WatchList Species Account for Thick-billed Parrot (Rhynchopsitta pachyrhyncha)

Qualifies for the list as a Red List Species


Photo: © Noel Snyder
Photo: © Noel Snyder

Largely restricted to the Sierra Madre Occidental of western Mexico, the Thick-billed Parrot was formerly a sporadic visitor to Arizona and New Mexico, following the cone crop, but the last big invasions were in the 1920s. The bird suffered heavily from shooting and may have been extirpated in the U.S. from this cause. There are captive-breeding facilities in the U.S. and in the mid-1980s and early 1990s there was an unsuccessful attempt to reintroduce the species into the Chiricahua Mountains of Arizona; attempts may have failed due to disease and predation.


The bird is found in temperate conifer, mature pine-oak and pine and fir forest at elevations of 1,200-3,600 m, breeding only above 2,300. It roosts on cliffs and nests in pine snags excavated by woodpeckers. With a strong dietary emphasis on pine seeds, it is nomadic outside the breeding season, responding to cone abundance. Its habitat has been greatly modified by cutting for timber and woodpulp, and although 80-85% of the forest cover remains in the Sierra Madre Occidental, less than 1% of the old-growth forest remains in tact.


The bird now breeds only in pockets of reasonably well-conserved habitat within its range. In recent years the habitat has been degraded in the southern part of Chihuahua by drug-growers, timbering, and the introduction of large numbers of cattle. In addition there is an illegal trade in the species. Only about 1,000-4,000 individuals are thought to survive.