Broad-billed Parrot: Bird Term of the Day

Definitions of words used by pet bird enthusiasts with the pet bird slant.

Broad-billed parrot: (noun) A parrot of the Mauritius Island that went extinct in the 17th century due to hunting by humans, rats, pigs and crab-eating macaques (arboreal monkeys). Its genus/species name is Lophopsittacus mauritianus. Today we know about the broad-billed parrot through recorded sketchings and stories of travelers who saw the parrot and fossil specimens located in London. It would have been a fascinating parrot. There are conflicting reports about whether it did or did not fly, but if it did fly, it was agreed to be a poor flier. It is also believed that it probably nested in the ground (which would make its eggs easy prey for rats). The only other parrots that nest in the ground are the ground parrot (Pezoporus wallicus) of Australia, the kakapo (Strigops habroptilus) of New Zealand and the rare night parrot (Geopsittacus occidentalis) of Australia. The male broad-billed parrot is believed to be a large parrot, similar in size to the palm cockatoo (Probosciger aterrimus), while the female was a lot smaller. Like the palm cockatoo, the broad-billed parrot was gray – although more of a bluish gray. The broad bill also had a small crest, short wings, a long tail and a large beak. The male is thought to have been “heavy set.” I’ve read accounts that said the beak was large and strong enough to crush nuts, but I have also read that it’s now believed that although large, the beak structure was relatively weak so the broad-billed parrot probably used it to crush fruit rather than nuts. Too bad we weren’t able to keep this bird from going extinct for then we wouldn’t have to hypothesize about how it lived. Here is a link to a painting artist Ria Winters did of the broad-billed parrot, based off of eye-witness accounts and sketchings. This was just one of the Mauritius and Mascarene Island bird paintings she did when she was granted a fellowship for a field study on these islands by Artists for Conservation Foundation.

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