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Crimson-fronted Parakeet (Psittacara finschi)

I first made acquaintance with this species in San Torte, then a tiny community in Altamira Province, near the border with Nicaragua, on June 7, 1971.  At the time it was called the Finsch’s Parakeet, and was in the genus Aratinga.  While it is still sometimes called Finsch’s Parakeet or, especially in the exotic bird trade, Finsch’s Conure, the change in genus seems to be widely accepted, one of seemingly countless such changes in my lifetime that manage to leave me quite confused. Most are the result of far more sophisticated and objective ways of determining taxonomic relationships then were available when I was young, thanks to advances in such processes as DNA analysis.  While the Crimson-fronted Parakeet is found only in Central America (from Nicaragua to Panama) there is a very similar and closely related species called the White-eyed Parakeet (P. leucophthalmus) that has a large range in much of tropical South America. Together they form what taxonomists call a “superspecies”.  The ranges of the two species do not overlap. 


Anyway, while I obtained all that I needed then and there to do a painting of the species, it took me some 42 years to actually do the painting!  I take my time but just as well…my artistic ability, that still has not attained the level I seek, has improved in those four decades, although it will remain always shy of doing justice to my subjects.  


These birds weigh around 135 to 175 grams (4.8 to 6.2 ounces – about halfway between a Blue Jay and a Mourning Dove), and are variable in the amount and placement of stray red patches around the head. The red forehead (the crimson “front”) is quite consistent, but mostly or completely lacking in young birds, who also lack the red thigh patches. The species lives in the warmer, tropical zones from sea level to about 1,800 meters (5,900 feet) and are comfortable in secondary forest and ranches, and around the edges of lowland primal forest. They can form noisy flocks.


This is a “good news” bird in that it is adaptable to anthropogenic activity such as the removal of primal forest, which can create the kind of open habitat with stands of trees that they prefer. While very attractive, the species is not in particularly high demand for the exotic pet trade, an industry that has had devastating effects on the conservation of more exotically colored neotropical species of parrots.


The painting is approximately life-size, in oils on a compressed hardboard panel, 16 by 20 inches.


Barry Kent MacKay

Bird Artist, Illustrator

Studio: (905) 472 9731

31 Colonel Butler Drive

Markham, ON L3P 6B6 Canada



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