When the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas launched its New Generation Currency notes in 2010, it took the opportunity to feature some of the country’s most prominent indigenous species alongside its local environment. On the reverse side of the five hundred-peso bill, one finds the blue-naped parrot (Tanygnathus lucionensis) superimposed on an image of the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, which was hailed as one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature in 2012.
Region and Habitat
Known locally as ‘pikoy’, the blue-naped parrot is native to the Philippines—where it has been sighted in at least 45 islands—and in the Talaud Islands of Indonesia. One subspecies, T.l. talautensis, was introduced to Sangihe Island in Indonesia, some islands north and east of North Sabah and Kota Kinabalu in Malaysia. Other common names for the bird include Blue-crowned Green Parrot, Luzon Parrot, and Philippine Green Parrot.
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List database, the blue-naped parrot can be found in open and closed forest formations; ‘open’ refers to forests with only 10-40 percent tree cover, while ‘closed’ refers to those with a tree cover that exceeds 40 percent.
The species can also thrive in man-made growths such as lightly timbered farmland, coconut plantations, and banana patches, as well as in mangroves. A common element among these disparate habitats is that they all lie in lowland and coastal areas, or in elevations reaching up to 1000 meters.
Characteristics and Behavior
As one can glean from its name, the main identifying marker of the blue-naped parrot is the light blue coloring on its rear crown and head―in contrast to its green body washed with blue on its back, red beak, median wing coverts tinged with yellow and orange, and blackish underwings. It is a medium-sized bird, with an average size of 31 cm and weight range of 200-230 g.
There are three recognized subspecies, each marked by slight deviations in color. T.l. lucionensis, native to Luzon, Mindoro, and other northern Philippine islands, bears the typical color markings. Found in Polillo and other islands in the Luzon grouping, T.l. hybridus’s rear crown is green, the back of its head colored a lighter shade of blue tinged with violet. T.l. talautensis lacks the blue markings on its back.
Blue-naped parrots travel in flocks of a dozen birds or less, and―according to the World Parrot Trust―are “often found in the company of Golden-mantled Racquet-tails.” The flock shares a communal roost, and takes dawn and dusk flights between the roosting and feeding areas. Their diet consists of nuts, seeds, berries, and grain (if residing in farmland or other similar habitats).
Breeding season occurs from April to June, with the parrots making a nest in a tree hole to lay their eggs. Each clutch consists of two or three eggs, broadly elliptical in shape and with an average size of 38.5 x 27 millimeters.
The IUCN lists the blue-naped parrot as a Near Threatened species, citing loss of habitat due to agricultural expansion and logging and trapping for bird trade as the reasons for the decline in its population.
A further decrease in population may lead to its re-categorization as a Threatened species, which is subclassified into Vulnerable, Endangered, and Critically Endangered, depending on the gravity of the threat to its extinction.
Data regarding its population in the wild is outdated—estimates range from 2,500 to 10,000 individuals—and historical records show that the numbers have diminished drastically from over a century ago, when the birds were commonly found on most Philippine islands.
While the species is extinct in some islands and considered rare in others, Birdlife International notes that “it is still fairly numerous in some areas of Palawan and Tawi-Tawi.” Katala Foundation, through its Southern Palawan Anti-Poaching Initiative, has been working towards stabilizing and increasing the population of the blue-naped parrot in the Municipality of Rizal.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) includes the blue-naped parrot in Appendix II, which identifies “species not necessarily threatened with extinction, but in which trade must be controlled in order to avoid utilization incompatible with their survival.” As a Party to the Convention, the Philippines must abide by CITES regulations: international trade for Appendix II species is only allowed to parties granted export permits or re-export certificates, provided that trade is not detrimental to the survival of the species.
In addition, the blue-naped parrot is protected by the regulations enumerated in RA 9147 or the “Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act,” which was signed into law on July 30, 2001. Birds confiscated from poachers and illegal traders, along with those turned in by the public, are brought to the Wildlife Rescue and Research Center at the Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife Nature Center. Conservation actions are underway in national parks located in Bataan, Quezon, and Minalungaw, and in Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park.
This appeared in Animal Scene’s June 2015 issue.