The Neotropical parrots or New World parrots comprise approximately 150 species in 32 genera found throughout South and Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean islands, and two species (one extinct) formerly inhabited North America. They are also present on a few Pacific islands like the Galapagos. Among them are some of the most familiar and iconic parrots including the Blue and Gold Macaw, Sun Conure and Yellow-headed Amazon.
The parrots of the New World have been known to Europeans since Columbus remarked upon them in his journal in 1492. Systematic descriptions of the birds were first available in German naturalist Georg Marcgraf's Historia Naturalis Brasiliae published in 1648, and English naturalist Mark Catesby's two volume Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands published in London in 1731 and 1743.
Several species and one genus have become extinct in recent centuries. A second genus is extinct in the wild. Over a third of the extant species are classified as Threatened by the IUCN. A few of these are in imminent danger of extinction with fewer than 500 individuals in the wild or in captivity: Glaucous Macaw, Spix Macaw, Blue-throated Macaw, Puerto Rican Parrot, Indigo-winged Parrot. The chief reasons for decline in parrot populations are habitat loss through deforestation by clear-cutting, burning and flooding by construction of dams, capture for the pet trade, and introduction of non-native predators. In a few cases, hunting contributes. Local and global climate change is also affecting parrot populations.
The New World parrots are monophyletic, and have been geographically isolated for at least 30-55mya by molecular dating methods. Though fairly few fossils of modern parrots are known, most of these are from tribe Arini of macaws and parakeets; the oldest are from 16mya. They attest that modern genera were mostly distinct by the Pleistocene, a few million years ago.
Neotropical parrots comprise at least two monophyletic clades, one of primarily long-tailed species such as the macaws, conures and allies, and the other of primarily short-tailed parrots such as amazons and allies (Miyaki, et al. 1998; Tavares et al. 2006; Wright et al. 2008).
A new species, Bald Parrot or Orange-headed Parrot was discovered as recently as 2002.
Neotropical parrots belong to the subfamily Arinae which along with the African or Old World parrots comprise the family Psittacidae, one of three families of true parrots. The taxonomy of the Neotropical parrots is not yet fully resolved, but the following subdivision is supported by solid studies.
- Tribe Arini
- Cyanoliseus – Burrowing Parrot
- Enicognathus (2 species)
- Rhynchopsitta – thick-billed parrots (2 species)
- Pyrrhura (around two dozen species, one possibly recently extinct)
- Anodorhynchus – blue macaws (2 living species, 1 probably recently extinct)
- Leptosittaca – Golden-plumed Parakeet
- Ognorhynchus – Yellow-eared Parrot
- Diopsittaca – Red-shouldered Macaw
- Guaruba – Golden Parakeet
- Conuropsis – Carolina Parakeet (extinct)
- Cyanopsitta – Spix's Macaw (critically endangered)
- Orthopsittaca – Red-bellied Macaw
- Ara – true macaws (8 living species, and at least one recently extinct)
- Primolius – some of the smaller macaws (3 species, previously called Propyrrhura)
- Aratinga – small long-tailed parakeets (nearly 25 living species, at least one recently extinct)
- Nandayus – also called Black-hooded Parakeet or Nanday Parakeet
- Tribe Androglossini
- Pionopsitta – Pileated Parrot
- Triclaria – Blue-bellied Parrot
- Pyrilia (7 species; all previously included in Pionopsitta).
- Pionus (7 or 8 species)
- Graydidascalus – Short-tailed Parrot
- Alipiopsitta – Yellow-faced Parrot (previously in Amazona, Salvatoria)
- Amazona – amazon parrots (about 30 living species - one subspecies recently extinct)
Schodde, et al. recognize a division of the remaining genera into several distinct clades, indicating possible previously undefined tribes:
- clade - proposed tribe Forpini
- Forpus (7 species)
- clade - proposed tribe Amoropsittacini
- clade including Androglossini
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- Schodde, et.al, Richard (2013). "Correspondence: Higher classification of New World parrots (Psittaciformes; Arinae), with diagnoses of tribes". Zootaxa 3691 (5): 591–596.
- Miyaki, C. Y.; Matioli, S. R.; Burke, T. & Wajntal, A. (1998): Parrot evolution and paleogeographical events: Mitochondrial DNA evidence. Molecular Biology and Evolution 15: 544-551. PDF fulltext
- Ribas, C., R. Gaban-Lima, C. Miyaki, and J. Cracraft (2005). Historical biogeography and diversification within the Neotropical parrot genus Pionopsitta (Aves: Psittacidae). Journal Biogeography 32:1409-1427.
- Split Gypopsitta from Pionopsitta South American Classification Committee.