Greater Vasa Parrots: Body Size, Appearance & More

Macaw Hyacinth
Macaw Hyacinth

Greater vasa parrots, also known as Coracopsis vasa, are native to Madagascar and are considered to be one of the most intriguing but least well-known species of all parrots. It is generally agreed that the Vaa parrot is one of the oldest and most fundamentally developed species of parrot.

The Greater Vasa has a body size that is comparable to that of a large grey or blue-fronted Amazon or vosmaeri eclectus parrot; however, the neck of the Greater Vasa appears to be larger, and the legs are definitely longer than those of other parrots. The weight of an adult Greater vasa is approximately 500 grams.

The head and body of these birds are both feathered in an extremely dark gray coloration. Because it is so dark, it gives the impression that it is black, yet it is not. It is more of a dark grey with a matte finish rather than a glossy black like the feathers of a crow. A steel gray color can be seen on the leading edge of both the primary and secondary wing feathers. The undertail coverts are a very light grey color with an off-white edging, and the long tail feathers, which are nearly eight inches long, are a medium grey color with a dark grey bank across the middle, leaving a lighter grey tail band on the tip of the feather. During the times of the year when the vasa are not reproducing, their beaks take on a dark gray color, and their eyes do as well. Around the area of the face that does not contain an eye, the skin is noticed to be off-white. The primary color of their skin is a matte off-white, and it has pinkish tones in areas where there is underlying muscle.

Both the men and females go through significant transformations in their appearance during the breeding season. The hens will lose the feathers on the crowns of their heads, and the color of their skin will change to a deep golden yellow. The skin of the male’s head assumes a very dark grey-black color, and he develops a rich saffron to orange wattle underneath the lower jaw at this stage. In this brief piece, I won’t detail the alterations that have taken place in their cloacas; nevertheless, I will remark that they are rather spectacular. The act of copulation might take up to an hour. In the beginning of the copulation process, the male will mount the female; however, once they are connected, they will continue to stand next to one another on the perch until the session is over.

The hen will lay two to three eggs in a conventional boot box or Z box, in which she will sit quite firmly, and the box will be standard size. During both the incubation process and the feeding of the chicks, the male chicken acts as a guard and delivers food to the hen. During the time that the eggs are being incubated and the chicks are still very little, she rarely leaves the nest. As soon as she leaves the den, she begins a persistent and shrill request for the male to feed her.

In the course of this procedure, there is also ceremonial mating (ritual inthe sense that it is not the typical mating process, but is much quicker and does not involve a long joining). Because the males are so eager to provide food for the hen, when it is time for the early morning feeding service, they will physically grab the new food bowl and pull it into the area where it will be served. And these are birds that were captured in the wild. After 17 days, the chicks have hatched from their eggs and are already growing at an astonishing rate. According to field scientist Jonathan Ekstrom, who studies vasas in the wild, a single hen that is carrying eggs or chicks will be fed by multiple males, and while they are feeding her, she will copulate with each of them.

The Vaasa parrots have a high level of intelligence, are quite active, and are quite agile both on their feet and in the air. They can swiftly move through the air and may quickly change course in virtually any direction. They are able to hop or jump like a jay and sprint like a chick when they are on the ground. They will play with toys like caiques and lories while rolling around on their backs. It’s possible that two vasas will decide to fight each other and roll around on the floor of the cage.

Their intelligence and keen sense of observation are on full display as they examine the fastening system used on the cage door and then, once you have left, proceed to dismantle the snaps and clips. In order to stop them from getting to the clips, I install a wire stand-off close to the region where the door is attached. The behavior of Vasa parrots can best be described as childlike and full of play. They begin the day by working on their wooden toys, which you can find them doing.

When they are in large groups, they do not appear to have much of an interest in being territorial or in fighting until the breeding season begins. After that, the hens become hostile toward the other chickens and strive to eliminate them! When this time comes, we take the married couples and remove them from the flock. In the event that we need to re-pair a male or female, we simply throw the new bird into the flight along with a nest box, and within ten seconds, the newly introduced pair begins mating. The breeding season exerts a significant influence on these birds, and within a matter of weeks, the entire flock experiences a profound shift in its dynamics.

It is unknown how many vasa parrots live in the United States, however based on observations, the population size is likely to be small. In the 1980s, the vast majority of vasas that had been collected in the wild were imported. The only remaining forest is a thin strip of green that runs from the top to the bottom of Madagascar over a mountainous rocky ridge, therefore there is a significant risk that these birds may lose their natural environment if they are allowed to survive in the wild. The Greater Vasa Parrots forage within the forest, although more often than not they do so near the forest’s edge and in the croplands that surround it, where they are frequently regarded as a nuisance. The smaller subspecies, known as the Lesser vasa (Coracopsis nigra), seems to favor the more densely forested regions for both feeding and nesting purposes.

Advocates for Bird Protection (ABC), a nonprofit organization whose aim is education about avian species and conservation of threatened bird species, decided to engage with vasa parrots in the year 1995. It was believed that there was a particularly high risk of vasas dying out in captivity due to the fact that they are a dark-feathered bird that is not widely kept as a pet and that it is mostly unknown in the market.

ABC started with a flock of 16 Greater Vaasa Parrots and continues to grow it by purchasing additional Vaasa Parrots whenever they become available on the market. This project’s objective is to establish a breeding collection that will be operational for an extended period of time in order to ensure that the species will continue to reproduce successfully in captivity. The breeding pairs in the collection are given the opportunity to fully rear and release their young, which they do with a great deal of zealousness.

At the moment, ABC is working along with not one but two different zoos, specifically the Sacramento Zoo and the National Aviaries. ABC is responsible for the management of the Greater vasas, whereas these two institutions are in charge of the Lesser vasas. Laurella Desborough can be reached by email at [email protected] and can provide additional information regarding vasa parrots as well as the Vasa Project.

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