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Ecuadorian red-lored Amazon

Scientific name: Amazona autumnalis lilacina

Country: Ecuador

Continent: South America

Diet: Fruits - frugivore, seeds - granivore, buds

Food & feeding: Herbivore

Habitats: Tropical rainforest

Conservation status: Least concern. CITES Appendix II listed.

Relatives: Hyacinth macaw

Description: Like other Amazona parrots, this Ecuadorian species is mainly green with a red front to the head and paler feathers towards the crown. There are 27 species of Amazona parrots, all of which are green in colour and native to the the Americas. In fact, it was Christopher Columbus himself who apparently gave the name 'Amazon' to a green, short-winged parrot that he brought back to Europe after his first voyage to the New World.

They have exceptionally powerful beaks and a very dexterous tongue. With these tools they are able to eat all kinds of fruit and remove tough nut shells with ease.

Lifestyle: The lilacine Amazon prefers humid tropical forests. They are shy, gentle birds and have been know to hide behind foliage until an intruder leaves.

Family & friends: Most Amazona parrots spend time in small groups. They are usually seen flying in pairs. In the evening, they gather in small communal roosting sites.

Keeping in touch: Parrots in captivity are famed for their ability to learn to speak. In the wild they have a range of calls, particularly shrieks and screams, used when flying between fruiting trees and during courtship.

Growing up: Two to four eggs are laid in a tree hole. The eggs hatch after three weeks and the young fledge after a further two months in the nest.

Conservation news: Once it was discovered, traders and sailors began capturing these parrots and exporting them back to Europe. Those that survived the long sea journey often ended up in pubs and bars where they imitated noises such as spitting, coughing, snoring and learnt a vocabulary of swear words. Once these expressions had been picked up, the owners found the birds almost impossible to retrain!

In addition to the pet trade, South American Indians have traditionally hunted Amazona parrots for food. Some species are also so abundant that they are considered to be pests by farmers and shot on sight. All parrot species are now protected by regulated commercial trade and several Amazona species are classified as endangered, with commercial trade prohibited.

The parrots at Bristol Zoo Gardens are part of a European breeding programme for this species.