/ 27 June 2023

Meet the 2023 Bird of the Year

The Cape parrot is an endangered species largely because of human activity such as logging the forests where they are found. (Wild Bird Trust)

The “jewel of the forest”, the Cape parrot, is South Africa’s only endemic parrot and about 1 800 of these birds remain in the wild.

The bright green and yellow birds are now only found in Afromontain Southern Mistbelt forests from Hogsback in the Eastern Cape through to Bulwer, Balgowan and Karkloof areas of KwaZulu-Natal, but were previously more widespread, according to the South African National Biodiversity Institute.

The birds are associated with yellowwood trees, using them for nesting and laying eggs, as well as feeding on their fruit. The main threats to the parrots are the fragmentation of its habitat caused by “extensive logging, land use change, degradation and human exploitation that have diminished the forests’ range and connectivity”, according to the University of KwaZulu-Natal. 

Other threats to the Cape parrots are illegal capture from the wild and outbreaks of beak and feather disease. 

BirdLife SA chose the Cape parrot as 2023 Bird of the Year because they are at such high risk. The organisation has partnered with the Cape Parrot Working Group and the Wild Bird Trust’s Cape Parrot Project’s My Forest Campaign to raise awareness of this species and restore 15 hectares of forest, for which it needs to raise R3 million.

The seeds of indigenous trees are collected to produce saplings through community-based nurseries in areas adjacent to the forests. Other work includes population monitoring, providing nest boxes, educating the public and community outreach.

Critically endangered birds

There are 12 birds on a shameful list of the most critically endangered birds. Half of the list comprises raptors, but it is the Leach’s storm petrel, a dark grey seabird, that seems to be the worst off. East London Museum’s ornithologist Dr Philip Whittington says there are only 3 to 4 breeding birds of this seabird in the region.


This is an edited version of the article first published by Treevolution in its newsletter. Subscribe to their newsletter here.

This article was updated with Leach’s storm petrel bird numbers.