Research aims

  • Estimate the food resource abundance in the Afromontane mixed yellowwood mistbelt forest along the Amathole mountain range for comparison with observed feeding activity in the region
  • Understand their local movements by using radio-transmitters mounted under the tail feathers, which are tracked using a microlight aircraft
  • Study their breeding biology and nesting behaviour in the region to develop conservation techniques that support successful breeding towards population increase

  • Monitor the efficacy of carefully designed nest boxes in increasing suitable nest cavity availability in the mistbelt forest

  • Determine the source of animal protein utilized by Cape Parrots during breeding. 

Past and current research projects

Riel Coetzer studied the genetics of Cape Parrots (Poicephalus robustus) working with Prof C T Downs, Prof MR Perrin and Dr S Willows-Munro at UKZN. 

Their recent 2015 publication in the journal PLoS ONE “Molecular systematics of the Cape Parrot (Poicephalus robustus): implications for taxonomy and conservation” now provides genetic evidence for the Cape Parrot to be viewed as a distinct species.

They found evidence to support that the Cape Parrot be separated from the two P. fuscicollis subspecies, namely the Grey-headed Parrot (P. f. suahelicus) and the Brown-necked Parrot (P. f. fuscicollis). 

An important paper was published in 2015 in the Journal of Ornithology “Review of documented beak and feather disease virus cases in wild Cape parrots in South Africa during the last 20 years” by Prof C T Downs, Dr M Brown, Dr L Hart and Dr C T Symes at UKZN.

Beak and Feather Disease Virus (BFDV) is one of the major threats to Cape Parrots. The study assessed samples collected from 1992 to 2014 and found that juveniles (0-3 years old) are most at risk. Importantly 64% of BFDV incidences occurred during years of drought which has major implications for Cape Parrots regarding climate change. 

Dr Steve Boyes conducted a 5-year study of the Meyer’s Parrot (Poicephalus meyeri) in the Okavango Delta, Botswana, looking at understanding the ecology of this species towards outlining its ecological niche.

Meyer’s Parrots are abundant in the Okavango, and thus allowed testing conservation techniques (e.g. nest boxes) and research techniques (e.g. nest cavity monitoring) for use with endangered Poicephalus parrot species such as the Cape Parrot.

Henry Ndithia conducted a ground-breaking study on the seasonal movements of Rosy-faced Lovebirds (Agapornis roseicollis).

His findings will greatly assist in tracking the movements of Cape Parrots in the Eastern Cape, South Africa.

Doctor Louise Warburton undertook important research into the ecology and conservation biology of the Black-cheeked Lovebird (Agapornis nigregenis), Africa’s rarest lovebird with the most restricted distribution.

Due to similarities in threat status and the resultant difficulty in studying this species, her findings and field techniques will be invaluable in the new Amathole Cape Parrot Project.

Dr Stuart Taylor conducted a 4-year study on the behavioural ecology and vocalisations of the Brown-headed Parrot (Poicephalus cryptoxanthus) in two locations in the Kruger National Park, South Africa, and Ponta Malongane, southern Mozambique.

His work pioneered thinking on the social cohesion of Poicephalusparrots, their vocalisations, and breeding

Dr Craig Symes studied a population of Grey-headed Parrots (Poicephalus fuscicollis suahelicus) in the Limpopo Province, South Africa. This work constituted the backbone of our final motivation to have the Cape Parrots recognised as an independent species (Poicephalus robustus).

Craig’s work demonstrated that, beyond differences in vocalisation, morphology and colouration, the diet and nesting behaviour of Grey-headed Parrots was distinctly different from Cape Parrots, whereby their dietary preferences were far more generalist and they preferred Baobab (Adansonia digitata) trees for nesting.

A network of birders living within the distributional range of Cape Parrots that report all feeding and breeding activity noted in their local area.