Lesser Vasa Parrot
At the Zoo
The lesser vasa parrot can be found in the aviary across from chimpanzees.
- This species is also known as the black parrot.
- Lesser vasa parrots are sometimes difficult to identify due to the physical changes they undergo during breeding season.
- They have one of the shortest incubation periods of large parrots.
Compared to other medium-sized parrots, lesser vasa have a long neck and legs. They are around 14 inches in length and have a wingspan of 8-10 inches. Males are typically smaller than females. Both are primarily brownish-black in color with grey feathers under the tail and wings. The skin around their eyes is grey and the bill is generally grayish-black.
During breeding season these birds go through significant changes to both their plumage and skin color. Females lose the majority of feathers on their head and skin develops a bright yellow hue. The normally pale pink skin becomes almost black on males but they do not lose any feathers. Beaks also lighten to a creamy white.
Lifespan is up to 30 years.
Lesser vasa parrots are found in dense humid forests, mangrove swamps, and dry forests of Madagascar, the Comoro Islands and the Seychelles Islands.
Their diet consists of fruit, seeds and flowers.
These birds are quite social; usually seen foraging in small flocks of 3-15 individuals. They are non-migratory and do not seem to defend a territory. Like most parrots, they are diurnal with peaks of activity in the early morning and later afternoon.
Their vocalizations are varied but are often described as sounding like a whistle. In Madagascar they are sometimes called “singing parrots”.
Breeding season occurs from October to December throughout their range. Both males and females help to build a nest in a tree hollow, although the male does not share incubation responsibilities. A clutch of 2-3 eggs is laid and incubated for approximately 18 days. During this time several males may visit the nest to feed the brooding female. Chicks fledge after 37-48 days.
Status In The Wild
They are listed as least concern by the IUCN; they are considered common and their populations are stable. Despite their wide distribution and healthy numbers they are at risk due to habitat destruction, especially on Madagascar.