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Discover the Vibrant Beauty and Unique Behavior of the Austral Parakeet

The Austral Parakeet, Enicognathus ferrugineus, is a striking bird found in South America. They are known for their vibrant plumage and are a popular sighting amongst birdwatchers.

In this article, we will delve deeper into the identification of the Austral Parakeet, its plumages, molts, and similar species.




The Austral Parakeet has a distinctive green plumage, with a rusty-orange band across its forehead, and a bright blue stripe towards the back of its neck. It has dark feather tips on its wings and scattered black spots.

It has a medium-sized build, about 33-36 centimeters in length, and weighs roughly 170 grams. Similar Species:

The Austral Parakeetcan be easily confused with other parakeets within its range, such as the Austral Conure, Patagonian Conure, and Slender-billed Conure.

The Austral Conure is larger than the Austral Parakeet, with a dark beak and a red band on its crown. Patagonian Conure has a similar color pattern, but lacks the same blue stripe and has more orange in its plumage.

Slender-billed Conure is a smaller bird, with a paler bill and gray cheeks. Careful observation is key to positively identifying any parakeet species.


Austral Parakeet displays little sexual dimorphism; males and females are almost indistinguishable in outward appearance. Nonetheless, their plumage follows a clear pattern of change that differentiates the young from the adults.


The Austral Parakeet has a typical molting pattern and molts twice a year. Both molts can occur anywhere from August to March, but the first is usually complete by October, while the second finishes by April the following year.

During the molt, birds retain their general coloration, but the feathers pale as they lose their ground layer and gain a newer, shinier color. The red-orange band on their forehead and blue stripe on the neck remain unchanged.

The juvenile plumage is much subdued compared to adult plumage. The olive green color is lighter and less bright, and the headband has a more preponderant effect, while the blue stripe is almost absent from the neck.

Adult birds have a brighter green plumage, with a clear, distinct blue stripe on their neck. The red-orange band on their forehead is more apparent and less diffuse in contrast to juveniles.

Their plumage is brighter overall, with little to no spots on the wing feathers. Even though the Austral Parakeet has no seasonal variation in their plumage, it can appear darker or lighter in hue, or more or less vibrant, due to environmental factors, such as lighting, rain, and humidity.


In conclusion, the Austral Parakeet is a beautiful and vibrant bird species that can be found in South America. With their unique green plumage, rusty-orange band on their forehead, and bright blue stripe on their neck, they are easily identifiable.

It is important to distinguish them from other parakeet species with which they share their range, such as the Austral Conure, Patagonian Conure, and Slender-billed Conure. Understanding their plumage patterns, molting cycles, and stages can help birdwatchers identify individual birds and gain a deeper appreciation for these marvelous creatures.

Systematics History

The Austral Parakeet, Enicognathus ferrugineus, belongs to the family Psittacidae, or the true parrots family. The scientific name derived from the Greek word enikos, meaning “inside” and gnathos, meaning “jaw.” The ferrugineus is Latin for “rusty-colored.”

Geographic Variation

The Austral Parakeet is found in South America, from southern Bolivia, through Argentina and Chile, to Tierra del Fuego. They typically inhabit open forests and forest edges, and can also be seen in parks and gardens.


There are four currently recognized subspecies of the Austral Parakeet, based on geographic variation and slight morphological differences:

– E. f.

minor: found in southwestern Bolivia, central Argentina, and northwestern Argentina

– E. f.

polyanthus: found in northeastern Argentina and southeastern Brazil

– E. f.

ferugineus: found in central and southern Argentina

– E. f.

gracilis: found in central and southern Chile, and Tierra del Fuego

The birds in the southernmost range of the species, in Tierra del Fuego, are smaller and have thicker bills, likely due to adaptations to the harsher environment.

Related Species

There are two other Enicognathus species that are related to the Austral Parakeet:

– Slender-billed Parakeet (Enicognathus leptorhynchus): Found in central Chile, and is smaller than the Austral Parakeet. It has a paler green color, a slightly smaller bill, and is usually found in more arid environments.

– Patagonian Conure (Enicognathus ferrugineus): Found in southernmost Argentina, it’s larger in size than Austral Parakeet and is notable for the bright red-orange crown spot on the male. The patagonian conure has more orange on the breast and is generally larger than the Austral Parakeet.

Historical Changes to Distribution

The distribution of the Austral Parakeet has changed significantly over time. The species was formerly widespread in Argentina and Chile but declined in the early 20th century due to hunting for their feathers, meat, and as pets.

The species’ population is now increasing again in some areas but still faces threats to its survival.

Habitat loss and fragmentation, especially through timber harvesting and land conversion for agriculture and livestock farming, are also significant factors for their decline.

The Austral Parakeet is listed as a species of ‘Least Concern’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) thanks to their broad geographic range, population size, and relative stability. However, future research and monitoring programs can help to better understand the impact of human activities on the species’ ecology and contribute to conservation efforts.


In conclusion, the Austral Parakeet is a South American parakeet species that belongs to the family Psittacidae, with four recognized subspecies based on geographic variation. They are found in open forests and forest edges, and their population has faced declines, but has now stabilized.

Habitat loss and fragmentation as well as hunting for pet trade and other reasons are still viable reasons for endangerment. However, continued research, monitoring, and conservation efforts can help to ensure the survival of this beautiful species.


The Austral Parakeet lives in a variety of habitat types across South America, including temperate forests, deciduous forests, scrublands, riparian forests, high-altitude forests, and even human-modified landscapes. They are common in more open habitats, such as forest edges and clearings, and are also commonly seen in parks and gardens.

They can be found at elevations ranging from sea level to 3,000 meters above sea level, although they are more commonly found at lower elevations.

Movements and Migration

The Austral Parakeet is generally a resident species, meaning that it does not migrate seasonally. However, some populations may make short-distance movements in response to scarce food or changes in habitat availability.

During the non-breeding season, some Austral Parakeets can move to other habitats within their range, searching for food or more favorable nesting sites. There may also be movement between different altitudes of the same habitat type, such as from high-altitude forests to lower-elevation forest edges.

Juvenile birds may disperse from their natal sites to seek out new territories and mates. During dispersal, these young birds may travel great distances and cross over into other subspecies’ territories, contributing to gene flow and increasing the genetic diversity of the population.

The social cohesion and established territories of adult birds, however, restrict long-distance movements among the adult population. Thus, the level of gene flow, even between proximate populations, is considered limited.

Some studies have investigated the movements of certain Austral Parakeet subspecies in relation to changes in habitat availability. For example, in Argentina and Chile, the populations of E.

f. gracilis have been observed to move from high-altitude forests to the lower-elevation upland forests during drought years when food resources are scarce.

This behavior can lead to contact between different E. f.

gracilis populations and promote gene flow.


In conclusion, the Austral Parakeet is generally a non-migratory resident species in South America. However, short-distance movements may occur in response to changes in habitat availability or food resources.

Juvenile birds can disperse great distances, contributing to the genetic diversity of the population. Movements between different subspecies can occur, and these movements may have important implications for gene flow and population dynamics.

The study of movements and migration in this species is critical for its conservation, particularly in light of the ongoing habitat loss and fragmentation across its range.

Diet and Foraging


The Austral Parakeet is an herbivorous bird, and its diet consists mainly of fruits, seeds, and nuts. They have been seen feeding on a wide variety of native and non-native fruit trees, such as cherries, blackberries, Copihue seeds, hazelnuts, and plantains.


The Austral Parakeet has adapted to consume a variety of foods, which enables them to survive in a range of habitats. Depending on the season and local food availability, they can switch between fruits and seeds.

During the summer, when fruits are abundant, the Austral Parakeet feeds on fresh, ripe fruit primarily. In the autumn and winter when seeds are more accessible, they switch to a predominantly seed diet.

Metabolism and Temperature Regulation:

The Austral Parakeet has a slower metabolism than many other birds, which enables it to cope with cold temperatures where food availability is lower. It also uses behavioral and physical adaptations to maintain its body temperature, such as fluffing out its feathers to trap warm air or tucking its bill under its feathers.

The Austral Parakeet’s diet is rich in carbohydrates, which provides an excellent source of energy. They have evolved to efficiently extract nutrients from their food and can digest nutrients from foods that other birds cannot.

Sounds and Vocal




The Austral Parakeet is known for its loud, raucous screeches, which can be heard from a long distance. They use vocal communication to convey their location, to warn of predators, or to signal mating intentions.

Males and females have similar calls, but the males have a slightly deeper tone. The bird’s vocalizations are most prevalent at dawn and dusk, but can also be heard periodically throughout the day.

Their vocal behavior is also known to be influenced by their immediate social surroundings. They are often extremely vocal and can be heard communicating with each other loudly in group settings.

Individual parakeets can emit distinct calls that allow for discrimination between birds. The parakeets are also adept at mimicking sounds in their surroundings – they can be trained to copy human speech or reproduce tones of other birds in their habitat.


In conclusion, the Austral Parakeet is an herbivorous bird that mainly feeds on fruits, seeds, and nuts. They adapt to seasonal variations in their diet, consuming more fruits in the summer and switching to seeds during autumn and winter.

The bird’s slow metabolism and behavioral adaptations also allow it to withstand cold temperature and food shortage. Vocal behavior is an important part of Austral parakeets communication with each other and mating rituals.

Their loud and raucous calls can be heard from afar and can be influenced by the individual’s surrounding environment. The ability to mimic sounds in their habitat is also characteristic of these birds.

Overall, the unique diet and distinct vocal behaviors of the Austral Parakeet make it a fascinating species to study and observe in the wild.



The Austral Parakeet is a skilled flier, capable of fast and agile movements. They also move around on foot, and are known to hop or walk along branches and the ground in search of food.

They can use their claws to climb up trees and are also capable of clinging to vertical branches. Self Maintenance:

The Austral Parakeet is a fastidious bird, and devotes considerable time to grooming and maintenance.

They use oil from their preen gland to clean and protect their feathers, and use their beak to remove any dirt and debris. They may also take dust baths to keep their feathers clean and to remove excess oil.



The Austral Parakeet is a territorial bird, and will defend its territory and resources aggressively, especially during the breeding season. They may engage in physical fights with other birds, including those of their own species, to establish dominance and defend their territory.



During the breeding season, the Austral Parakeet engages in courtship behavior and displays. Males may perform courtship displays, such as fluffing up their feathers, bobbing their head, or raising their wings, while vocalizing.

Females may also show an increase in vocalization during the breeding season as a response, sometimes visibly fluffing their feathers. Once pair bonds have been established, the birds will mate and lay eggs.


The breeding season of the Austral Parakeet varies depending on the location, typically occurring from August to February in Argentina and November to January in Chile. During this period, the birds are known to form pair bonds that last throughout the breeding season.

In some areas, they may also form communal roosts or nesting sites. The Austral Parakeet typically nests in tree cavities, or sometimes in the crevices of rocky cliffs.

The female will lay 3 to 8 (typically 4-6) white eggs that hatch within approximately 25-27 days. Both parents participate in incubating the eggs and caring for the chicks.

The nesting sites are fiercely defended by the pair against other Austral Parakeets and other bird species that might pose a threat to the eggs or chicks. Upon hatching, the chicks are altricial, meaning they are born naked and helpless, and rely heavily on their parents for food, warmth, and protection.

Demography and Populations

The Austral Parakeet is a relatively abundant species, and the population is believed to be stable throughout most of its range. In some areas, its populations have been affected by trapping for the pet trade and habitat loss due to deforestation and conversion of natural habitats to agricultural purposes.

Several conservation efforts have been initiated to protect the species and its habitats.

It is difficult to determine the exact population size of this species, due to their broad geographic range and diverse habitats.

They are, however, considered to be an important species for ecological conservation as they have been shown to play an integral role in seed dispersal and forest regeneration. Although the species is currently classified as a species of “least concern” by the IUCN, continued research and monitoring are important to ensure its survival.

In conclusion, the Austral Parakeet is a fascinating South American parrot species that has adapted to a range of habitats, diets, and behavioral patterns. Their diet mainly consists of fruits, seeds, and nuts, while vocal communication and mating rituals are important parts of their social behavior.

During breeding season, the birds form pair bonds, defending their territory and nests against other birds. Although the Austral Parakeet is currently considered abundant, they still face threats such as habitat loss and trapping for the pet trade.

The maintenance of ecological diversity in the habitats where the species thrives is crucial to ensure the survival of this marvelous creature. Therefore, continued conservation and scientific research efforts should be undertaken to secure the population of this species.

The Austral Parakeet provides an excellent example of the adaptability of the natural world, and its survival is key to the broader biodiversity of South America.

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