches. There are also difficulties in achieving a precise count because the birds fly long distances for food and may be 'double-counted' at both feeding and roosting sites. Counts increased from about 500 specimens in May 2000 to over 1000 in recent years, although this may be largely explained by an increase in the particular sites that were counted. The parrots are particularly threatened by the fatal psittacine beak and feather disease virus (BFDV), and there have been suggestions that a diet heavy in yellowwood fruits greatly reduces the symptoms, although this has not been empirically investigated. Their habitat is being reduced by logging and modification of African yellowwood trees, in particular the loss of old trees and dead snags with suitable nesting hollows. The provision of nesting boxes has had some success and offers some hope for increasing the proportion of breeding individuals.

BirdLife International (2017). "Poicephalus robustus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2017: e.T119194858A119196714. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2017-3.RLTS.T119194858A119196714.en. Retrieved 13 November 2021.
Latham, John (1781–1785). A General Synopsis of Birds. Vol. 1, Part 1. London: Printed for Benj. White. pp. 296–297, No. 100.
Gmelin, Johann Friedrich (1788). Systema naturae per regna tria naturae : secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis (in Latin). Vol. 1, Part 1 (13th ed.). Lipsiae [Leipzig]: Georg. Emanuel. Beer. p. 344.
Peters, James Lee, ed. (1937). Check-List of Birds of the World. Vol. 3. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. p. 225.
Swainson, William John (1837). On the Natural History and Classification of Birds. Vol. 1. London: John Taylor. p. 301.
Gill, Frank; Donsker, David; Rasmussen, Pamela, eds. (January 2022). "Parrots, cockatoos". IOC World Bird List Version 12.1. International Ornithologists' Union. Retrieved 23 March 2022.
Jobling, James A. (2010). The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. London: Christopher Helm. pp. 312, 337. ISBN 978-1-4081-2501-4.
Perrin, MR (2005). "A review of the taxonomic status and biology of the Cape Parrot Poicephalus robustus, with reference to the Brown-necked Parrot P. fuscicollis fuscicollis and the Grey-headed Parrot P. f. suahelicus". Ostrich. 76 (3–4): 195–205. doi:10.2989/00306520509485493. S2CID 84397629.
Coetzer, W.G.; Downs, C.T.; Perrin, M.R.; Willows-Munro, S. (2015). "Molecular systematics of the Cape Parrot (Poicephalus robustus): implications for taxonomy and conservation". PLOS ONE. 10 (8): e0133376. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0133376. PMC 4534405. PMID 26267261.
Downs, C.T. 2005. Cape Parrot Poicephalus robustus pp. 221-222 in Hockey, P.A.R., Dean, W.R.J. and Ryan, P.G. (eds) Roberts - Birds of Southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Book Fund, Cape Town.
Symes, C.T. 2005. Grey-headed Parrot Poicephalus fuscicollis pp. 222-223 in Hockey, P.A.R., Dean, W.R.J. and Ryan, P.G. (eds) Roberts - Birds of Southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Book Fund, Cape Town.
"Archived copy". Archived from the original on 5 October 2011. Retrieved 5 May 2011. [South African Bird Atlas Project 2; Accessed 5 May 2011][permanent dead link]
"Archived copy". Archived from the original on 14 May 2011. Retrieved 5 May 2011. [Accessed 5 May 2011]

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