Friday, January 6, 2012

Am I the only one that missed this?

When my brother was here at Christmas, we were looking through my book Parrots, A Guide to Parrots of the World to identify some parakeets he had seen. We did eventually find those (turns out they were Northern Rosella, Hooded, and Scarlet Chested) but along the way I noticed something I had not before, namely, that there are several subspecies of caiques. Makes since, since I had wondered why some look so different. Still, I have to wonder if the reason I never knew more than the white-bellied and black-capped species was because I have never done a lot of in-depth research on them (I usually do general information, and in-depth when I have a need) or because it is not widely noted. According to this book, there are 2 subspecies of the black-capped, and 3 subspecies of the white-bellied. A google search does bring up basic articles mentioning different subspecies, but it is usually in a quick sentence, very little information and so therefore easily missable/forgettable.

Looking at the pictures, though, it seems to me that they should be identifiable from each other with a bit of thought. One of the black-capped subspecies, the P. m. melanocephala has orange feathers under the tail and on the legs, while the P. m. pallidus is pale yellow. Of the white-bellied, the P. l. leucogaster has some green on the legs and a darker orange head than the P. l. xanthurus, who only has yellow leg feathers. The P. l. xanthomeria has the darkest orange head, but most importantly, grey/black feet as compared to the pink feet of the other white-bellied subspecies. Obviously drawings are never the same as real life, but compared to other species that are harder to identify in drawings than in actuality, these seem pretty clear, however true that may be. Now I am interested in finding out if more than one subspecies is commonly kept in captivity, or if they are so cross-bred at this point that it is hard to to tell what they are.

This reminds me very much of the quaker subspecies issue. Those I have done a lot of research on, having two myself, but even so it was a fair bit  into it before I found out there were different subspecies(at the time I did not have a parrot identification book, unfortunately). There are usually considered to be 4 subspecies, although that is disputed by some. I am not clear which mine are, although it is possible only one of the subspecies was mainly brought to this country. I am sure they have been cross bred heavily if there were more than one subspecies captured for captivity. I really think the latter is the case, considering the differences I notice in my two. Lola is not only bigger, her head and eyes are a very different shape, and her coloration is slightly different. She is a bit darker, almost duller, with more blue in her grey, and a longer flatter head with smaller eyes. Frank is more round, and much brighter. It could be individual differences, but I do wonder.

Terrible picture from several years ago, but it is probably
the best one to show the difference between the two.

Of course eclectus have many subspecies fewer people know about- I vividly remember an argument with a self-proclaimed expert on whether they were more than two subspecies of eclectus- and many people assume they are all the same. Still, their subspecies I think are much more widely known and written/talked about that either quakers or caiques. Many of the cockatoos have subspecies whose notoriety lies somewhere in the middle. It is more logical that there would be more than one race for most species, truly. But I am now going to go through this book more seriously to look at the commonly kept species in search of other subspecies I have somehow in my ignorance managed to miss!


saemmabel said...

VERY neat info. I had no idea about the caiques. :) Thanks Meg.

Meg said...

Glad to know I am not the only one!

peachfront said...

Your bird, "Lola" is the nominate subspecies, Myiopsitta monachus monachus. There are MAYBE three Quaker/monk subspecies. The fourth bird, Cliff Parakeet, is now a separate species, Myiopsitta luchsi -- as it should be, in my opinion, having seen both species in the wild. Cliff Parakeet is just too different. No scales on the breast, builds these big colony nests in dry cliffs instead of trees, and in sunlight it is very noticeable that it appears to have a white, clean forehead. I can't see enough of "Frank" to guess. The scales on the breast feathers are an important field mark, and he has removed them. The view from beneath the bird might also be helpful.

Meg said...

Wow, thanks! Exciting getting this comment, I love new information. So the Cliff Parakeet is now definitely considered a different species? Seemed to keep going back and forth, but they do look quite different even in pictures, although that does not always mean anything.

I think you have Frank and Lola confused- Frank has all his feather, while Lola is missing some. Still, glad to know which you think Frank is! I have more pictures of Lola on the Resident Parrots page ( as well as throughout the blog, obviously) including some of Lola's tummy and vent, since she will lie on her back in my hand. Do those help?