Amazona viridigenalis

The Red-crowned Parrot is a medium-sized, 33 cm (13 in), green parrot with a red crown and red patches on its wings (Howell and Webb 1995). It is commonly seen on the Rio Grande delta (latilong 25097) of Texas.     Neck (1986) described its history in Texas citing many other writers. It appears earlier observations were of post-breeding season foragers, wandering into Texas from nearby Tamaulipas during the fall.

The Red-crowned Parrot’s numbers first increased in Tamaulipas with increased production of grain crops in the 1970s and more Red-crowns were seen in Texas.     Then crop failures, deforestation and persecution by man forced the parrots to seek elsewhere for their needs.     The devastating freeze of 1983 left many dead palms available to the cavity-drilling activities of woodpeckers.  Red-crowned Parrots took over some cavities and began nesting in Texas by 1985.

DISTRIBUTION: Red-crowned Parrots are endemic to northeast Mexico, ranging from northeast Nuevo Leon through Tamaulipas    to northern Veracruz (Howell and Webb 1995). In Texas it ranges along the Rio Grande from the Gulf to San Ygnacio (27099-A4) and wanders as far north as San Marcos.

SEASONAL OCCURRENCE: The Red- crowned Parrot is non-migratory. It often goes on post-breeding forays in the fall, gathers in large loose roosting flocks in the winter, and disperses into breeding territories in spring. TBBA breeding dates were from 7 April to 27 June.

BREEDING HABITAT: The Red-crowned Parrot chooses large thick leafy trees for roosting.  It is a voracious and wasteful feeder.  It loves  green avocados, pecans, other nuts, and     acorns. It eats flowers, leaf buds, and new leaves.    It eats berries, kumquats, and other fruits and likes them ripe (Enkerlin-Hoeflich and Hogan 1997, HHB). Red-crowned Parrots prefers high cavities in Washingtonian Palms for nest sites.  They will nest in lower  cavities and in other palms and trees, but a history of nest      robbing and parrot-napping has probably made the high sites the preferred nest sites.

Texas Breeding Bird Atlasers found Red- crowned Parrots nesting in East Brownsville (25097-H4), Harlingen, Mercedes in 26097- B6,  Pharr (26098)  and Victoria (28097-G1). The Brownsville nest was in a cupped  depression on top of a  broken Washingtonian palm 10 m (35 ft) above ground. Red-crowned Parrots took over a fox squirrel nest in a dead Washingtonian palm about 9 m (30 ft).  They nested there 1991-1993 in the Mercedes Quadrangle on the south edge of Weslaco.  Another Red-crowned Parrot nest was in a broken off Washingtonian Palm in the Weslaco Cemetery.     It was in a  cavity 8 ft (2.5 m) above ground and was successful in 1992.   But a parrot-napper netted the female in 1993. A Red-crowned  Parrot pair was found on territory, in McAllen (Pharr quad); the lot owner claimed that they nested in the Washingtonian Palm bracts and produced young.Atlaser Ruthie Melton reported that a Red-crowned Parrot pair nested in an old anacua tree cavity near Riverside Park .in Victoria in 1989 and 1990 and fledged a parrot in 1990.  Greg Lasley (pers. comm.) reported that a Red-crowned  Parrot family were producing young in San Marcos (29097-H8) in 1990-93. The nests at Victoria and San Marcos may be from escapees. However these parrots may range as far north as Victoria and San Marcos on fall-feeding flights.

Brad McKinney made a Red-crowned Parrot survey in July, 1995, and found 10 nests in Brownsville,  3 nests in Harlingen area  and  three in McAllen.      This noisy parrot  is very secretive when nesting so many nesting sites maybe overlooked by man.

STATUS: The Red-crowned parrot is a state-list d resident bird. They are both naturally occurring and escapees  Their numbers  are increasing due to natural production and emigration from  Mexico.   A conservative estimate  would put 640 Red-crowned Parrots on the Texas Rio Grande delta.

Text by Harold H. Burgess (Posted with updqtes 2006)

Texas Breeding Bird Atlas map

Literature cited.

American Ornithologists’ Union. 1998. Checklist of North American birds, 7th ed. Am, Ornithol. Union, Washington, DC.

Enkerlin-Hoeflich, E. C. and K. M. Hogan. 1997 Red-crowned Parrot (Amazona viridigenalis). In The birds of North America, No. 292 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Birds of North America, Inc., Philadelphia, PA.

Howell, S. N. G. and S. Webb. 1995. A guide to the birds of Mexico and northern Central America. Oxford University Press, New York.

Neck, R.  W. 1986. Expansion of Red-crowned Parrots (Amazona viridigenalis) into southern Texas and changes in agricultural practices in northern Mexico.   Bull. Texas Ornithol. Soc. 19: 6-12.

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