Orange-fronted Parakeet (Eupsittula canicularis): request for information.

BirdLife species factsheet for Orange-fronted Parakeet

This discussion was first published as part of the 2019 Red List update. At the time a decision regarding the status of this species was pended, but to enable potential reassessment of this species as part of the 2020 Red List update this post remains open and the date of posting has been updated.

Orange-fronted Parakeet (Euspittula canicularis) occurs throughout western Central America, from Sinaloa (Mexico) to north-western Costa Rica. It occupies lowland and hill forest and woodland up to 1,500 m, and is also found in savanna and dry thorn scrub (Collar et al. 2018). The species seems to be able to adapt to deforested areas like pastures, plantations and even urban areas (Collar et al. 2018). The global population has been estimated at 500,000-4,999,999 mature individuals (A. Panjabi in litt. 2008).

Orange-fronted Parakeet is currently listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List, with the population assumed to be stable in the absence of evidence for any declines or substantial threats. However, the species seems to be vulnerable to illegal trapping for the parrot trade. Taking into account this information, Orange-fronted Parakeet may warrant a change in Red List status. Therefore, it will be re-assessed against all criteria.

Criterion A – A remote-sensing study found that forest loss within the Orange-fronted Parakeet’s range over the last three generations (21 years) was potentially 4% (Tracewski et al. 2016). Considering that the species occupies a wide variety of habitat, including forest edge, open woodland and savanna, and seems to tolerate a certain level of human disturbance (Collar et al. 2018), the species might not qualify as threatened based on forest loss alone. However, Orange-fronted Parakeet is additionally targeted for the illegal parrot trade, which likely exacerbates the rate of decline. Once one of the most abundant parrot species in Central America, it is now heavily trapped and has disappeared locally (J. C. Cantú Guzmán per R. Low in litt. 2017). In general, trapping for the pet trade is a severe risk for parrot species; it constitutes one of the principal threats to Neotropical parrots and can lead to drastic population declines (Berkunsky et al. 2017). While Orange-fronted Parakeet is almost certainly trapped across its entire range (e. g., One Earth Conservation 2016), most information is available for Mexico:

Before the trapping of the species was banned in Mexico in 2002, almost 7,000 individuals were legally captured in 1998-2001 (Cantú Guzmán et al. 2007). However, illegal trapping has continued since; of 65,000-78,500 parrots captured in 2005/2006, about 23,500 were Orange-fronted Parakeets (Cantú Guzmán et al. 2007). According to trappers, 30-500 individuals are poached each year in the states of Sinaloa, Nayarit and Jalisco, while the population there is reported to decline (20-30% decrease in Sinaloa between 2002 and 2007, 25% decrease in Nayarit over an unspecified time, and stable trends in Jalisco) (Cantú Guzmán et al. 2007). In Mexico, Orange-fronted Parakeet is trapped both for the internal market and for export, mainly to the U.S.A. (Cantú Guzmán et al. 2007, Bergman 2009, Palomera-García 2010).

While it was once a common species in the pet trade, it is now becoming increasingly rare (CEC 2017), suggesting an overall rarity of the species in the wild. However, data on trapping intensity and the rate of population decline of Orange-fronted Parakeet are sparse, as there is no data available for populations in central and southern Mexico (from Colima and Michoacán to Chiapas), nor for populations in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica. Moreover, the available information covers only short periods in the near past (1998-2007). The relevant time period for the Red List, however, is three generation lengths (in this case 21 years) in the past and future, i.e. a period spanning from 1998 to 2019 or from 2019 to 2040, as well as any 21-year-period spanning both past and future.

We therefore request any information regarding the population trend of Orange-fronted Amazon in the given time frames, particularly for the southern part of the range. If there is evidence that the rate of population decline across the entire range approaches or exceeds 30% over three generations (21 years), then Orange-fronted Amazon may qualify for listing as Near Threatened or even Vulnerable under Criterion A2cd+3cd+4cd.

Criterion B – This species has a very large range (Extent of Occurrence = 1,490,000 km2) and is therefore unlikely to approach the thresholds for listing as Vulnerable under Criterion B.

Criterion C – The population size of Orange-fronted Parakeet is estimated to fall in the band 500,000-4,999,999 mature individuals. Even though the population appears to be in decline, it does not fall below the threshold (10,000 mature individuals) for listing under Criterion C.

Criterion D – The population size of Orange-fronted Parakeet is estimated at 500,000-4,999,999 mature individuals and is therefore too large to fall below the threshold (1,000 mature individuals) for listing as Vulnerable under Criterion D.

Criterion E – To the best of our knowledge no quantitative analysis of extinction risk has been conducted for this species. Therefore, it cannot be assessed against this criterion.

Hence, it appears that the only criterion where the species may now approach the threshold for Vulnerable is A2cd+3cd+4cd. Therefore, up-to-date information is urgently sought regarding the intensity of trapping, potential additional threats the species might be facing and the rate of population decline across the entire range of Orange-fronted Parakeet.

Please note that this topic is not designed to be a general discussion about the ecology of the species, rather a discussion of its Red List status. Therefore, please make sure your comments are relevant to the discussion outlined in the topic.

An information booklet on the Red List Categories and Criteria can be downloaded here and the Red List Criteria Summary Sheet can be downloaded here. Detailed guidance on IUCN Red List terms and definitions and the application of the Red List Categories and Criteria can be downloaded here.


Bergman, C. 2009. Mexico’s Parrot Trade Exposed. (Accessed 11 December 2018).

Berkunsky, I.; Quillfeldt, P.; Brightsmith, D. J.; Abbud, M. C.; Aguilar, J. M. R. E.; Alemán-Zelaya, U.; Aramburú, R. M.; Arce Arias, A.; Balas McNab, R.; Balsby, T. J. S.; Barredo Barberena, J. M.; Beissinger, S. R.; Rosales, M.; Berg, K. S.; Bianchi, C. A.; Blanco, E.; Bodrati, A.; Bonilla-Ruz, C.; Botero-Delgadillo, E.; Canavelli, S. B.; Caparroz, R.; Cepeda, R. E.; Chassot, O.; Cinta-Magallón, C.; Cockle, K. L.; Daniele, G.; de Araujo, C. B.; de Barbosa, A. E.; de Moura, L. N.; Del Castillo, H.; Díaz, S.; Díaz-Luque, J. A.; Douglas, L.; Figueroa Rodríguez, A.; García-Anleu, R. A.; Gilardi, J. D.; Grilli, P. G.; Guix, J. C.; Hernández, M.; Hernández-Muñoz, A.; Hiraldo, F.; Horstman, E.; Ibarra Portillo, R.; Isacch. J. P.; Jiménez, J. E.; Joyner, L.; Juarez, M.; Kacoliris, F. P.; Kanaan, V. T.; Kleman-Júnior, L.; Latta, S. C.; Lee, A. T. K.; Lesterhuis, A.; Lezama-López, M.; Lugarini, C.; Marateo, G.; Marinelli, C. B.; Martínez, J.; McReynolds, M. S.; Mejia Urbina, C. R.; Monge-Arias, G.; Monterrubio-Rico, T. C.; Nunes, A. P.; Nunes, F. d. P.; Olaciregui, C.; Ortega-Arguelles, J.; Pacifico, E.; Pagano, L.; Politi, N.; Ponce-Santizo, G.; Portillo Reyes, H. O.; Prestes, N. P.; Presti, F.; Renton, K.; Reyes-Macedo, G.; Ringler, E.; Rivera, L.; Rodríguez-Ferraro, A.; Rojas-Valverde, A. M.; Rojas-Llanos, R. E.; Rubio-Rocha, Y. G.; Saidenberg, A. B. S.; Salinas-Melgoza, A.; Sanz, V.; Schaefer, H. M.; Scherer-Netos, P.; Seixa, G. H. F.; Serafini, P.; Silveira, L. F.; Sipinski, E. A. B.; Somenzari, M.; Susanibar. D.; Tella, J. L.; Torres-Sovero, C.; Trofino-Falasco, C.; Vargas-Rodríguez, R.; Vázquez-Reyes, L. D.; White Jr, T. H.; Williams, S.; Zarza, R.; Masello, J. F. 2017. Current threats faced by Neotropical parrot populations. Biological Conservation 214: 278-287.

Cantú Guzmán, J. C.; Sánchez Saldaña, M. E.; Grosselet, M.; Gamez, J. S. 2007. The Illegal Parrot Trade in Mexico. A Comprehensive Assessment. Defenders of Wildlife and Teyeliz. México, D. F.; Mexico.

CEC. 2017. Sustainable Trade in Parrots: Action Plan for North America. Commission for Environmental Cooperation. Montreal, Canada.

Collar, N.; Boesman, P.; Kirwan, G.M. 2018. Orange-fronted Parakeet (Eupsittula canicularis). 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, Spain. (Accessed 11 December 2018).

One Earth Conservation. 2016. Parrots and People of Latin America. (Accessed 11 December 2018).

Palomera-García, C. 2010. Habitat use and local harvesting practices of the Orange-fronted Parakeet (Aratinga canicularis) in western Mexico. Studies on Neotropical Fauna and Environment 45: 139-147.

Tracewski, Ł.; Butchart, S. H. M.; Di Marco, M.; Ficetola, G. F.; Rondinini, C.; Symes, A.; Wheatley, H.; Beresford, A. E.; Buchanan, G. M. 2016. Toward quantification of the impact of 21st-century deforestation on the extinction risk of terrestrial vertebrates. Conservation Biology 30: 1070-1079.

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7 Responses to Orange-fronted Parakeet (Eupsittula canicularis): request for information.

  1. Red List Team (BirdLife International) says:

    Preliminary proposals
    Based on available information, our proposal for the 2019 Red List is to pend the decision on this species and keep the discussion open until 2020, while leaving the current Red List category unchanged in the 2019 update.

  2. Nestor Herrera says:

    Orange-fronted Parakeet populations are not as common in El Salvador, they are regularly observed in pairs and groups of a dozen individuals, however they are frequent throughout the country up to 1500 meters above sea level, even in cities. However, they are one of the species in greatest demand as a pet and although there are no recent data on trade or possession, it is a highly requested species as a companion bird. If I consider the Vulnerable proposal appropriate.

  3. Juan Carlos Cantú says:

    Mexico decreed a parrot trade ban in October of 2008 for all 22 species of parrots and macaws that inhabit Mexico (Cantú et al 2011; 2012). Before 2008, E. canicularis was trapped legally for over 25 years (Cantú et al 2007, Cantú in litt 2020). From 1998-2008, 8,756 orange-fronted parakeets were permitted to be captured making it the second most captured parrot species in Mexico (Cantú et al in litt 2017).
    It is the most seized psittacid species in Mexico (Cantú et al 2007). From 1995-2019, a total of 11,402 E. canicaluris were seized by the Environmental Enforcement Agency (Cantú et al 2007, PROFEPA seizure data 1995-2019). It was the second most seized Mexican parrot species by the USA with 486 specimens from 1992-2005 (Cantú et al 2007). The official seizure data does not reveal the true magnitude of the illegal trade given that it was estimated that authorities only seize about 2% of the total annual illegal trade (Cantú et al 2007). It was estimated that the annual illegal capture of E. canicularis was 23,500 specimens (Cantú et al 2007).
    The orange-fronted parakeet is not only captured for itself but to have its head dyed yellow and passed off as the chick of the yellow-headed parrot which is the most sought after species in Mexico because of its ability to imitate sounds (Cantú et al 1996; Backstrom, 2019).
    It has been documented that traffickers used parrot capture permits illegally to cheat and fool authorities (Cantú et al 2007), and by analyzing seizure data from E. canicaluris from periods when capture was allowed and not allowed, it was demonstrated that seizures would decrease substantially when captured was not allowed (Cantú et al 2012). The reasoning behind this occurrence was that during periods when capture was not allowed, traffickers couldn’t get hold of capture permits to cheat and thus it would be very difficult for them to fool authorities. Thus, after the 2008 parrot ban, seizure trends for E. canicularis show a decreasing trend (Cantú et al 2013)
    Orange-fronted parakeets are harvested from their nests. The orange-fronted parakeet is the main species that uses termite nests and it has been pointed out that the distribution of this species in Mexico and Central America closely approximates the distribution of the colonial termite Euthermes nigriceps. They appear to only use nests still occupied by termites (Hardy 1963 quoted in Collias 1984). Several pairs may use the same termite nest (Macias et. al. 2000). Illegal trappers and hoarders hire children of local towns to pull the nestlings from these termite nests and then come around to collect them once or twice a month. (Cantu et al 2007).

    Although, illegal trade parrots have decreased in Mexico (Cantú et al 2017, 2020), demand is still very high, and thousands of parakeets are still being harvested illegally each year. Given the current illegal take and the decrease of available habitat for this species in Western Mexico (Marin et al 2012), the species should be upgraded to near threatened.

    Juan Carlos Cantú
    Director of Programs
    Defenders of Wildlife Mexico

    Backstrom, A. 2019 La decoloración en loros y otras aves
    Cantú-Guzmán, J.C. y M. E. Sánchez-Saldaña (1996). Tráfico Ilegal de Pericos Mexicanos. Naturaleza y Tráfico. Año 1, Vol. 1, No. 2.

    Cantú-Guzmán, J.C. y M. E. Sánchez-Saldaña, Grosselet, M. y Silva, J. (2007). Tráfico Ilegal de Pericos en México. Una Evaluación Detallada. Defenders of Wildlife. Washington, D.C. 75 pp

    Cantú-Guzmán, J.C. y M. E. Sánchez-Saldaña (2011). A Ban and a Plan. Decreasing Illegal Trade in Mexico. Pp 10-11 in Psittascene May 2011

    Cantú-Guzmán, J.C. y M. E. Sánchez-Saldaña. (2012). Estudio de caso: El tráfico ilegal de pericos silvestres en México. Seminario INE-PROFEPA-WSPA Tráfico Ilegal de Especies Silvestres, una Amenaza para la Biodiversidad. Julio 2012
    Cantú-Guzmán, J.C. y M. E. Sánchez-Saldaña. (2013). Tráfico Ilegal de Psitácidos en México desde la veda del 2008. Presentación en el XII Congreso para el Estudio y Conservación de las Aves en México. San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas. Octubre 2013
    Cantú-Guzmán, J.C. y M. E. Sánchez-Saldaña (2017). Tráfico Ilegal de Pericos Disminuye después de la Veda del 2008. Presentación en el XV Congreso para el estudio y conservación de las aves en México. Morelia, Michoacán, 2017
    Cantú-Guzmán, J.C. y M. E. Sánchez-Saldaña (2018). La importación masiva de periquitos monje por México: Desenmascarando el Mito. Defenders of Wildlife y Teyeliz A.C. diciembre 2018. 34 pp.
    Collias, N.E. and E.C. Collias. 1984 Nest Building and Bird Behavior. Princeton University Press. N.J. 336.pp
    Macías Caballero, C., E. E. Iñigo Elías, y E. C. Enkerlin Hoeflich. 2000. Proyecto de Recuperación de Especies Prioritarias: Proyecto Nacional para la Conservación, Manejo y Aprovechamiento Sustentable de los Psitácidos de México. Instituto Nacional de Ecología, México DF.
    Marín-Togo, M.C., Monterrubio-Rico, T.C., Renton, K. et al. Reduced current distribution of Psittacidae on the Mexican Pacific coast: potential impacts of habitat loss and capture for trade. Biodivers Conserv 21, 451–473 (2012).

    • Red List Team (BirdLife International) says:

      Thank you very much for submitting this very detailed information, which allows us to get a clearer picture of the population trends in Mexico:

      Illegal trapping in Mexico was banned in 2008; before that almost 9,000 individuals were legally captured over ten years. Since the ban in 2008, illegal capturing is still ongoing. For the assessment under Criterion A, the period from 2009 onwards is of importance.
      We know that 11,402 individuals were seized from illegal trade between 1995 and 2019, which represents about 2% of the total number of individuals in trade (Cantú et al. 2007 and PROFEPA seizure data for 1995-2019). This means that in total c. 570,100 individuals were illegally captured in 1995-2019. Assuming that an equal number of individuals is captured every year, the annual illegal take would be c. 23,500 individuals (Cantú et al. 2007).
      The total population size of Orange-fronted Parakeet is 500,000-4,999,999 mature individuals (A. Panjabi in litt. 2008, Partners in Flight 2019). We have no exact information on the population size in Mexico, but based on the size of the distribution range we here tentatively assume that Mexico harbours about two-third of the total population, i.e. c. 330,000-3,300,000 mature individuals. Of these, c. 23,500 individuals are taken each year, which roughly equates to 15,500 mature individuals per year. This corresponds to a decline of c. 0.47-4.7% per year, i. e. 5-41% over three generations (11.1 years) in Mexico.
      Available evidence suggests that the rate of illegal capturing has slowed down in recent years (Cantú et al. 2017, 2020); therefore the true rate of decline of Orange-fronted Parakeet in Mexico may be closer to the lower end of the estimate.

  4. Red List Team (BirdLife International) says:

    The rate of decline under Criterion A is measured over the longer of 10 years or three generation lengths of the species. The generation length for Orange-fronted Parakeet has recently been recalculated to 3.7 years (Bird et al. 2020), meaning that trends should be assessed over 11.1 years (three generations) under Criterion A.

    Bird, J. P.; Martin, R.; Akçakaya, H. R.; Gilroy, J.; Burfield, I. J.; Garnett, S.; Symes, A.; Taylor, J.; Šekercioğlu, Ç.; Butchart, S. H. M. (2020). Generation lengths of the world’s birds and their implications for extinction risk. Conservation Biology online first view.

  5. Red List Team (BirdLife International) says:

    Many thanks to everyone who has contributed to this discussion. We greatly appreciate the time and effort invested by so many people in commenting. The window for consultation is now closed. We will analyse and interpret the new information and post a preliminary decision on this species’s Red List status on this page in early July.

    Thank you once again,
    BirdLife Red List Team

  6. Red List Team (BirdLife International) says:

    Preliminary proposal

    New information submitted here allows us to quantify the population trend in Mexico. Legal capturing has been banned in 2008, but illegal trapping is still ongoing (albeit decreasing in recent years). Population declines in Mexico amounted to up to 41% over the past three generations (11.1 years). Trapping occurs in other range states as well, and we here tentatively assume that population declines are similar across the entire range. The rate of past decline is therefore here placed in the band 30-49% over three generations. Data from Mexico suggests that trapping is decreasing in recent years, so rates of population decline will likely be considerably lower in the future.

    Based on available information, our preliminary proposal for the 2020 Red List would be to list Orange-fronted Parakeet as Vulnerable under Criterion A2bcd+4bcd.

    There is now a period for further comments until the final deadline in mid-July, after which the recommended categorisations will be put forward to IUCN.

    Please note that we will then only post final recommended categorisations on forum discussions where these differ from the initial proposal.

    The final 2020 Red List categories will be published on the BirdLife and IUCN websites in December 2020/January 2021, following further checking of information relevant to the assessments by both BirdLife and IUCN.

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