Behavior

 

The Yellow-Eared Conure is gregarious, travelling and roosting in flocks. It is nomadic and mobile, often travelling to favored locations at the same times each season.

Nests are located near the roosts of the larger flock. The adult breeding birds become very vocal in the evenings as if to strongly encourage the larger flocks to roost and stay near by. This cooperation between non-breeding and breeding birds is clearly beneficial to the nesting pair in warning against possible predators.

One of the most unique behaviors of the Yellow-Eared Conure is the assistance of a third adult bird with parental duties. The fieldworkers have observed these helper birds assist the breeding parents feed and care for the chicks. Cooperative breeding assistants have only been observed in one other parrot (psittacidae) family - the Australasia fig parrotlets.  

The non-breeding flocks normally roost in three to five palms that are located close together. The birds move along the palm fronds towards the "heart" of the palm (the frond base) where they sleep. Pairs can be seen sleeping side-by-side and non-paired individuals are situated further apart and on different fronds.

 The flock departs the roost site early in the mornings to forage for food at higher elevations until returning to the roost area later in the afternoon. Breeding pairs leave to forage with the flock early but will make two to three additional trips during the day to feed chicks. Radio transmitters attached to individual birds have assisted researchers to study the movements of the birds and their foraging areas.

Fieldworkers have observed the Yellow-Eared Conure eating the fruit, bark, flowers and shoots of various trees. The wax palm is the most preferred of the trees. Verbanaceae FruitLocal people sometimes think that the birds feed on maize, but the farmers who grow maize only identify the Bronze-winged Pionus (Pionous chalcopterus) as feeding on the crop. 

The Yellow-Eared Conure is accustomed to seeing humans nearby. The bird can be particularly stubborn about staying in an area even when humans are becoming more numerous. Fieldworkers observed persecution at a roost in Ecuador in which the parrots continued to use the same palm until it fell and then they simply moved to the next palm over rather than leave the area. This behavior makes the Yellow-Eared Conure an easy target for hunters who highly prize its meat in soups.

Much has been gained from the study of the Yellow-Eared Conure in the past two years, however, this is only the beginning of learning about this species. The Proyecto Ognorhynchus team plans to continue observing flocks, breeding pairs and nesting sites for additional insight that can help formulate a conservation strategy.  

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