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  • Daryl Van Der Merwe

CHARISMATIC CAPE PARROTS




A golden hue develops like a crown over World’s View Lookout as I sit in the morning silence. The morning's secret is about to be revealed as light begins to pour over the Woodbush Plateau, and with it come faint screeches rapidly ascending from the valley below. What a privilege to behold the Green and Gold parrots fly-by as the new day dawns.

The Wolkberg mountains in Limpopo are the last stretch of the Drakensberg in South Africa’s north-eastern escarpment and are home to an isolated relict population of Cape Parrots (Poicephalus robustus). Rugged mountains hugged by mistbelt forest are not only the favoured habitat of these gregarious birds, but mine too. Unfortunately, very little is known about their population trend, behaviour, diet, movements and reproduction within this region.


Annual monitoring, driven by Prof Colleen Downs of the University of KwaZulu-Natal, during the CPBBD (Cape Parrot Big Birding Day) and work previously done by the CPP and local bird hero David Letsoalo, suggested that a population of approximately 80 – 100 individuals were still to be found within these magical forests. Interestingly, before 2017, the Cape Parrot did not exist to science as it was not recognized by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), but was considered a subspecies of the Grey-headed Parrot. Research conducted by Willem Coetzer indicated that not only was the Cape Parrot a genetically distinct species, but also that our northern population was a genetically distinct lineage as a result of approximately 120 years of relative isolation from its central and southern relatives due to human-related impacts to their habitat. So the question arose, what else may be different about this population and could these genetic differences translate to changes in behaviour?


This is now our mission… there is still so much we need to know about Cape Parrot distribution and movement within the landscape, their diet and nesting sites. Morning and evening observations are regularly done to try and unlock some of the Cape Parrot’s secrets.

Some of the highlights so far include large flocks observed at Stanford Lake, Agatha and Amorentia Estate. The team observed 157 Parrots in a single afternoon at two separate observation points at Agatha and Amorentia Estate. We have also been expanding knowledge on local Cape Parrot movements and distribution. Partnerships with Krabbefontein, Zwakala and the Magoebas Ultra Marathon have been exciting developments. We have also added four new plant species to the Cape Parrot feeding menu.


We hope that with your help within the area, we can discover much more about our only endemic and endangered parrot. We need a base in Magoebaskloof, so if you believe you have a suitable office space for 2 people and our car, do contact us. You could also make a donation to the My Forest campaign, log your Cape Parrot sightings on BirdLasser or support our Instagram or Facebook pages.


If you spot individuals or flocks of Cape Parrots, please send us any photos or information about your sightings to 063 601 0793 or daryl@wildbirdtrust.com.


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