Skip to content Skip to footer

The Vulture-Faced Parrot

For hundreds of years, travellers from the west have set Papua as their dream island. The richness of culture and the uniqueness of its biodiversity have been drawing their exploration desire. The many studies and new discoveries have impressed communities around the world.

Although better known as home for birds of paradise, Papua is the only location for Pesquet's Parrot (Psittrichas fulgidus).

The discovery of this endemic bird of Papua and Papua New Guinea had confused researchers because it is morphologically similar to Pyrilia vulturina from Brazil. It’s a large parrot with a length of about 46 cm and weighs up to 800 grams.

Compared to other parrots, Pesquet's Parrot has a unique appearance. Its face is relatively long and covered in black skin, with a beak resembling that of a vulture. Despite its “creepy” body profile, Pesquet's Parrot sounds more like cockatoos, but with a slower and softer intonation.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) categorizes the Pesquet's Parrot as an endangered species with Vulnerable status. The main threats are poaching, trade and habitat destruction. The Pesquet's Parrots inhabit holes on large trees at high altitudes. However, the current number is estimated to be only 21,000 individuals and the population trend continues to show a decline if integrated prevention is not carried out.

Explorations for Papuan Birds

Odoardo Beccari explored Papua and some of the islands in Maluku in 1871 to 1876.

Birds are inseparable from the daily lives of Papua and Papua New Guinea people. They become an important part of social relations and custom instruments. Indigenous people in Papua New Guinea use birds as a source of food, clothing ornaments, decorations, rituals, clan totems, and others.

The legendary ornithologist from the United States, Ernst Mayr, was interested on Papuan Birds. He then formulated the idea of evolution and the process of birth of new species that form the foundation for the evolution of modern biodiversity on earth today.

The development of ornithological studies in Papua dates back to the early 1800s, when a number of Western naturalists conducted surveys of natural resources in a group of small islands in the Pacific Ocean. According to The Ecology of Papua, a book written by Andrew J. Marshall and Bruce M. Beehler, the results of the research drew attention of cum naturalist explorers who wandered to remote areas of Papua in the mid and late 1800s.

While exploring the Raja Ampat Islands in western Papua, Alfred Russel Wallace and other explorers were amazed when witnessing the uniqueness and attractiveness of the Greater Bird-of-paradise trying to attract a mate with its appearance and behaviour. The Italian naturalist, Odoardo Beccari explored the Arfak Maountains. L'Albertis sailed the Fly River on three different expeditions. William Macgregor traversed the mountains in south-eastern Papua. Even to date, explorations are still proceeding. New discoveries await.


Important fact: Out of 10.000 bird species in the world, Indonesia is a home for 1.769 wild birds. Discovering the various types of birds and their services for the environment is a way of appreciating the biodiversity richness of Indonesia.