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THE red­dish fruit of the Harpe­phyl­lum caf­frum, or wild plum, may be too sour for hu­mans to en­joy, but there is one species that can’t seem to get enough, Cape par­rots.

Also known as Le­vail­lant’s par­rot (named af­ter 18th cen­tury nat­u­ral­ist François Le­vail­lant), these dark green birds are endemic to South Africa and can be found in the forests and moun­tain­ous ar­eas along the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal coast.

Ev­ery year, the birds travel to the King area to en­joy the freshly-ripened fruit, of­ten gath­er­ing in flocks of up to 40 birds per tree. The wild plums in King pro­vide the par­rots with a much-needed sup­ply of food in win­ter when other sup­plies might be low.

This is es­pe­cially im­por­tant be­cause the Cape par­rot is listed as “vul­ner­a­ble” on the IUCN Red List, though some analy­ses mark it as “en­dan­gered”. There are only an es­ti­mated 400 Cape par­rots left in the wild and, like all wild an­i­mals, their num­bers are con­stantly threat­ened by in­creased ur­ban­i­sa­tion and the de­struc­tion of habi­tat.

Thank­fully, there are or­gan­i­sa­tions like the Hogs­back-based Cape Par­rot Pro­ject who are work­ing to pro­tect them so, for now, it seems that our feath­ered friends can go on en­joy­ing their plums.

PLUM CRAZY: The Cape par­rot is a yearly visi­tor to King and is a fan of wild plums

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