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Bald parrot discovered in Brazil

A new species of parrot has been discovered in Brazil and named Pionopsitta aurantiocephala in recognition of its remarkable bare head covered with bright orange skin.

A new species of parrot has been discovered in Brazil and named Pionopsitta aurantiocephala in recognition of its remarkable bare head covered with bright orange skin. Although birds of the new species had previously been observed and specimens lodged in scientific collections, they were assumed to be immature Vulturine Parrots Pionopsitta vulturina, also a bare-headed species that overlaps in range with the new species. Renato Gaban Lima, Marcos Raposo and Elizabeth H?fling observed and collected Pionopsitta aurantiocephala during a recent field trip to the Cururu-a?u and S?o Benedito Rivers area in central Brazil, and noticed that some were sexually mature, although all had bare orange heads. Analysis of museum skins of Vulturine Parrots revealed a gradual loss of green and yellow feathers from immature birds to bare black skins in adults. At no stage did the bare skin become bright orange, so these orange-headed birds were clearly a different species. The region where Pionopsitta aurantiocephala was found is currently managed for ecotourism although much of the surrounding area is under threat of logging. The recent discoveries published in The Auk 119: 815-819 serve as a reminder about how little we know about some birds, even in relatively well studied groups like parrots.

4th July 2014