Home > Birds, Wild Parrots > Parrot News: World’s Smallest Parrot Filmed

Parrot News: World’s Smallest Parrot Filmed

My comments: No it’s not a parrotlet! The smallest parrots are actually from New Guinea and are called “Pygmy Parrots.”  Following the article is a short bit I wrote on Pygmy Parrots for an article I am working on about parrot taxonomy and evolution.

The world’s smallest parrot has been filmed in the wild for the first time.
By Matt Walker
Editor, Earth News

The tiny bird, which is not much bigger than an adult person’s thumb, is smaller than some of the insects with which it shares the forest.

An expedition team filming in Papua New Guinea for the BBC programme Lost Land of the Volcano caught two of the buff-faced pygmy parrots on camera.

Another adult, which weighs less than half an ounce, was also trapped by the expedition team’s bird expert.

On average, buff-faced pygmy parrots ( Micropsitta pusio ) stand less than 9cm tall and weigh 11.5g (0.41oz).

They are found across the northern lowlands of the island of New Guinea from the west to the southeastern tip, up to an altitude of around 800m.

Males and females look similar, but females have less prominent markings on the head.

The birds have green feathers with yellowish plumage on their underparts; while their cheeks, face, and crown are more buff-coloured, hence their name.

BBC wildlife cameraman Gordon Buchanan first discovered a tiny nest belonging to two parrots deep within pristine rainforest.

The birds nest in termite mounds, using their beaks and claws to dig their way in before laying eggs in the hole created.

Buchanan staked out the nest from within a camouflaged hide, and was rewarded after a long wait when two birds returned.

He filmed the pair at their nest entrance, as the male and female reinforced their bond by rubbing against one another.

Later, another parrot was trapped unharmed by Dr Jack Dumbacher, an ornithologist from the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, US, who had accompanied the BBC expedition team.

Buff-faced pygmy parrots do not eat fruit and nuts but lichen and fungi.

However, so little is still known about their dietary habits that it has proved difficult to rear the birds in captivity.

During the expedition, the team also managed to sight a rare Salvadore’s duck ( Salvadorina waigiuensis ), a bird that is adapted to living in fast jungle streams.

The Salvadore’s duck, or Salvadore’s teal as it is also known, is the only duck species endemic to the island of New Guinea.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature lists the bird as Vulnerable, and its total population may be slowly declining.

Other birds sighted included fruit doves that were completely naive to people, suggesting they had never been hunted in the past, and a king bird of paradise, with its crimson feathers, violet-coloured feet and a pair of tail streamers each ending with an emerald disc.

Broadcast of The Lost Land of the Volcano series will begin on BBC One on Tuesday 8 September at 2100 BST.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2009/09/08 01:15:39 GMT


<end of article>

You will have to go to the site to see the video, although the BBC videos don’t work for me. Here are some screen shots:

Buff-faced Pygmy Parrot

Buff-faced Pygmy Parrot

Buff-faced Pygmy Parrot

Buff-faced Pygmy Parrot

Here’s some more information about these little-known parrots:

Subfamily Micropsittinae

The parrot subfamily Micropsittinae  contains only one genus, Micropsitta, which contains six species.  Together they are referred to as “pygmy parrots.”  These are the smallest of all parrot species and are even smaller than the parrotlets.  Unlike the parrotlets, these parrots are not available as pets.  They have never really been kept successfully in captivity, because they die very soon – often, mere hours – after being captured.  I don’t know exactly why they die so quickly in captivity and other parrots don’t, but they could have nutritional requirements that could be difficult to meet in captivity.  For instance, unlike most other parrot species, pygmy parrots will nibble on and eat lichen and fungi.  Captured pygmy parrots will also often refuse to eat fruits, seeds, or insects offered by their captors.  Such tiny animals tend to have very fast metabolisms for their size, and so can die of starvation very quickly if they do not eat.

The smallest of the pygmy parrots, the Buff-faced Pygmy Parrot (M. pusio) is only a mere eight centimeters (3.1 inches) long.  Other species may be up to 9.5 centimeters (3.7 inches) long.  Pygmy parrots often climb along the sides of tree trunks, much like woodpeckers and creepers do.  In addition to their woodpecker-ish habits, the morphology of the tails of pygmy parrots can help birdwatchers identify them, as their shafts extend a bit beyond the webbing, so it looks like there’s a little needle stuck on the tips of their tailfeathers.

Pygmy parrots occur on the island of New Guinea and some surrounding islands.  They are reportedly quite easy to approach, and none are considered to be endangered or threatened.  They nest in tree cavities or in arboreal termite mounds.  They are quite social and one species – the Yellow-capped Pygmy Parrot – roosts communally in nests.  In one case, six adults and two nestlings of this species were found in one nest[1].  This is astonishing because usually only one pair of adult parrots (plus their young) will use a nest cavity.  However, there are a few more social nesters among the parrots.  For example, one Quaker Parakeet nest may house several families.

[1] According to: Forshaw, J and Knight, F. 2006.  Parrots of the World: An Identification Guide. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ, USA.

Categories: Birds, Wild Parrots
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  1. September 8, 2009 at 2:50 am

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