Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Antipodes Island Parakeet

Something that caught my attention recently was a parrot called the Antipodes Island Parakeet, and the reason is because -unlike many parrot species- they scavenge and kill for meat. According to Wikipedia, a very scholarly source I am sure:
The Antipodes Parakeet or Antipodes Island Parakeet (Cyanoramphus unicolor) is endemic to the Antipodes Islands, one of two parrot species found on the islands. It is the largest species in the genus Cyanoramphus at 30 cm (12 in) long. The parakeets eat leaves, buds, grass, and tussock stalks, as well as sometimes feeding on seeds, flowers, and will scavenge dead seabirds. The Antipodes Parakeet also preys on Grey-backed Storm-petrels. It will enter burrows to kill incubating adults, even dig at the entrance if it is too small.

I thought to myself "Wow!" what an amazing example of the evolution of a species! With the change in behavior of being prey and a vegetable and berry forager, to learning hunting tactics and being the predator! With some bird of prey species being, genetically, closely related to parrots (sorry guys but pigeons win when it comes to being evolutionarily closest) it become much easier for the layperson to connect the dots without having to look at haphazard strands of DNA. I wonder what other changes in behavior and physiology will occur if meat became a more staple part of it's diet? (group dynamics, beak, claw, eye modification)

But that doesn't mean that you should feed Polly a greasy chicken leg once a week to make sure she gets all the protein she needs. It's very likely she is already getting a great amount of protein from those pellets and beans that you are feeding her, some species do not well on a high protein diet and kidney damage will occur. Just make sure you know about your bird's species and pick up a few good books about parrots and what they eat. A great source would be Forshaw's Parrots of the World, I am finding myself constantly consulting this for the bird nutrition/cookbook I am starting to help write. Forshaw's book will never go out of your use!

An example from the book, did you know that:

Feeding observations from all parts of the island showed that 65% of the diet of C. Unicolor was leaves of the Poa tussock and sedges, with other important foods being seeds (12%), berries (9%), and fragments from corpses of penguins and other birds (7%).

This shows that meat, even for parrots that are becoming adapted to eat it, do not eat (as of yet) it as a main source of food and is likely a replacement protein source because the birds cannot find it elsewhere.

Life is cool isn't it?

Copyright 2013 Caitlin Bird
The Sequential Psittacine Blog
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