Northern Mexico


Mountain pine forests

Snow parrots

Most people think parrots live only in tropical climates, but endangered thick-billed parrots prefer higher elevations and make their home in the pine forests of northern Mexico. Because of their choice of habitat, they are sometimes called snow parrots or cold-weather parrots.

Green and red

The thick-billed parrot’s green coloring helps it blend in with the pine needles in the forest. The birds also have red markings on the head and on the bend of the wing and lower leg, and their eyes are ringed with yellow skin that is bare of feathers.

Thick-billed parrots use their strong beaks to clip pinecones from tree branches.
Thick-billed parrots have a call that can be heard up to 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) away.
Besides the thick-billed parrot, the only other parrot species native to the US was the Carolina parakeet, which became extinct in 1918.

The San Diego Zoo Safari Park has thick-billed parrots on exhibit in its Condor Ridge habitat.

Conservation status
The thick-billed parrot population has dropped since the early 1900s. Although its range once included southern areas of Arizona and New Mexico south to Venezuela in South America, it is now found mostly in the Sierra Madre Occidental Mountains of northern Mexico. What has happened? Hunting and logging in the parrots' pine forest habitat and the illegal capture of birds for the pet trade are the greatest threats facing thick-billed parrots today.

It is believed that half of the world's thick-billed parrots live in a 6,000-acre (2,400-hectare) tract of forest in Chihuahua, Mexico, which is the birds' most important nesting area. In 2000, a private group that owned the land agreed to stop logging in the area and plans are under way to develop a certified sustainable timber harvest and build cabins for ecotourists.

San Diego Zoo Global participates in the Species Survival Plan for the thick-billed parrot and is part of a group of conservation organizations supporting field studies and working to save the birds' remaining habitat.

High hopes
With their noisy habits and eye-catching plumage, thick-billed parrots are hard to ignore. Today, with a breeding program in place, habitat protection undertaken, and public awareness on the rise, our western mountains just might echo again with the riotous calls of flocking thick-billed parrots!

Join us!
You can help us bring thick-billed parrots and other species back from the brink by supporting the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy. Together we can save and protect wildlife around the globe.