The Sun parakeet is a medium-sized, vibrantly colored parrot native to northeastern South America. The adult male and female are similar in appearance, with predominantly golden-yellow plumage and orange-flushed underparts and face. Juvenile Sun parakeets display a predominantly green plumage and resemble similar-aged sulfur-breasted parakeets. The distinctive yellow, orange, and reddish coloration on the back, abdomen, and head is attained with maturity.
Sun parakeets live in a relatively small region of northeastern South America: the north Brazilian state of Roraima, southern Guyana, extreme southern Suriname, and southern French Guiana. They also occur as vagrants to coastal French Guiana. These birds are mostly found in tropical habitats, but their exact ecological requirements remain relatively poorly known. They occur within dry savanna woodlands and coastal forests, but, at the edge of humid forests growing in foothills in the Guiana Shield, and cross more open savannah habitats only when traveling between patches of forest. Sun parakeets have been seen in shrublands along the Amazon riverbank, as well as forested valleys and coastal, seasonally flooded forests. They usually inhabit fruiting trees and palm groves.
Sun parakeets are very social and typically live in large flocks of 15 to 30 individuals. They rarely leave the flock, but when they get separated from the group, they squawk and scream in a high-pitched voice which can carry for hundreds of yards, allowing individuals to communicate with their flock and return to them. Flocks are relatively quiet while feeding, but are very vocal and make loud noises when in flight. They can travel many miles in a single day, and they are fast direct flyers. Sun parakeets also communicate with a variety of physical displays. Birds within a flock rest, feed one another, preen, and bathe throughout the daylight hours. They move through the trees using their beaks for extra support. They also use their feet like hands to help hold, examine, or eat items.
Sun parakeets are herbivores (frugivores, granivores) and mainly feed on fruits, flowers, berries, blossoms, seeds, and nuts. They feed on both ripe and half-ripe seeds of both fruits and berries. They also consume insects and at times, they forage from agricultural crops and may be considered pests.
Sun parakeets are monogamous breeders; they form pairs and nest in palm cavities. Prior to breeding, they may be seen feeding and grooming one another. The typical clutch size is 3 or 4 white eggs, and they may be laid in two- to three-day intervals. Females are responsible for the entire incubation period from 23 to 27 days, and only leave the nest for short feeding periods. Males aggressively protect the nest from potential predators. Chicks are born blind, naked, and completely vulnerable. Only after 10 days, they begin to open their eyes and their feather quills break through. Both parents participate in feeding the chicks. The young depend on their parents for 7 to 8 weeks after hatching and only become independent after 9 to 12 weeks. Young parakeets become reproductively mature and start to breed at around 2 years of age.
Sun parakeets are currently endangered. Unfortunately, their population numbers are declining rapidly due to loss of habitat, hunting for plumage, and being excessively wild-caught - about 800,000 each year, for the pet trade. Now, more Sun parakeets are living in people's homes than in the wild.
According to the IUCN Red List, the total population size of the Sun parakeet is 1,500-3,749 individuals or 1,000-2,499 mature individuals. One known flock in southern Guyana is reported to number up to 200 individuals. Currently, this species is classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today are decreasing.