Red-crowned Parrot

Amazona viridigenalis

  • Version: 2.0 — Published January 1, 1997
  • Ernesto C. Enkerlin-Hoeflich and Kelly M. Hogan

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Figure 1. Distribution of the Red-crowned Parrot in North and Middle America.

Feral populations have also been established in Puerto Rico and Hawaii. See text for details.

Adult Red-crowned Parrot, Tamaulipas, Mexico

; photographer Ernesto Enkerlin

This species account is dedicated in honor of Eduardo Santana, member of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Administrative Board.

More often heard than seen in its native habitat of northeastern Mexico, the Red-crowned Parrot exhibits the typical raucous voice and overall green plumage that are characteristic of the genus Amazona. The two frequently encountered English names for this species, Red-crowned Parrot and Green-cheeked Parrot, refer to the crimson color on its lores and forehead or the pale green of its auricular region, respectively.

Although well established in aviculture, and as feral populations in several urban areas both inside and outside of Mexico (Johnston and Garrett 1994), the Red-crowned Parrot is native to only a small region of northeastern Mexico (Figure 1). In its native land, the species is listed as Endangered because of extensive habitat loss and depredation of nests to supply birds for a lucrative pet trade. Ironically, escaped pets and “released” birds in illegal transit are the driving force behind the establishment of feral populations in the United States: southern California, Texas, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, and Florida, where this species numbers in the hundreds if not thousands of birds. Only the Monk Parakeet (Myiopsitta monachus) seems to compare in success as a feral psittacine in North America.

The Red-crowned Parrot's success as an urban colonizer may have resulted in part from considerable public empathy; it has even been named the city mascot in Brownsville, Texas, where it apparently has bred regularly since the early 1980s. Yet in Hawaii and California, there is concern about the possible impacts of such feral populations on fruit crops and native avifauna.

Early studies in Mexico (Castro 1976, Aragón-Tapia 1986, Clinton-Eitniear Clinton-Eitniear 1986, Clinton-Eitniear 1988, Pérez 1986, Vásquez 1989) documented a high rate of harvest of parrot nestlings and provided some initial information about this parrots' natural history. But the first detailed account of the biology of this species came in the late 1970s based on a feral population in the Los Angeles area (Froke 1981). Recently, parrots in general and Neotropical species in particular have become the focus of increased research and conservation efforts (Pasquier 1982, Beissinger and Bucher 1992, Beissinger and Snyder 1992). The Red-crowned Parrot has become one of the better-known Neotropical psittacines (Enkerlin-Hoeflich and Packard 1993, Enkerlin-Hoeflich 1995a, ECE). This body of knowledge has opened new avenues of inquiry, such as the possibility of comparative studies of this species in urban versus natural settings, which may serve as a model for conservation and management of other endangered parrots.

Recommended Citation

Enkerlin-Hoeflich, E. C. and K. M. Hogan (1997). Red-crowned Parrot (Amazona viridigenalis), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (A. F. Poole and F. B. Gill, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.