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GALLERIES > BIRDS > PSITTACIFORMES > PSITTACIDAE > MAURITIUS GREY PARROT [Lophopsittacus bensoni]


Mauritius Grey Parrot Picture
 
 

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SPECIES INFO

Binomial name Lophopsittacus mauritianus
(Owen, 1866)

The Broad-billed Parrot (Lophopsittacus mauritianus) was a parrot endemic to the island of Mauritius that became extinct.

Description

It was a large, heavy-set parrot, with strong males similar in size to the Palm Cockatoo. Females were considerably smaller. The species is known from early drawings and subfossil bones. It had a long tail and a reduced flight apparatus and was probably flightless. The bill was very large but comparatively weak and probably adapted to crush the pulp of large fruits so that they could be swallowed, pit and all. The color was all bluish gray, and there was a small frontal crest. The discovery of the structure of the bill (which was previously thought to be adapted to cracking nuts) has led to the hypothesis that this bird, not the dodo, was one of the main animals responsible for propagation of the Tambalacoque or "dodo tree".

Artwork by Sir Thomas Herbert from the year 1634

Causes of Extinction

It became extinct partly due to hunting, but more importantly due to predation by introduced pigs, Crab-eating Macaques, and rats, which fed on the eggs and young of this species, which was in all likelihood ground-nesting (a rare occurrence among parrots, the Kakapo, the Night Parrot and the Ground Parrot being essentially the only species doing so) due to its inability to fly.

Mauritius Grey Parrot  It has been suggested that this article be split into multiple articles accessible from a disambiguation page. (Discuss)

A smaller, but very similar species was described from very few bones as the Mauritius Grey Parrot (Lophopsittacus bensoni) and some early travelers' records of "small grey parrots", but it is far from clear whether this was not simply the female of L. mauritianus. There is considerable confusion surrounding the parrots on Mauritius. Grey parrots were reported until the late 18th century, which may indicate the L. mauritianus persisted for almost 100 years longer than it is generally assumed. Additionally, there are reports of more colorful parrots that some sources attribute to the present species (according to this interpretation, L. bensoni was a valid species that was grey all over, whereas L. mauritianus was multicolored). However, these descriptions are highly suggestive of the Mascarene Parrot, which is on the other hand not known from bones on Mauritius. Furthermore, there are reports of a small grey parrot from Réunion, which cannot be attributed to any known taxon.

Affinities

The affinities of Lophopsittacus are undetermined; despite its appearance and distribution suggesting it was related to the African Grey and Vasa Parrots, it is more likely that its real relationships lie with the Psittaculini radiation of South(east) Asia "? notably, the Eclectus Parrot, the large-billed Tanygnathus parrots, and, interestingly, possibly most closely with the rather smallish and nimble Psittacula parakeets "? given that most Mascarene bird species, such as the dodo, derive from Southeast Asian progenitors and that details of their morphology suggest a close relationship. As Psittacula species actually spread to the Mascarenes, this is not to be understood as if they are very closely related "? the most likely scenario is that the "mysterious" Mascarene parrots (Lophopsittacus, Necropsittacus and Mascarinus) are derived from one or several early colonization by the progenitors of today's Psittacula, Lophopsittacus being most strongly differentiated and Necropsittacus having being still rather similar to Psittacula.

External links
  • World Parrot Trust Parrot Encyclopedia - Species Profile
  • Foundation Dutch Parrot Refuge




                                     



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