A new species of bird has been discovered and is in the process of being added to the genus Aratinga, which is comprised of about 20 species of birds commonly known as Parakeets (or Conures). For about a century, scientists have confused the Sulfur-breasted Parakeet (Aratinga pintoi), living in the Amazon River basin in Brazil, with the juvenile Sun Conure (Aratinga solstitialis), which is found in Guyana and northern Brazil.
“The confusion has arisen because people studying museum skins of Sulfur-breasted Parakeets mistook them for juveniles of the closely related Sun Parakeet.” explains Luis Fabio Silveira, lead author of the paper describing the new species. “This was partly because most of the museum specimens in Brazil were of Sulfur-breasted Parakeets, whilst specimens in America and Europe were mainly Sun Parakeets. People never had the opportunity to compare the two side by side.”
“When we visited museum collections in Brazil and elsewhere, it became clear that the two parrots had very different plumages. In particular, Sulfur-breasted Parakeet differs from Sun Parakeet in its paler, greener crown, paler orange forehead and cheeks, a greener back mottled with flecks of green, and a sulfur-coloured, not orange breast.”
Brazil is home to over 1600 species of birds. And in the last 20 years, more species have been discovered there than any where else. Several of the species are in danger of extinction. When the South American Classification Committee of the American Ornithologists’ Union recognizes the Sulfur-breasted Parakeet as its own species, conservation status research will begin. This will be an especially important time; it’s common for a newly-discovered species to be illegally traded.
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