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Africa Geographic Travel

Happy news for Cape parrot fans is that “Red”, a wild-born female Cape parrot rehabilitated from a deadly viral infection and released back into the wild in 2011 has been seen on several occasions visiting a suburban birdbath, apparently healthy and living the life.

The female Cape parrot (Poicephalus robustus) was one of four placed in my care in May 2011. All four were severely malnourished and apparently suffering from the deadly Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease (PBFD). My wife and I (plus a few willing helpers) nurtured the four parrots for six intense months before releasing them back into their native range in South Africa’s Eastern Cape Province.

Red visiting a suburban birdbath – June 2013. © Rodnick Biljon

The ailing parrots could barely walk out of their holding cages when they arrived, but a healthy diet of indigenous food (including their favourite yellowwood kernels) and a stress-free environment led to a steady recovery and eventual successful release for all four of the parrots.

wild cape parrots
Red (flying, yellow leg band) mingles with wild birds shortly after her release – Oct 2011. © Rodnick Biljon

We nicknamed this female “Red” because of the large amount of red on her forehead. Usually, young Cape parrots show various amounts of red on the forehead, which almost disappears in males as they mature. Females, however, usually retain the red forehead – the amount of red varies from a few specks to a bright red band.

Africa Geographic Travel
rehabilitated parrots
The rehabilitated parrots mingle with wild parrots shortly after their release – Oct 2011. © Rodnick Biljon

Red was the weakest of the four rehabilitated and released parrots, so we hope the other three are also doing well and have dispersed back to their preferred territories.

cape parrots
The four Cape parrots arrive at East London airport the day before release. © Simon Espley

The Cape parrot is endemic to the high-altitude Afromontane mistbelt forests of South Africa, where they nest and roost, but they also forage in lower-lying forests and farmlands. Fewer than 2 000 individuals are left in the wild, making this Africa’s rarest parrot. Major threats include PBFD, habitat loss and illegal capture for the caged bird industry.

cape parrots rehabilitation
Three of the parrots during rehabilitation. © Simon Espley

Thanks to Lizz Espley, Shelley Prince, Michelle Connolly and Philip Connolly for their help during those six crucial months in these parrots’ lives. Their invaluable help included a strict daily feeding and cleaning routine and harvesting of food from neighbourhood trees (yellowwood, wild plum, assegai, Cape ash etc.).

Keep the passion.

release cape parrots
The release cage. Red can be seen on the front right. © Simon Espley

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Africa Geographic Travel
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