A New Kid On The Block
In 2014, during a visit to a remote part of the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico, an ornithologist came across a new species of parrot with a completely different vocalization and color patterns from other known species. And that alone makes this discovery unusual... and controversial.
In 2014, ornithologist Miguel Gómez Garza spotted a species of parrot unknown to the world during a visit to the Yucatan Peninsula. A research team, led by Tony Silva of the University of Florida, took a closer look at the bird and concluded that it is likely to be a previously unknown species of the genus Amazonian parrot, which is native only to the Yucatán Peninsula. They hence christened the new species “Amazona gomezgarzai”, a namesake to its discoverer.
There are 27 known species of parrots (each with several sub-species) that comprise the genus Amazona and they are native to the Western Hemisphere, ranging from South America to Mexico and the Caribbean. Mexico itself is home to 23 Amazona species, six of which are native to that land.
So, an entirely new amazon species conclusion has come with some controversy which we’ll discuss in a bit, but first let’s take a closer look at this new kid on the block called the Blue-Winged Amazon.
The most distinctive feature of the Blue-Winged Amazon is its call, which is loud, sharp, short, repetitive and monotonous—with the duration of syllables much longer than in other Amazon parrot species. In flight, the call is a loud, short, sharp and repetitive yak-yak-yak. While perched, the call is mellow and prolonged.
There are other subtler differences, including the shape of its tail, the color of its wings and its behavior. The blue color on the tip of its wings is striking and is why the researchers have call it the Blue-Winged Amazon. It also has a green crown, whereas others in the Amazona category have blue crowns.
It lives in flocks of fewer than 12 birds that tend to stay together in their own parrot cliques. Like all members of the genus Amazona, the Blue-Winged Amazon is an herbivore with a diet consisting of seeds, fruits, flowers and leaves from the tree canopy of its tropical home.
When perched in trees and resting, a Blue-Winged Amazon chirps a more mellow and prolonged call—but when in-flight, it is very loud and makes its characteristic screams.
So back to the controversy surrounding the Blue-Winged Amazon.
During the University of Florida research, DNA analysis confirmed that the species has emerged quite recently (about 120,000 years ago) and is distinct and previously unidentified. The researchers also confirmed that no specimens in bird collections in Mexican museums included this newly cataloged species.
Immediately categorizing a new species of parrot is an oddity. New parrot discoveries tend to be subspecies later promoted to full species status, often resulting from DNA tests.
Several well-known Avian Scientists, such as Erich Jarvis, professor of neurobiology at Duke University, have expressed that they are not convinced yet that the Blue-Winged Amazon is be an entirely new species. They recognize that this parrot is indeed different from other Amazons—especially its vocalizations—but believe it should initially be categorized as a new subspecies.
If you’re thinking right about now that a trip to the Yucatán Peninsula may be in order so you can see a Blue-Winged Amazon—don’t pack your bags yet. Like many other parrots, the new species is listed as "critically endangered" under the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Accordingly, none of the researchers have provided the exact location where the birds were found due to the conservation risks associated with such public disclosures.