The Forbe’s Yellow-fronted Parakeet / Forbes’ Kakariki or Chatham Island Yellow-crowned Parakeet (Cyanoramphus forbesi) was formerly considered a subspecies of the Yellow–crowned or Yellow-fronted Parakeet (Cyanoramphus auriceps), but recent research has demonstrated it to be an independent species.
Distribution / Range
The Forbe’s Yellow-fronted Parakeet was formerly found on three islands of the Chatham group. Today, it is only found on Mangere and Little Mangere islands – both are located east of New Zealand’s South Island.
It is critically an endangered species with less of 100 of them still existing in their natural range.
These parakeets prefer dense unbroken forest and scrub for their habitat. They have also been observed in more open habitats such as grasslands. They also inhabit non-forest habitats when food is scarce in the forest. They are usually seen alone or in pairs. They rarely occur in flocks.
This species is known to hybridize with the Chatham Red-crowned Parakeet that also inhabits Mangere and Little Mangere islands. A small population of pure Forbes’ Parakeets does exist on the tiny, 113 ha Mangere Island.
This medium-sized parakeet reaches 25 cm or 10 inches in length, including its long tail.
The plumage is generally green. It has a yellowish green belly and a narrow red frontal band that does not extending to its eyes. The outer flight feathers are greenish blue.
Similar Species: It resembles the Yellow-crowned Parakeet, but has a narrow red band to the forehead which does not extend to the eyes. The plumage to the underparts is more yellowish. It also is slightly larger. Its calls are also quite different.
Breeding occurs from October to March. Nesting pairs have been observed remaining together throughout the year, defending their territories, and building nests in tree cavities. The female usually lays five to nine eggs. The chicks hatch about 20 days later.
They are usually observed in pairs or small groups in treetops or on outer branches of bushes outside the breeding season. Pairs usually remain alone throughout year. They rarely occur in flocks, and if so, they are most likely small family groups.
They often forage on or near the ground. They gather at springs and water holes on islands with limited water supply to drink and bathe. Occasionally flocks fly to neighboring islands to forage.
They are fairly approachable.
Diet / Feeding
They feed on leaves, buds, flowers, shoots, seeds, fruit, berries, nuts and other parts of plants.
They also eat insects and animal remains. On islands and In coastal areas, they forage on seaweed and mussels.
They also take up tiny stones, most likely to help with digestion.
Status / Conservation
The Forbe’s Yellow-fronted Parakeet is one of the rarest parakeet species in New Zealand.
It is seriously endangered because of hybridization with red-crowned parakeets, loss of habitat due to forest clearance, and predation by introduced cats. Yellow-crowned parakeets are forest birds and rely on forest preservation for survival. Some are bred and do well in captivity. Conservation plans include the restoration and legal protection of forests in the Chatham Islands, and later reintroducing some captive birds into the wild.
The Forbes’ Parakeet is critically endangered and as the Red-fronted Kakariki also inhabit their range and are now far more common than the Forbes’ parakeets, some Forbes’ started to breed with the red fronts. Such hybridization is threatening the genetic integrity of the Forbes’ Parakeet (Chan et al., 2006).
Before Europeans arrived to the Chatham Islands, the two species probably did not commonly interbreed. However, once humans deforested much of the islands, the numbers of the Forbes’ Parakeets declined, as they prefer to live and forage in forests. Red-fronted Kakariki, however, do better in deforested areas.
Taxonomy and Names
The Forbe’s Yellow-fronted Parakeet (C. forbesi) has been the subject of some controversy.It was debatable as to whether it should be considered a subspecies of the Yellow-crowned Kakariki or a separate species of its own until genetic analyses demonstrated that it is a distinct species (Boon et al., 2000).
Species: Cyanoramphus forbesi, formerly Cyanoramphus auriceps forbesi … English: Forbe’s Yellow-fronted Parakeet or Forbes’ Kakariki … Dutch: Forbe’s Geelvoorhoofdkakariki … German: Chatham Springsittich, Forbe’s Springsittich … French: Perruche de Forbes
CITES I – Protected Species