The yellow-eared parrot (Ognorhynchus icterotis), is an endangered parrot of tropical America. It is found in the western Andes in Colombia and (perhaps only formerly) Ecuador and is closely associated to the wax palm Ceroxylonsp. which is itself endangered.
The yellow-eared parrot nests and lives among wax palms in a few areas of Western and Central Cordillera of Colombia, where it inhabits cloud forests about 1800–3000 meters above sea level. It nests in the hollow trunks of the palms, usually 25–30 meters over the floor level. It also occurred very locally in northern Ecuador where wax palm grows. Their numbers had been greatly reduced, and only 81 individuals were recorded in the Colombian census of 1999. Their populations have been impacted by hunting and habitat destruction, particularly the harvesting of wax palm, which was traditionally cut down and used each year on Palm Sunday. There has been no confirmed records of this parrot from Ecuador since the mid-90s.
It is a relatively large, long-tailed parrot with an average length of 42 cm (17 in) and a weight of about 285 g (10.1 oz). It is overall green, with the underparts being paler, more lime green than the upperparts. The heavy beak and a ring of bare skin around the eyes are black. The origin of the common epithet “yellow-eared” is caused for the yellow patch of feathers that extends from the forehead down to its cheeks and ear-coverts. The yellow-eared parrot mates for life. Its main source of food are the fruits of the wax palm.
From 1998, Fundación ProAves with the support of Fundacion Loro Parque, American Bird Conservancy and CORANTIOQUIA have undertaken an intensive conservation project across Colombia that has led to one of Latin America’s most successful recoveries of an endangered bird. With protection and community support, the yellow-eared parrot population has climbed to over 1500 individuals by 2012.