The Lesser Jardine Parrot

26th June 2010

Distribution: Jardine Parrots originate roughly in a band across Central Africa from Liberia across to Tanzania. It is generally recognized that there are 3 and possibly a 4th subspecies of Jardine's Parrots. The Lesser Jardine Parrot P.g.gulielmi ranges from southern Cameroon, Gabon, southern Congo and north western Angola to the DRC, the Central African Republic, Rwanda and south western Uganda. The Orange-crowned parrot P.g.fantiensis occurs in West Africa, from Liberia eastwards to Ghana along the Ivory Coast. The Masai red-headed parrot or Greater Jardine parrot P.g.massaicus is an East African bird, inhabiting the highlands of southern Kenya and northern Tanzania.
The Kenya's Jardine parrotP.g.permistus is disputed as a subspecies. It is found in the Highlands of Kenya, except in the south.

Status: The Jardine's Parrot is endangered in its natural habitat and is, therefore, a protected species (CITES II).

Habitat: The Lesser Jardine, like the fantiensis subspecies favours lowland rainforests, when the massaicus sticks to moutain cloud forests. Jardine parrots can be found at altitudes as high as 3000 metres.

General habits: The Lesser Jardine Parrot has a fixed roosting place but can travel more than 50 kilometres in a day in search of food. It can be seen coming down to the edges of the forest during the day, in search of alternative food, but it returns to the canopy as dusk approaches. This parrot is often seen in couples or as small family groups, since the young birds stay with their parents until the next breeding season. When food is abundant, this species can even be found in very important groups.

The Lesser Jardine likes to bath. It is, naturally, a shy bird. Captive birds are described as being very sweet natured, though active, and taking to everyone not favoring one person or another.

Feeding habits: The Lesser Jardine feeds on seeds -such as those from the Spathodea pods-, but also berries and fruits, notably wild olives, or the fruits of Podocarpus and Ceddrus. It also likes nuts, in particular from the oil palm, and will occasionnally consume insects.

Breeding habits: The breeding period varies according to the rain season. In Tanzania it lasts between November and March, in Kenya between July and the end of November, and in Western Africa from October to November and from March to July. In captivity there seems to be no particular breeding season for these birds which will breed throughout the year.

Nest: The Lesser Jardine's nests have been observed to be mostly in living Podocarpus, Hagenia abyssinica and Juniper trees.

Eggs: This bird lays 2 to 4 eggs, generally in two day intervals, or sometimes three. The male shares the incubation which usually starts after the second egg has been laid, and takes between 25 and 28 days.

Young: The chicks weigh 11 grams at birth, and their first down is white. They open their eyes after 14 days and the first green feathers appear on their head, back and wings at about 4 weeks. Chicks fledge at about 10 weeks, sometimes only at 12 to 13 weeks, and their plumage starts to develop. At that stage, it is entirely green. Young Jardines become independent from their parents and fully weaned at between 13 and 18 weeks.

Immatures from the different subspecies are difficult to identify as they are almost entirely green and black, lacking the orange-red to head, thighs and edge of wing; the green edging to feathers is narrower; and their breast and abdomen have a bluish tinge. The Lesser Jardine reaches sexual maturity only at 4 to 5 years and its average lifespan may exceed 60 years

Call: It is not a very noisy bird, especially compared to Amazons.

Description: The Jardine's Parrot is one of the largest of the Poicephalus. It looks very similar to the Amazon parrots, averaging about 250 grams in weight and 28 cm in length. The general plumage is iridescent green with black scalloping on most feathers. The forehead, crown, bend and edge of wing, thighs are orange-red. The extent of orange to forehead is variable, and indeed may be completely absent in some birds. The red and orange markings tend to increase with each molt. The lores are black. In many birds, the sides of the head are tinged with black. The back and wing feathers are brown-black with a narrow green edging. The abdomen occasionally is tinged with blue. The lower back is yellow-green and the under wing-coverts are blackish with broad green edging. The tail is black-brownish. The Jardines have light periophthalmic rings and their upper mandible is horn-colored at the base. The remainder and lower mandible is blackish. The irises are red to brown and their feet dark grey.

Poicephalus gulielmi gulielmi the "nominate race", generally is a darker green and is stockier than the other subspecies, with a larger beak .It can be distinguished by its dark wing feathers which could be described as practically "black" in some cases, because they only have a small green margin. The Lesser Jardine also has a large amount of red / orange on its forehead extending into the crown , also on the thighs and fore edges of the wings in large areas. The nominate seems to come in a variety of sizes but will never be as small as say a Senegal parrot, though it can be the size of a Timneh grey parrot.

Poicephalus gulielmi fantiensis (confusingly called a Lesser Jardine parrot in America) is almost like the gulielmi but is a lot smaller (26 cm) and its colours are more orange/yellow than red. Poicephalus gulielmi massaicus (greaters) differs more altogether. It is less colourful with large green margins on the wings, but usually just a small band of red above the cere of no more than 7mm. It is also larger and sleeker than the nominate subspecies. Poicephalus gulielmi permistus is supposed to be an intermediate between Poicephalus gulielmi gulielmi and Poicephalus gulielmi massaicus.

Male and female are very difficult to identify, and even someone with experience will generally need to have the two sexes to be able to compare them. The female is said to have a slightly brighter plumage and a more brownish iris (it is a rusty orange in the male). The male's crown is also said to be slightly flatter. The only sure way of sexing those birds would with DNA or surgical sexing.

Did you know: The Lesser Jardine's talking ability is excellent, male and female being equally adept talkers. Even without any training, a captive's bird vocabulary can get quite large and even more so with special training. It is also quick to learn sound effects, such as phones, doorbells, microwave beeps, whistling, kissing, barking, and other sounds that may be typical to your household.

In 1862, Lesser Jardine Parrots were on display in London and Hamburg's zoos; it was a rarity. Regular importation of these birds only began in 1970, most of them being destined to zoos and aviaries and only a handful to breeders. They prooved difficult to adapt, being very shy and battling with the food. Diseases also took their toll, as it is generally the case among imported birds, especially females. The first succesful captivity breeding of these birds was only in 1978 in England, later followed by Germany, the Chech Republic and Slovaquia.

Most Jardines found in Europe are from the nominate subspecies.

The Lesser Jardine Parrot is also called : Jardine's parrot, Red-headed parrot [English], Black wing Jardine [English (US)]; Perroquet de Jardine, Perroquet du Congo, Perroquet à calotte rouge [French]; Jardine Papegaai, Kongo Papegaai, Oranjekoppapegaai [Dutch]; Gulielmis Rotstirnpapagei [German]

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