Archived 2014 discussion: Maroon-faced Parakeet (Pyrrhura leucotis) is being split: list P. leucotis as Vulnerable and P. emma as Near Threatened or Least Concern?

The initial deadline for comments on this topic is 28 April 2014, and therefore later than for most other topics currently under discussion.

This is part of a consultation on the Red List implications of extensive changes to BirdLife’s taxonomy for non-passerines

Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International will soon publish the HBW-BirdLife Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World, building off the Handbook of the Birds of the World series, and BirdLife’s annually updated taxonomic checklist.

The new Checklist will be based on the application of criteria for recognising species limits described by Tobias et al. (2010). Full details of the specific scores and the basis of these for each new taxonomic revision will be provided in the Checklist.

Following publication, an open and transparent mechanism will be established to allow people to comment on the taxonomic revisions or suggest new ones, and provide new information of relevance in order to inform regular updates. We are also actively seeking input via a discussion topic here regarding some potential taxonomic revisions that currently lack sufficient information.

The new Checklist will form the taxonomic basis of BirdLife’s assessments of the status of the world’s birds for the IUCN Red List. The taxonomic changes that will appear in volume 1 of the checklist (for non-passerines) will begin to be incorporated into the 2014 Red List update, with the remainder, and those for passerines (which will appear in volume 2 of the checklist), to be incorporated into subsequent Red List updates.

Preliminary Red List assessments have been carried out for the newly split or lumped taxa. We are now requesting comments and feedback on these preliminary assessments.

Maroon-faced Parakeet Pyrrhura leucotis is being split into P. leucotis and P. emma, following the application of criteria set out by Tobias et al. (2010).

Prior to this taxonomic change, P. leucotis (BirdLife species factsheet) was listed as Near Threatened under criterion C2a(i), on the basis that it was thought to have a moderately small population (approaching as few as 10,000 mature individuals; the majority of these likely to be in the Venezuelan population), with habitat loss and degradation driving moderately rapid declines (approaching 30% over 18 years [estimate of three generations]).

P. leucotis (as defined following the taxonomic change) is restricted to south-eastern Brazil, from southern Bahia to Espírito Santo, including south-eastern Minas Gerais, and formerly to São Paulo, where it inhabits the interior and edges of forest, clearings and other modified habitats such as naturally shaded cacao plantations and urban parks and gardens, to 600 m (del Hoyo et al. 1997, Juniper and Parr 1998, Forshaw 2006, 2010).

This species is described as generally scarce, and has been extirpated from the south of its range (Forshaw 2006, 2010). It is said to be in decline owing to extensive forest clearance; it now mainly persists and is locally fairly common in a few protected but widely scattered relict populations (del Hoyo et al. 1997, Juniper and Parr 1998, Forshaw 2006). Most of the original forest cover in the species’s range was cleared over a century ago, but remnant patches (e.g. where left to shade understorey plantations) are being rapidly cleared (del Hoyo et al. 1997).

This species could qualify as Vulnerable under criterion C2a(i), if it is thought to have a small population, including fewer than 10,000 mature individuals, with each subpopulation thought to number fewer than 1,000 mature individuals, inferred to be in continuing decline owing to on-going habitat loss. It should be assessed under criterion C2a(ii) if it is known or suspected that each local population exchanges more than one individual per year with other local populations (thus forming a single subpopulation under the IUCN definition). An estimated or suspected population trend of 30-49% over 18 years would likely qualify the species as Vulnerable under criterion A, with a decline of at least 50% over 18 years probably warranting Endangered status.

P. emma (incorporating auricularis) is endemic to the northern highlands of Venezuela, from Yacacuy and Carabobo to Miranda and disjunctly from Anzoátegui to Sucre and northern Monagas, inhabiting humid and wet forests and forest edges, at 250-1,700 m (del Hoyo et al. 1997, Juniper and Parr 1998, Hilty 2003, Forshaw 2006). It has been described as locally fairly common, with a ‘substantial’ population in Guatopo National Park, Miranda (Juniper and Parr 1998, Hilty 2003).

This species was listed as Data Deficient by Rodríguez and Rojas-Suárez (2008). It has been said that auricularis is suffering habitat loss (del Hoyo et al. 1997), although there is no indication that the overall rate of decline in P. emma approaches 30% over 18 years. Given its perceived abundance and distribution, the species may number more than 10,000 mature individuals. On this basis, it may be appropriate to list it as Near Threatened under criterion C2 or as being of Least Concern (not approaching the thresholds for Vulnerable under any of the IUCN criteria).

Comments are invited on these suggested categories and further information is requested.


del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J. (1997) Handbook of the birds of the world, Vol 4: Sandgrouse to Cuckoos. Barcelona, Spain: Lynx Edicions.

Forshaw, J. M. (2006) Parrots of the World. Princeton, NJ and Oxford, UK: Princeton University Press.

Forshaw, J. M. (2010) Parrots of the World. London, UK: Christopher Helm (Helm Field Guides).

Hilty, S. L. (2003) Birds of Venezuela. London, UK: A & C Black.

Juniper, T. and Parr, M. (1998) Parrots: a guide to the parrots of the world. Robertsbridge, UK: Pica Press.

Rodríguez, J.P. and Rojas-Suárez, F. (eds.) (2008) Libro Rojo de la Fauna Venezolana. Third edition. Caracas, Venezuela: Provita and Shell Venezuela.

Tobias, J. A., Seddon, N., Spottiswoode, C. N., Pilgrim, J. D., Fishpool, L. D. C. and Collar, N. J. (2010) Quantitative criteria for species delimitation. Ibis 152: 724–746.

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3 Responses to Archived 2014 discussion: Maroon-faced Parakeet (Pyrrhura leucotis) is being split: list P. leucotis as Vulnerable and P. emma as Near Threatened or Least Concern?

  1. Joe Taylor says:

    The following comments were received from Chris Sharpe on 27 March 2014:

    First of all, I fully support the split of emma from leucotis. In fact, I can barely remember the time when I regarded them as conspecific – and I’m hardly an early adopter when it comes to splits. However, emma and auricularis are another matter and only weakly differentiated.

    As for conservation status, I feel I am on less certain ground. I have the feeling that hindsight will show that we have been significantly overestimating the abundance of most Neotropical raptors and psittacids: all the actual counts that I am aware of reveal strikingly lower numbers than the regular sightings of these highly mobile and visible species would suggest. Although “fairly common”, the population of this species could conceivably be less than 10,000 mature individuals.

    On the positive side, P. emma has a larger range than most of its sister taxa and most of it is in well-established protected areas, mostly IUCN cat. II national parks such as Yurubí, San Esteban, Henri Pittier, Macarao, El Avila, Guatopo, El Guácharo and Península de Paria or IUCN cat. III nature monuments like Pico Codazzi. Although the Venezuelan parks system has deteriorated markedly under the current government and some of these areas are affected by invasion and deforestation, their long-term future is fairly secure. So habitat loss is probably not a major issue here. Besides, these parakeets will happily eat maize and guavas in agricultural land in forest mosaics, and I have regularly had them feeding in my urban gardens (in all five houses in which I lived). With the weakening of the legal system and government institutions, illegal wildlife trade has undoubtedly increased in Venezuela and I have frequently seen these species in cages along the roadside. The impact of this is hard to quantify, but I doubt whether it is a major concern for this species yet, as it is for, say, Amazona barbadensis.

    So, all in all, there might be a case for considering this species NT C1, but there is not enough hard data yet to really support that.

  2. Andy Symes says:

    Preliminary proposals

    Based on available information, our preliminary proposals for the 2014 Red List would be to treat:

    P. leucotis as Near Threatened, approaching the thresholds for classification as Vulnerable under criterion A2cd+3cd+4cd

    P. emma as Least Concern.

    There is now a period for further comments until the final deadline of 14 May, after which recommended categorisations will be put forward to IUCN.

    The final Red List categories will be published on the BirdLife and IUCN websites in mid-2014, following further checking of information relevant to the assessments by both BirdLife and IUCN.

  3. Andy Symes says:

    Recommended categorisations to be put forward to IUCN

    Following further review, there have been no changes to our preliminary proposals for the 2014 Red List status of these species.

    The final categorisations will be published in mid-2014, following further checking of information relevant to the assessments by BirdLife and IUCN.

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