The Lilac-crowned Parrot is classified as Vulnerable in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (2007), and is included in Appendix I of CITES limiting international trade of this species (CITES 2004). In Mexico, the Lilac-crowned Parrot is classified as Threatened (DOF 2002), however recent application of the Method for Risk Evaluation recommended the reclassification of the species to the category of ‘Endangered’ under Mexican wildlife law. The main justifications for increasing the risk status of the Lilac-crowned Parrot are the reduction in geographic range due to extirpation or habitat loss, decline in populations throughout its distribution, the intrinsic biological vulnerability of the species, and the impact of human activities on wild populations (Renton and Salinas Melgoza 2002b).
Effects of human activity on populations
Capture for trade is the major threat to wild populations of the Lilac-crowned Parrot. In 1981-1982, the Lilac-crowned Parrot was one of the three most captured species of parrot in Mexico, with 86% of parrots captured along the Pacific coast (Iñigo-Elias and Ramos 1992). There currently is a widespread, intensive illegal trade in this species for both the domestic and international market (CITES 2004). During 1981–2001, there was international trade of 4,061 specimens of the Lilac-crowned Parrot, of which 3,215 specimens (79%) were exported directly from Mexico (World Conservation Monitoring Centre database). In Mexico, the Lilac-crowned Parrot is one of the psittacine species most frequently confiscated in illegal trade by the Federal Justice Bureau for Environmental Protection (CITES 2004a). During interviews conducted with local residents throughout the species’ range, 61% of those interviewed regarded capture for trade as the main threat to wild populations of parrots in their region, while 17% reported habitat destruction (Renton and Iñigo-Elias 2003). Of local people interviewed, 75% reported nest poaching in their area, and 53% of people reported the capture of adult parrots with nets, where hundreds of individuals may be extracted at each site (Renton and Iñigo-Elias 2003). In southern Sonora and Sinaloa, local residents reported these captures to be for illegal trade to the United States.
One side-effect of the capture of Lilac-crowned Parrots for trade may be the establishment of feral populations of parrots in large cities within Mexico, such as Guadalajara and Mexico City, as well as in the United States of America. Mabb (2003) estimates a population of over 500 Lilac-crowned Parrots in California, mainly in San Gabriel Valley, and Orange County. These are highly likely to be escaped birds, captured as pets, and Garrett (1997) reports that 6,868 Lilac-crowned Parrots were imported during 1981-1985. Feral populations frequently occur in mixed-species flocks or roosts, which could increase risks of disease transmission between species. Most feral populations of parrots also tend to utilize non-native plant species and human areas (Garrett 1997, Mabb 2003), increasing the potential for conflict with human populations when parrots attack crops or fruit trees. Finally, particularly in the case of parrot species inadvertently introduced to non-native areas, feral parrot populations may compete with native cavity-nesting bird species for access to cavities.
The species is also threatened by the high rate of deforestation and transformation of tropical dry forests along the Pacific coast, which presents the highest rate of deforestation of any forest type in Mexico (Masera et al. 1996, Trejo and Dirzo 2000). In particular, deforestation of semi-deciduous forest in larger valleys along the coast is likely to affect wild populations of Lilac-crowned Parrots, given that they concentrate feeding and breeding activities in semi-deciduous forest (Renton and Salinas-Melgoza 1999, Renton 2001). In addition, the preferred nest-tree species of Piranhea mexicana and Tabebuia spp. are highly valued in the commercial wood-furniture industry, while Astronium graveolens and Brosimum alicastrum are logged for use in local construction (Pennington and Sarukhan 2005).