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Fascinating Facts About the Greater Vasa Parrot: From Diet to Breeding

Greater Vasa Parrot: A Fascinating Bird Species

Are you looking for an intriguing bird species to learn about? The Greater Vasa Parrot, Coracopsis vasa, is a bird that is worth exploring.

This fascinating bird has unique features and qualities that distinguish it from other birds. In this article, we will delve into the identification of this bird, including its plumages and molts.


Field Identification

The Greater Vasa Parrot is a species of parrot that is found in the western and northwestern regions of Madagascar. It has a distinct black plumage with a narrow, red band around the eye.

It is a relatively large bird that measures around 50-55cm (20-22in) in length. Its beak is quite strong and measures around 5-6cm (2-2.5in) in length.

The bird’s wings are rounded, and the tail is short and squared-off. The sexes are similar in appearance, but the males are slightly larger than the females.

Similar Species

One bird species that is often confused with the Greater Vasa Parrot is the Lesser Vasa Parrot. Both species have black plumage, but the Lesser Vasa Parrot has a blue-grey patch on the hindneck, which distinguishes it from the Greater Vasa.

Another species that is similar is the Black Parrot, but this bird has a blue-grey face and a much larger beak.


The Greater Vasa Parrot has a unique plumage that does not change much throughout its lifetime. The bird’s black feathers have a glossy, iridescent sheen which shines in the light.

The red band around the eye is a distinctive feature that is present in both sexes. The bird’s underwing coverts are brownish-grey, and the primary quills are black.


The Greater Vasa Parrot undergoes a complete molt once a year, which usually occurs in the rainy season. The molt takes around 3-4 months to complete, and during this time, the bird’s feathers become very scruffy and raggedy-looking.

This is because the bird undergoes a complete replacement of its feathers, including the body feathers, wing feathers, and tail feathers. The molt is essential for the bird’s health, as it helps to replace old and damaged feathers, which can affect the bird’s flight and insulation.

In conclusion, the Greater Vasa Parrot is an incredible bird species that has unique features and qualities that set it apart from other birds. Its black plumage and red band around the eye make it an unmistakable bird.

It molts once a year, which is a crucial process that helps to keep the bird healthy. Hopefully, this article has enlightened you about the fascinating world of the Greater Vasa Parrot.

Systematics History and

Historical Changes to Distribution of the Greater Vasa Parrot

The Greater Vasa Parrot, Coracopsis vasa, is a beautiful and intriguing bird species that is endemic to Madagascar. This bird’s systematics history is fascinating, and studying its distribution and subspecies can provide insights into its evolutionary history.

In this article, we will explore the

Geographic Variation,


Related Species, and Historical changes to the distribution of the Greater Vasa Parrot.

Systematics History

The Greater Vasa Parrot belongs to the order Psittaciformes and the family Psittaculidae. The bird’s scientific name, Coracopsis vasa, was first proposed in 1788 by Johann Friedrich Gmelin.

Today, the Greater Vasa Parrot is considered monotypic, meaning there is only one recognized species of this bird.

Geographic Variation

The Greater Vasa Parrot is found in various regions of Madagascar, and there is a certain amount of geographic variation in its appearance across its range. Birds in the northern and northwestern parts of Madagascar tend to be larger than those in the southern and eastern parts.

Moreover, the birds in the northern region have a more extensive red eye-ring compared to their southern counterparts, which generally have a thin red line around the eye.


Despite the geographic variation, the Greater Vasa Parrot is currently considered a monotypic species. However, there have been suggestions that the species should be split into two or more subspecies based on differences in size, plumage, and genetics.

One proposal has suggested dividing the Greater Vasa Parrot into three subspecies: C. v.

vasa, C. v.

comorensis, and C. v.

barklyi. The first subspecies, C.

v. vasa, is the nominate form, found in the northern and northwestern regions of Madagascar.

The second subspecies, C. v.

comorensis, is found in the Comoros Islands and the third, C. v.

barklyi, is found in the southern regions of Madagascar. However, this proposal has not been widely accepted, and the Greater Vasa Parrot remains a monotypic species.

Related Species

The Greater Vasa Parrot belongs to the genus Coracopsis, which is endemic to Madagascar. There are two other species in this genus: the Lesser Vasa Parrot (C.

nigra) and the Yellow-billed Vasa Parrot (C. vasa flavifrons).

The Lesser Vasa Parrot is smaller than the Greater Vasa but has a similar appearance, with black plumage and a blue-grey patch on the hindneck. The Yellow-billed Vasa Parrot is the smallest of the three species and has a yellow bill, which distinguishes it from the other two.

These three species are the only members of the genus Coracopsis, and they are closely related to the genus Agapornis, which includes several species of African lovebirds.

Historical Changes to Distribution

The Greater Vasa Parrot is endemic to Madagascar, but its distribution has not remained stable throughout history. Madagascar suffered significant habitat destruction in the 20th century, primarily due to deforestation, which has affected the population of many bird species.

Historically, the Greater Vasa Parrot was widespread across Madagascar, inhabiting primary and secondary forest, savannas, and agricultural areas. However, in the 1990s, the bird’s range shrunk, and it was thought to be confined to the western and northern parts of the island.

The main threat to the bird’s survival is habitat loss caused by deforestation for agriculture, logging, and grazing. Conservation efforts have been undertaken to protect the Greater Vasa Parrot, such as the establishment of protected areas, including the Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park and the Ankarafantsika National Park.

These areas provide vital habitat for the bird, and there are ongoing efforts to create more protected areas to safeguard the species. In conclusion, the Greater Vasa Parrot is a fascinating bird species with a rich history and unique features.

It is geographically variable but is currently considered monotypic. The bird’s distribution has been affected by historical habitat loss, and conservation efforts are underway to protect it.

The Greater Vasa Parrot remains an important species in Madagascar’s ecosystem, and further research is needed to learn more about its evolutionary history and conservation needs.

Habitat and Movements of the Greater Vasa Parrot

The Greater Vasa Parrot, Coracopsis vasa is a unique and intriguing bird species that is endemic to Madagascar. It has a unique, glossy black plumage and a red ring around its eye.

In this article, we will delve deeper into the Greater Vasa Parrot’s habitat, movements, and migration.


The Greater Vasa Parrot is primarily a forest-dwelling species and is found in both primary and secondary forests, dense mangroves, and savannah habitats in Madagascar. The bird’s natural habitat extends from the west and northwest coast of Madagascar, including scattered populations in the eastern and southeastern parts of the country.

The bird is also found in the nearby Comoros Islands, where it is considered a subspecies of the Greater Vasa Parrot. The Greater Vasa parrot has adapted to a wide variety of habitats throughout Madagascar.

In the forested areas where they live, they inhabit the forest canopy and forage on a diverse range of fruits and seeds. These birds have also adapted to life in agricultural areas, mangroves and savannas, which may extend their geographical range.

However, habitat loss due to deforestation, land-use change, logging, and agricultural expansion is the most significant threat to their population. The species has been categorized as near-threatened on the IUCN Red List, and measures have been taken to conserve their natural habitat and manage their population.

Movements and Migration

The Greater Vasa Parrot is primarily a sedentary species that does not undertake extensive movements or migrations. However, the species does have some local movements within its range, particularly in search of food sources like ripe fruit.

In Madagascar, the Greater Vasa Parrot is a common species with a stable population, primarily restricted to a few reserves, protected areas, and forest fragments. Although it is mostly sedentary, there have been observations of Greater Vasa Parrots moving in small groups, especially during dispersal of juvenile birds from their natal territories.

Nevertheless, the bird is not known to undertake long-distance migrations or movements. During droughts and food shortages, Greater Vasa Parrots in the northwest of Madagascar have been observed moving to areas with more significant food resources.

The Greater Vasa Parrot experienced a significant range reduction in the 1990s, primarily due to habitat loss and fragmentation. However, the bird’s ability to exploit varied habitats and adapt to local changes, including occupying agricultural land-use areas, may have helped reduce the overall range contraction, although its population abundance has decreased.

Conservation Measures

The Greater Vasa Parrot is currently considered a near-threatened species by the IUCN Red List due to habitat loss and the lack of conservation measures in place.

Habitat destruction primarily poses the most significant risk for the species, and climate change is expected to exacerbate this threat.

Conservation efforts have been initiated to protect the Greater Vasa Parrot, including designating protected areas, promoting community forest management, and strengthening enforcement for anti-poaching. Protected areas like the Ankarafantsika National Park, Marojejy National Park, and Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park offer the potential for long-term protection of Greater Vasa Parrot habitats.

Additionally, community-managed and restored forest fragments can significantly help the species by increasing habitat connectivity and improving the overall environment for the treatment of the forested environment.

Final thoughts

The Greater Vasa Parrot is one of Madagascar’s intrinsic species, with unique, aesthetic qualities. It is a species of great significance, both ecologically and economically, and as such, conservation measures should be put in place to guarantee its long-term survival.

By preserving and conserving the species habitat, which is crucial, as well as its natural environment, not only does the species benefit, but indirectly helps to support human livelihoods and ecosystem services.

Diet and Foraging, and

Sounds and Vocal Behavior of the Greater Vasa Parrot

The Greater Vasa Parrot, Coracopsis vasa, is a highly adaptable bird species that is endemic to Madagascar. It has a unique appearance, with its glossy black plumage and distinctive red eye-ring, attracting bird enthusiasts globally.

In this article, we will explore the Greater Vasa Parrot’s diet and foraging habits, as well as its sound production and vocalization.

Diet and Feeding

The Greater Vasa Parrot is a frugivore, which means that its diet is primarily composed of fruits. However, it is also known to consume nuts, seeds, and flowers.

The bird’s sharp beak is adapted to open hard-shelled fruits like figs, which are a favored food. They feed primarily in the treetops of forest canopies, where they use their strong bills to pluck fruit.

The greater vasa parrot feeds opportunistically. During fruiting season, when food is abundant, they eat fruit in large amounts, allowing them to store immense quantities of fat, which they use for energy during food shortages.

The Greater Vasa Parrot feeds mostly at dawn and late at night, with approximately 50% of their day spent feeding, and typically learn about fruit availability from other animals feeding in the same area. This behavior pattern helps distribute rates of fruit removal and leads to differential seed dispersal that benefits plants.


The Greater Vasa Parrot is also known to supplement its diet with insects, particularly beetles. This diet enables them to obtain necessary nutrients, such as proteins and fats.

These studies have lead to suggestions that the greater vasa parrot could also be classified as a fruit and insectivore due to their insect consumption, particularly beetles.

Their diet varies with seasonal availability, and they are known to switch to consuming seeds and flowers during the fruit-scarce periods.

The seeds and fruits are usually consumed whole, except for hard nut-shelled fruits that may be crushed with their bills.

Metabolism and Temperature Regulation

The Greater Vasa Parrot has a high metabolic rate that helps it digest its food and maintain its internal body temperature. As a tropical species, they are adapted to cope with a range of environmental temperatures.

The parrot’s ability to regulate its body temperature and retain water is particularly critical for survival in hot and dry tropical regions like Madagascar. The Greater Vasa Parrot has also developed efficient thermoregulation mechanisms, which allow it to maintain a relatively stable internal body temperature.

This mechanism comes in the form of thermal windows using its beak to regulate temperature through convection with local air.

Sounds and Vocal Behavior

The Greater Vasa Parrot is highly communicative and produces several types of vocalizations. These sounds are audible from a distance, and they contribute significantly to their communication during breeding, aggressive displays, and alarm signals.

Vocalization is accomplished through modification of the syrinx, which acts to amplify the sound waves across the trachea and oropharynx.


The vocalizations of the Greater Vasa Parrot are distinct, and they have a wide range of sounds that cover a broad frequency range. The sounds are relatively quiet and high-pitched, with chirruping, whistling, and humming being the most common sounds produced.

The birds generally produce their most vocalizations close to dawn and at dusk when the birds are most active. The Greater Vasa Parrot has a talented capacity for mimicking other bird species’ sounds that they live in shared habitat.

This mimicry includes sounds of other bird species, animals, and environmental sounds like waterfalls, leaves rustling, and other non-vocal sounds. Additionally, their vocal behaviour plays an important role in mating behaviour and social displays.

Males often exhibit impressive vocalisations and dancing displays to attract females. Meanwhile, females also produce soft whistling sounds to draw the males’ attention.

Final Thoughts

The Greater Vasa Parrot is a highly versatile bird species that has unique adaptations in diet and foraging, as well as in sound production and communication. These adaptations have enabled them to thrive in diverse habitats, including forest canopies, agricultural lands and mangroves, which supports their existence.

Thus, management practices, conservation efforts should consider such adaptations when designed to focus on the preservation and conservation of the species. Behavior,

Breeding, Demography, and Population of the Greater Vasa Parrot

The Greater Vasa Parrot, Coracopsis vasa, is an intriguing bird species that is endemic to Madagascar.

These birds have unique features in their behavior, breeding, and population demographics. In this article, we will examine in detail the locomotion, self-maintenance, agonistic behavior, sexual behavior, breeding, demography, and populations of the Greater Vasa Parrot.



The Greater Vasa Parrot moves primarily by flying, but it can also run and walk along branches with ease. They can fly long distances, using undulating flight patterns where they sway their bodies in sync with their wings.

They also use their strong beaks for grasping, perching, and climbing wood and bark.

Self Maintenance

The Greater Vasa Parrot is a self-grooming bird that regularly cleans its body using its beak and bill. Males and females exhibit excellent self-grooming behavior, which is essential for maintaining good plumage condition and staying healthy.

Agonistic Behavior

The Greater Vasa Parrot displays agonistic behavior when releasing territorial claims, with both sexes engaging in mutual display and fights. These fights usually involve physical contact, where they use their sharp bills as weapons, packing a powerful bite.

These fights are often between males and females over their territorial claims or during mating times. Dominance hierarchies and ritualistic displays are frequently used to establish territory, especially between males.

Sexual Behavior

The Greater Vasa Parrot is a monogamous bird in which pairs bond for several years. Males employ displays, vocalising with intense vocal recordings to court females and establish mating pairs.

These displays involve head-bobbing, bill clicking, and vivid shimmering of their wings, which serve to communicate mating readiness and heightened fertility levels.


The Greater Vasa Parrot breeds mostly during the rainy season in Madagascar, initiating mating behaviors and pair bonding as early as October. The species produce several clutches a year, with the female usually incubating for around 26-28 days.

Once hatched, chicks continually molt and fledge after about 20 days, with adults taking turns to feed them while early development

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