Mimics Under Threat

By Awake! writer in Britain

Parrots are “among the most highly threatened birds on earth,” observes Dr. Timothy Wright of the University of Maryland, U.S.A. Sadly, their brilliantly colored plumage and fascinating ability to mimic the human voice have contributed to the danger of extinction.

Interestingly, a fifth-century B.C.E. Greek doctor penned the earliest known written account of a pet parakeet. He marveled when the bird began to speak Greek words in addition to some words in a language of its homeland, India.

Today the attraction of the parrot’s mimicking ability enhances its popularity as a pet and adds to the trade in poached birds. Studies over the past 20 years indicate that among 21 parrot species in 14 countries, poachers have ruined 30 percent of the nests, and in 4 species the figure was 70 percent. The bird’s slow rate of reproduction, generally one clutch of eggs per year, coupled with destruction of its normal habitat, has driven up the prices paid​—the rarer the parrot, the higher the price.

The severity of the extinction threat becomes apparent from reports of low numbers of certain species. It is estimated that in Brazil there are fewer than 200 Lear’s macaws. The Puerto Rican parrot is faring worse, with fewer than 50 living in the wild. The conservation of the Spix’s macaw, considered to be extinct in the wild, is dependent on captive-breeding efforts.

As long as they remain, these dazzlingly beautiful birds testify to a Creator who obviously delights in their outstanding appearance and remarkable abilities. Will human greed bring parrots to their extinction? Time will tell. Meanwhile, these mimics remain under threat.

[Pictures on page 31]

Puerto Rican parrots

Lear’s macaw

Spix’s macaws

[Credit Lines]

Puerto Rican parrots: U.S. Geological Survey/Photo by James W. Wiley; Lear’s macaw: © Kjell B. Sandved/Visuals Unlimited; Spix’s macaws: Progenies of and courtesy of Birds International, Inc.