Kakariki: Red-fronted Parakeets
The Macquarie Island Parakeet (Cyanoramphus erythrotis) is an extinct parrot that was endemic to Macquarie Island, a subantarctic island in the Southern Ocean that is politically part of Tasmania, Australia. The island and this species were discovered in 1810 at which time this parakeet was still very common. The last sighting of the Macquarie Island Parakeet was in 1891.
Even though the tough Macquari Island Parakeets adjusted well to the inhospitable terrestrial environment on this island, they did not survive the introduced predator species. Additionally, they were hunted for food by seal hunters.
The Macquari Island Parakeet was about 30 cm or 12 inches long and had a wing length of 142 - 145 mm (5.5 - 5.75 inches) The plumage was mostly yellowish green. The flight feathers were pale blue with a green hue.
Similar Species: It looked like the Red-crowned Parakeet (C. novaezelandiae), but the plumage was a paler, more yellowish green. The blue to the flight-feathers was paler and washed with green. They were also larger.
These parrots inhabited this tree-less tussock grassland, where they were nesting in and under tussocks (Cumpston, 1968). They were frequently observed on the shoreline feeding on invertebrates in beach-washed seaweed.
The extinction of the Macquarie Island Parakeet was caused by the introduction of alien predator species, such as cats, rabbits, mice and ship rats. It was also preyed upon by the Weka or Woodhen. This flightless rail from New Zealand was introduced to the island in the mid-1800s as food for seal hunters. Unfortunately, Wekas have caused considerable damage to endangered species as they eat native small birds, lizards and insects.
The Macquarie Island Parakeet was previously considered to be a subspecies of the Red-crowned or Red-fronted Parakeet, Cyanoramphus novaezelandiae, which it resembled in appearance. A 2001 paper by Wee Ming Boon and others examined the molecular systematics of the genus and found that many of the Red-crowned Parakeet subspecies should be elevated to full species.
However, as Antipodes Island is closer to the New Zealand mainland - the apparent center of origin of Cyanoramphus parakeets - it is likely that the Reischek’s Parakeets or Antipodes Red-Fronted Parakeets (C. hochstetteri) colonized Antipodes Island first and later migrated further south to Macquarie Island, evolving to Macquarie Island Parakeet (Cyanoramphus erythrotis). Therefore, it was later lumped with Reischek's Parakeet.
Species: Scientific: Cyanoramphus novaezelandiae erythrotis ... English: Macquarie Red-fronted Parakeet ... Dutch: Macquarie Roodvoorhoofdkakariki ... German: Macquarie Ziegensittich ... French: Perruche d'ile Macquarie
CITES Status - Extinct
Species Research by Sibylle Johnson
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