Echo Parakeet (Psittacula eques)
The echo parakeet is one of just nine surviving bird species that are found only on Mauritius. The echo is similar to the common Indian ring-necked parakeet found in North American pet stores but larger and a darker shade of green. Adult males and recently fledged young have red beaks, while adult females have black beaks. Echo parakeets feed almost exclusively on native trees, eating buds, shoots, leaves, flowers, seeds, bark, sap and especially fruit. They remain together in pairs throughout the year and may be seen feeding each other in courtship rituals for much of that time. The breeding season is in spring. Echoes lay 1–3 eggs and incubate them for 23–26 days. Chicks fledge about 60 days after hatching.
The echo parakeet is native only to Mauritius. Currently, the wild population is found in a mountainous 50-square-kilometre area in the southwest of the country. These birds nest in natural cavities found in trees and forage in the forest canopy, rarely — or never — descending to the forest floor.
In 1986, only 10–12 birds could be found in the wild, making the echo the rarest parakeet in the world. The recovery effort includes releasing hand-reared wild young and birds produced through conservation breeding. This work has boosted the wild population to more than 500 echoes, and the species’ chance of survival continues to improve. In 2007, the species was downlisted from Critically Endangered to Endangered. However, we still have a long struggle ahead to restore the population to a healthy size.
Introduced animals such as rats, mongoose, macaques and feral cats prey on echo nests. Meanwhile, introduced birds compete for food and nest cavities. Because echo habitat is very limited, any destruction to their native forests puts these parakeets at risk, as do natural disasters, such as cyclones, and diseases carried by non-native birds.