By Jacobo Lacs and Tony Silva
In 1979, Panamanian ornithologist Francisco Delgado collected a Pyrrhura conure at Cambutal in the south-western portion of Azuero Peninsula, Panama (Delgado, 1985). The specimen appeared to belong to a new species. For verification he sent the skin of the bird to Eugene Eisenmann in New York. Eisenmann identified the conure as being new to science, which Delgado named Pyrrhura picta eisenmanni (see Delgado, 1985).
The conure is commonly known as the Azuero Conure or Parakeet. The specific name refers to Eugene Eisenmann, an amateur ornithologist born in Panama whose contributions include several books on neo-tropical birds; Eisenmann was associated with the American Museum of Natural History in New York and also the American Ornithologists’ Union.
Originally the Azuero Conure was regarded as a subspecies of the broader ranging Painted Conure Pyrrhura picta (Dalgado, 1985) but its isolated distribution and distinct plumage suggests that it deserves species status (del Hoyo et al., 2018). The most recent taxonomic work affirms is distinctiveness as a separate species (see Arndt and Winkler, 2017).
Diagnostic features of Pyrrhura eisenmanni include a broad grey edge to the breast feathers, red and brown forehead, reddish brown cheeks and dull white ear coverts.
Pyrrhura eisenmanni is known only from Cerro Hoya National Park in Veraguas and Los Santos provinces in the Azuero Peninsula, southern Panama. The global range is considered to be less than 700 km2, but within this area the species is regarded as locally common up to 1,660 m (Montañez and Angehr, 2007). My own data suggests that the population is not large but stable. BirdLife International (2016) gives the population as ranging from 1,000-2,499 individuals.
Within its range, the species occupies hilly areas, where it is found in the middle to higher forest storeys (Birdlife International, 2016).
This breeding occurred in the aviaries of the senior author (Jacobo Lacs) in Panama. His interest in the birds endemic to Panama and conservation efforts span much of his lifetime. To study and reproduce the endemic parrots has long been his passion.
The Azuero Conures were collected with the assistance of David Correa at Cerro Hoya through a permit (number REP/A-3-16) granted by the Ministerio de Medio Ambiente (Ministry of Environmental Affairs) in March 2017. In total four pairs were collected. Initially the wild caught birds were offered the same foods that they were observed consuming in their habitat. Later they were fed Psidium guajava, which parrots are attracted to because of the seeds it contains. Finally, to adapt the birds to a standard parrot fare a tame Brotogeris parakeet was placed with the group. Within three weeks the conures were avidly consuming all of the foods provided.
For breeding, the conures were placed in cages 3 meters long. The nests measure 20 cm square and 1 meter deep. One pair nested in April of 2019. They produced four eggs followed by two more after 15 days. Three of the eggs in the first clutch were fertile, hatched and were parent reared. The other two eggs were fostered into the nest of Plain Parakeets Brotogeris tirica who likewise reared them.
Details on development are as follows:
April 25: First egg laid.
May 19: Nest contained two chicks. Both hatched the same day, suggesting that incubation did not commence until the second egg was laid. Natal down is white and long.
May 26: Chicks: Eyes still closed. Feather follicles developing.
June 16: Chicks are covered in long grey down; this secondary down is dense. Tail and flight feathers are emerging from their sheath.
June 23: Forehead, crown and wings are feathering.
June 29: Ear coverts and the diagnostic red in the lores is evident. The wings are mainly feathered.
July 13: Chicks are almost completely feathered.
July: 19: First chick fledged. On leaving the nest, the bulbous pads at the sides of the mandibles are pale pink. Two weeks after leaving the nest the young became independent.
This world’s first breeding demonstrates the specie's adaptability to captivity. Establishing a strong, productive captive colony will provide a safety net for the wild population and will allow key biological data to be gathered, so that this information can be used to better understand the dynamics of the wild population.
Angehr, G. R., Dean, R., 2010, The birds of Panama: a field guide. Comstock Publishing Associates, Ithaca, NY, USA.
Arndt, T., Wink., M., 2017, Molecular Systematics, Taxonomy and Distribution of the Pyrrhura picta–leucotis Complex, The Open Ornithological Journal, 10: 53-91.
BirdLife International. 2016. Pyrrhura eisenmanni. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T45422623A95151860. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T45422623A95151860.en. Downloaded on 13 August 2018.
del Hoyo, J., Collar, N. & Kirwan, G.M, 2018, Azuero Parakeet (Pyrrhura eisenmanni), in del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from https://www.hbw.com/node/467511 on 13 August 2018).
Delgado, F.S., 1985, A new subspecies of the Painted Parakeet (Pyrrhura picta) from Panama, Ornithol. Monog, 36: 16-20
Editor's notes: The first time that I laid eyes on Jaco's collection I was literally blown away; the sheer number of birds and variety of species was unbelievable. You can read all about my visit right here @ AvianLife.
Since then, his collection has grown to be the largest and most comprehensive bird collection in the world, including all manner of species of softbills and parrots. It really is an incredible credit to Jaco's sheer dedication, drive and passion for birds! This World First Captive Breeding of the Azuero Conure Pyrrhura eisenmanni is a fitting testament to this dedication that he has demonstrated over the past decades.
To see more of Jaco's incredible collection please follow him on Instagram @ nature.jl