Size: Medium-large sized parrot, 251-349mm (in length); 260-329g.
Plumage: Sexually dimorphic.
Adult male: Bill colour old ivory; forecrown dark earth-brown in males, orange-red in females; crown olive-green; collar, nape and upper chest yellow-green; chin and throat orange-brown; cheek and ear coverts olive-green to yellow green; lore matt black; mantle colour (area between wings) dark green; edge of scapulars dark oily green; edge of upper wing coverts dark green; flight and tail feathers dark slate; shoulder edge orange-red; back , rump, upper-tail coverts, under-tail coverts, flank, belly and lower chest blue-green; tibio-tarsal joint orange-red. Aberrant yellow wing feathers are sometimes observed.
Adult female: Varied forecrown plumage patterns; some having orange across the forehead and others having none; none of the males have this forehead colouration. Juvenile: Both sexes have orange-red colour on the forehead in their first plumage, but only have red on the tibia or on the edge of the wing when they moult to ad plumage. The colour is more salmon pink and extends further on the crown in juveniles than in adults. At 8-10 months this colour is replaced in males with colour corresponding to the hood plumage colour.
Confusing species: Distinguished from the Grey-headed Parrot P. f. suahelicus by head and neck colouration, body plumage colour is regarded as rare (Downs 2000). Several factors are considered to have caused the decline of the Cape Parrot. These include forest degradation, food and nest-site shortages, low recruitment, removal of birds from the wild for the caged bird trade, and disease (Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease) (Wirminghaus et al. 1999, 2000a). The Cape Parrot only occurs in Podocarpus Afromontane forest patches from the Eastern Cape to southern KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa (Wirminghaus 1997), with a relic population in Limpopo Province (Wirminghaus 1997). Although restricted to Afromontane forest patches, the birds are food nomadics and are highly mobile moving between yellowwood forest patches, visiting orchards and occasionally forest near the coast (Mboyti to Port St. Johns). The Cape Parrot’s loud, often continuous, calling makes it conspicuous; it is active for several hours after dawn and before sunset, usually circling over the forest and calling loudly (Wirminghaus et al. 2000b). Flock size varies: singletons, pairs, or groups of 5-6 birds are usually observed. However, at localised food sites flock size may increase to 20-70 birds caused by aggregation and giving a false impression of abundance (Wirminghaus et al. 2001a).
Geographical variation: No recognised races, but appear to be some variation in vocalisations (C.T. Downs, pers. obs.).
Measurements: wing (24m) 210-230 (218.3), (14f) 205-219 (210.5); tail (25m) 90-98.9 (94.8), (16f) 79.6-97.2 (89.3); tarsus (25m) 18.2-23.5 (21.7), (16f) 19.9-22.4 (21.5); culmen (from edge of cere along curve to bill tip) (19m) 37-48 (40.8), (14f) 36-43 (38.3); mass (4 m) 295-329 (306), (3f) 260-328 (294).