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Amazona albifrons (The White-Fronted Parrot).
The White-Fronted Parrot, Amazona albifrons, is a Neotropical bird found in Central America. It mainly inhabits tropical moist forests, but has also been found in woodlands and savannahs. Also known as the spectacled parrot in some areas, the white-fronted parrot has been sighted from as far as northwestern Mexico to western Costa Rica (Skeate 1984).
A. albifrons is a relatively small bird with an average length of 26 cm, and is largely covered by green feathers. It is mainly characterized by its distinctive patch of white feathers on its forehead, but also has red feathers surrounding it’s eyes, and may sometimes have a patch of blue feathers on the top of it’s head – referred to as its crown or occiput (Skeate, 1984). Adult a. albifrons have yellow irides and golden-yellow bills, as well as greyish feet and legs. Unlike other members of its genus, a. albifrons exhibits sexual dimorphism (Skeate, 1984). The males have a red patch of feathers lining the edge of its wings. When fully extended, the wings appear to have a red spot. According to Skeate (1984), sexual dimorphism distinction is not as obvious in juvenile a. albifrons. For the first few months after hatching, the juveniles will exhibit brown irides, and if they are male, they will not display the red patch under the wings. After further development and growth, the juveniles develop yellow irides, and one can better distinguish between male and female.
As noted by Chapman et al. (1989), the white-fronted parrots are flocking birds that can travel in large groups of up to 30 birds. These flocks may include only other white-fronted parrots, but may also be a mixed flock of both parrots and parakeets. The size of flocks may vary on a daily, weekly and/or monthly basis, and may be correlated with the density and distribution of food resources. One will rarely find an individual white-fronted parrot alone. Within the flock, the birds will forage for food together. A. albifrons are known to feed on a range of different resources. Their diet consists of fruits, seeds, flowers, leaves, and bark (Mutuzak, 2008). In a study done by Mutuzak (2008), he observed that 37% of the diet was of seeds.
In addition to being apart of large flocks, a. albifrons are also known to develop exclusive mating relationship known as pair bonds (Skeate, 1984). These pair bonds are characterized by behaviors such as allopreening, allofeeding, aggressive defending of nests and a close spatial interactions. Skeate (1985) reports that in a. albifrons, all pair bonds are heterosexual and therefore supports that these are indeed mating pairs. Pair bonding is a gradual process strengthened over time, mainly through the efforts of allofeeding (Skeate, 1985). In the initiation of this pair bond, females will select a favorable male. The criteria of this selection are not fully understood at this time. Once the pair bond has been established, the two birds will mutually participate in allopreening and allofeeding exclusively. Allopreening involves the nibbling and scratching by one bird on the head, wings and tail of the other. Solicitation, which involves a smooth lowering of the head towards the beak of the other mate, is common for both members of the pair bond. The parrot being preened will adjust its body accordingly to an area it would like to be preened. In terms of allofeeding, it is typically seen amongst pair bonds and is characterized by the males feeding the females. According to Skeate (1984), the male will forage for food, and upon its return it will feed the female by undergoing a distinct and interesting feeding mechanism. The male will regurgitate the food back into its mouth and conduct a few head bobs. He will then grab onto the females bill at a 90-degree angle, and regurgitate the food into her mouth. Because of the intimacy exhibited during this process, it is believed that alloofeeding is a large component in establishing and maintaining a pair bond (Skeate, 1984).
The white-fronted parrot also exhibits playful behavior. Such behavior includes playful biting, foot-clawing and allopreening. To initiate play, one bird begins by sliding their body into the other bird. There is a distinct difference in playful biting and aggressive biting. When the behavior is playful, the birds will aim for the torso and feet of the other bird. However, when the behavior is aggressive, it will conduct what is known as bill-gapes or bill-lunges at its opponent’s head in a rapid motion (Skeate, 1985). Foot clawing is typically seen as a response or variation in their play. With foot clawing, the playful behavior is again aimed at the torso and feet.
According to Skeate (1984) a. albifrons tend to mate during the months of January to May. After copulation, the female lays and protects here eggs in holes found in the barks of trees or other natural cavities within the environment. Typically, the female would produce about 3-5 eggs per copulation. During the incubation period, the frequency of allofeeding by the male may increase (Skeate, 1984). This alloofeeding may serve as means of nutrition for the generally immobile female, as well as a method of strengthening the pair bond during this time period. Also during the incubation period, both male and female white-fronted parrots (but mostly female) will become very aggressive towards foreign organisms approaching the nesting site (Skeate, 1984). They have been observed to display what has been termed an aggressive walk in the event of any threat to the nest. Skeate (1984) has characterized their aggression to include: slowly walking along a perch, spreading their wings to full extension, widely fanning their tails, and lowering the front portion of their body. This walk may also entail low screeching noises, and will continue until the threat disseminates (Skeate, 1984). Average incubation periods last about 26 days. However, while studying a. albifrons in captivity, Skeate (1984) noted that one particular parrot abandoned an unhatched egg after 45 days. This suggests that a female may abandon an unsuccessful incubation. After incubation, the female will continue to provide food and security for the juvenile until it develops necessary skills of maneuvering and flight.