(Matt Mendenhall 27 June 2017; Photo Tony Silva)
Ornithologists have announced the discovery of an apparent new species of parrot in a remote part of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula. They’re calling it the Blue-winged Amazon because the tips of its wing feathers are bluish green. (Its Spanish name is Loro de alas azules.)
It will be up to the American Ornithological Society’s North and Middle American Classification Committee to decide whether to accept the parrot as a new species.
The authors of a paper describing the species propose that its scientific name be Amazona gomezgarzai. The Amazona genus includes about 30 other species native to the Americas, and the specific name, gomezgarzai, honors Miguel A. Gómez Garza, the man who first came across the birds and recognized that their colors differed from other known species. Gómez Garza is a wildlife veterinarian and the author of Loros de Mexico, a 2014 book about the parrots of Mexico.
He spotted the birds in early 2014 south of the town of Becanchén, which is about in the middle of the peninsula. The new parrot occupies a similar area in the Yucatán as the Yucatán Amazon (A. xantholora) and the White-fronted Amazon (A. albifrons), but it does not hybridize with them.
A distinctive feature of the new taxon is its call, which is loud, sharp, short, repetitive, and monotonous; one particular vocalization is more reminiscent of an accipiter than of any known parrot. The duration of syllables is much longer than in other Amazon parrot species. In flight, the call is a loud, short, sharp, and repetitive yak-yak-yak. While perched, the call is mellow and prolonged.
This species lives in small flocks of less than 12 individuals. Pairs and their offspring have a tendency to remain together and are discernible in groups. Like all members of the genus Amazona, this parrot is an herbivore. Its diet consists of seeds, fruits, flowers, and leaves obtained in the tree canopy.
An analysis of mitochondrial DNA genes indicates that the Blue-winged Amazon has evolved only recently, about 120,000 years ago, from the White-fronted Amazon.
The paper describing the species says it occurs in an area of roughly 100 square kilometers (39 square miles) centered south of Becanchén. “No part of the range is presently protected in any form,” the authors write. “Very little is known about this parrot’s biology. There is no conservation program currently in effect to preserve this parrot, but its long-term existence impinges on the local communities and making them aware of this parrot’s value as a result of its uniqueness, its potential as a bird watching attraction, and the fact that it is present only locally. Its small range and rarity should make its conservation a priority.”