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Pygmy Parrots – Thumb-Sized Lichen-Eaters that move like Woodpeckers

I lately attended an enchanting lecture on Island Chicken Range on the American Museum of Pure Historical pastTwo Pygmy Parrot species – the Purple-Breasted (Micropsitta bruijni) and the Finsch’s (M. finschii) – drew the speaker to the Solomon Islands. In reflecting again on the discuss afterwards, I spotted that, regardless of my curiosity, I had but to look at a reside Pygmy Parrot. They’ve by no means been within the assortment of the Bronx Zoo, the place I labored for over 20 years, and solely not often seem in museums.  Additional analysis turned up one fascinating area report, however it appears that evidently we nonetheless know little or no about these smallest and, arguably, most uncommon of all parrots.

The World’s Smallest Parrots

Six species of Pygmy Parrots inhabit New Guinea, the Solomons and neighboring islands. They appear, in most respects, like different parrots – however barely exceed a human thumb in dimension!  At 3.5 inches in size, the Buff-Confronted Pygmy parrot (M. pusio) is the smallest Psittacine; its kin should not a lot larger. Please see the video under…it’s onerous to imagine they’re actual!

Singular Feeding Diversifications

Small dimension shouldn’t be their solely distinctive attribute. Pygmy Parrots are believed to rely closely upon lichen and tree fungus as meals, the one parrots to take action.  In 1942, the Purple-Breasted Pygmy Parrot grew to become the primary Psittacine ever noticed to feed upon fungus, which was described as a “jelly-like species rising on bark”.  Sadly, our information of its food plan just about stalled at that time! Whereas Kakapos, Keas and different parrots are identified to eat lichen, solely Pygmy Parrots have diversifications that enable them to concentrate on harvesting it.

Diversifications to this odd food plan embody quick tails with stiff, outwardly-projecting feather shafts, elongated toes and lengthy, curved nails. Aided by these buildings, Pygmy Parrots “creep” up and down tree trunks as they seek for meals; a number of have even been noticed to maneuver headfirst down bushes (please see the accompanying picture of a nuthatch for an instance). Comparable buildings have been advanced by woodpeckers, creepers and nuthatches, all of which additionally forage in the identical method as Pygmy Parrots. Woodpeckers and their kin use this looking model to seek out bugs, not lichen; some (or all?) Pygmy Parrots eat bugs in addition to lichen.

Area Observations

An informative Pygmy Parrot article is posted on BirdForum.net, an fascinating website the place I typically document my very own wild hen observations. Though not a long-term examine, the notes element among the greatest area observations out there (please see article under). The creator labored on New Eire, which lies within the Bismarck Archipelago, and spent a while observing the Finsch’s Pygmy Parrot.

Finsch’s Pygmy Parrots had been most frequently seen foraging on Pometia tomentosa, a broadleaf tree. Native folks confirmed that the birds, which aren’t unusual, appear to favor that tree above others. Shifting about like tiny squirrels, the minute parrots stripped bark from the bushes, leaving attribute scars. They appeared to be feeding on butterfly, moth or beetle larvae quite than lichen, a minimum of when noticed on Pometia trunks.  Nearly nothing is thought of their complete food plan, as observations are tough as soon as they enter heavy cowl; so far as I do know, Pygmy Parrots have by no means survived lengthy in captivity.

Insect larvae could also be a major meals supply for the Finsch’s Pygmy Parrot, however extra analysis in wanted. Sadly, the parrots underneath remark deserted the world after some boys harassed them with slingshots. It’s not identified how this species is affected by people (aside from being pelted with rocks!), however Pygmy Parrots typically appear capable of adapt to modest habitat disturbance.

Studying Extra

I’m now looking out The Auk and different sources for extra Pygmy Parrot data…something that you simply may have the ability to move alongside can be enormously appreciated, thanks.

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