Orange-chinned Parakeet

(Brotogeris jugularis)



This is the smallest of the SSR parrots. It is easily recognized in flight by its alternation between power strokes of the wings and slightly dropping glides, making a swooping flight pattern. Flocks rarely fly in straight lines but often vear to one side or the other as if uncertain who is leading. This species also has a characteristic contact call given in flight: a high frequency tinkling alternating with buzzes. It is green like the sympatric Conures, but has a shorter tail, and lacks the yellow eye ring and orange forehead. Identifying marks when perched include a tiny patch of orange under the lower mandible, brown on the shoulders, and blue in the wings.



This parakeet ranges from southern Mexico to northern South America. Like the other common species of the SSR, it is a typical member of the dry forest communitiey found along the west coast of Central America.

Natural History:

Diet: This species eats a variety of small fruits, seeds, and flowers. Even when it appears to be eating fruits (such as figs), it may in fact be cracking and digesting the small seeds they contain (Janzen 1981).

Silk Cotton (Ceiba pentandra) seeds
Tempisque (Sideroxylon capiri) flowers
Fig (Ficus spp.) seeds
Muntingia calabura fruits
(See Conure Page)
Mora ( Maclura tinctoria) fruits/seeds
Pochote (Pachira quinata) seeds


Night Roosts: Parakeets invest considerable effort and time in late afternoon staging. The same general night roost area is typically used for weeks by 50-150 birds, and then is moved to a new site often at a considerable distance (e.g. kms). Staging begins in late afternoon with the arrival of 1-2 pairs who sit high in bare trees and emit contact calls to overflying conspecifics. Many of these immediately drop out of the sky and join the roosting pairs. Often, several different staging groups will form in different trees as much as 50-100 m apart. However, as the staging continues, one after the other of the groups suddenly gives up and flies to join the largest remaining unit. By 5:15 PM, there is usually only a single giant aggregation left. Shortly after, birds from this aggregation begin flying into the sleeping tree. This may be a quite small tree (<4 m in diameter and <4 m high). Poro Poro trees (Cochlospermum vitifolium) are a wet season favorite. They will also sleep in dense masses of leafy vines. There appears to be considerable competition for central perches in the communal sleeping tree and as one pair dives into the tree, others are often displacedt. Eventually all the birds are completely hidden in the roost tree's foliage and the aggregation quiets down for sleep. Shortly after dawn, about 5:10-5:20 AM, one can hear a few soft tinkling calls from inside the sleeping tree. Usually on the second or third of these events, the entire aggregation bursts from the night roost and flies to adjacent trees to preen and sort out into foraging flocks.


Nesting: Like the sympatric Conures, Parakeets can excavate cavities in arboreal termitaria for their nests. They will also use old woodpecker holes, cavities in palms, and even rock crevices. Unlike the Conures, several pairs of Parakeets may excavate separate holes in the same termitarium and all breed there. Nesting begins in the dry season and may extend into the early wet season. Clutch size is usually 4-5 eggs. The female incubates the eggs and both parents feed the offspring.


Predators: A number of moderate to smallish hawks will take Parakeets if they can catch them. This species is particularly afraid of the Zone-tailed Hawk (Buteo albonotatus) which often mimics the silouette and rocking flight of Turkey Vultures (Cathartes aurea). As a result, staging groups of Parakeets will often panic and scatter into the vegetation when a Turkey Vulture flies by. This species is taken at night by the large carnivorous bat, Vampyrum spectrum, but less often than is the sympatric Conure (Vehrencamp et al. 1977). Another nocturnal predator on Parakeets is the Barn Owl (Tyto alba) which can be seen flying at suspected night roost trees just before dawn in an attempt to flush nearly awake Parakeets. Like the Conures, both adults and nestlings are vulnerable to monkey, snake, and lizard predators when in their nests.


Flock Structure: Typical flock sizes during the day are 2-16 birds. This species is more likely to recruit overflying conspecifics to food finds than any of the other SSR species. When one flock finds a fig, the birds often emit contact calls to other passing pairs or flocks and attract them into the tree. This presumably decreases the risk of predation to individual birds at minimal costs given the large numbers of figs typically found on SSR trees. After foraging, one or more more flocks will join into play and sleeping aggregations during midday. These are often conspicuous as the birds keep up a steady chatter and squabling throughout the midday period. Flocks reseparate in early afternoon for additional foraging. Staging aggregations typically begin forming about 4 PM.


Vocalizations (Click on underlined terms to hear call):

Loud Contact Call/Pair Duet: The contact calls given in flight alternate a musical "tinkling " with a noisy buzzing. The tinkling calls usually have two pieces, each contributed by one member of the mated pair. It is thus given as a sequential duet. When roosting, one can sometimes hear only one member's tinkling call.


Soft Contact Call: Many Parakeet calls are modulations of the "buzzing" given as part of the loud contact call. This is clearly the case for the soft contact call which is a softer version of the loud contact call buzz and may be given singly or in short slow trains. It is often heard when a flock is foraging in the same tree and presumably functions to coordinate group movements.


Preflight Call: As with the Parakeet soft contact call, the preflight call is a modified buzz. As with both Conures and White-fronted Amazons, soft contact calls often grade continuously into the preflight call as members of the flock exhaust a current foraging site and signal their intention to fly to another.


Warbles: These are most often heard at midday when one or more flocks are resting and playing. The sound like a constant chatter mingled with the tinkles and buzzes of the loud contact calls.


Where to Find Them in SSR/ACG:

Orange-chinned Parakeets are frequently seen and heard around the old Casona site. There is a large fig tree near the road which they frequent when in fruit, and several trees with large arboreal termitaria which pairs of this species have used for nests in the dry season. This species will sometimes spend their midday playtime in the patch of woods in the center of the Park office complex, and their tinkle-buzz calls are nearly always heard as they fly over the Park center between 5:30 and 7:00 AM en route to foraging sites. Perhaps the most interesting time to view this species is during late afternoon staging. This means the observer has to find a staging site. By noting the direction that pairs and groups are flying after 3:30 PM over several late afternoons, one can often "triangulate" the likely location of the current staging site. These can occur nearly anywhere in the more open forests or fields. In one year, local birds used the trees adjacent to the Park entry road directly opposite the entry guard casita. Each evening for several weeks, one could watch 60-80 birds aggregate noisily and then pack into a single small Poro Poro tree only 4 m. in diameter at its largest circumference! For those who will get up early, it is also exciting to see so many birds exit explosively from such a sleeping roost about 5:15-5:20 AM each morning.



Forshaw, J. M. 1989. Parrots of the World. London: Blandford.

Janzen, D. H. 1981. Ficus ovalis seed predation by an orange-chinned parakeet (Brotogeris jugularis) in Costa Rica.” Auk 98: 841-844.

Juniper, T. and M. Parr (1998). Parrots: A Guide to Parrots of the World. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Stiles, F. G. and A. Skutch. 1989. A Guide to the Birds of Costa Rica. Ithaca, NY: Comstock Publishing Associates.

Vehrencamp, S. L., F. G. Stiles, and J.W. Bradbury. 1977. Observations on the foraging behavior and avian prey of the neotropical carnivorous bat, Vampyrum spectrum. Journal of Mammalogy 58: 469-478.