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Enviros Screech for Free-Living Parrots

WASHINGTON (CN) - Environmental groups have filed a federal complaint against the Secretary of the Interior on behalf of 12 parrots species the department refuses to protect. The parrots, cockatoos and macaws have seen their habitat destroyed, often by people in the pet trade who steal baby birds from nests and cut down the forest to get at them.

"Many die as youngsters in the stream of commerce before even reaching a market or pet store," Friends of Animals and WildEarth Guardians say. "They are captured with nets, or their nesting trees are hacked down and the young snatched away."

The illegal pet trade threatens the birds with extinction. The groups want the Secretary of the Interior ordered to issue a 12-month finding on a January 2008 petition to protect the birds under the Endangered Species Act.

The petition compiled information on population and threats from databases such as the IUCN Red List. The Department of Interior issued a positive 90-day finding for listing under the Act in July last year - 17 months late.

The 12 species include the yellow-billed parrot, the crimson shining parrot, the red-crowned parrot, the grey-cheeked parakeet, the white, Philippine and yellow-crested cockatoo, and the hyacinth, scarlet, blue-headed, great green and military macaws.

Colorful, talkative parrots are among the most intelligent of birds, which, combined with their beauty and trainability, contributes to their popularity as pets - and their danger of extinction.

Parakeets and cockatoos - which are species of parrots - are found in tropical regions around the world. Macaws, also in the parrot family, are found in rainforest, woodland or savannah habitats only in the New World.

The facial feather patterns on macaws are unique to each bird, like human fingerprints. Some species of macaws can bring in thousands of dollars apiece, and parrots, which can be bought for $5 after being captured illegally in Mexico, Central or South America, can be sold for $740 or more in U.S. pet stores.

The environmentalists want Interior Secretary Ken Salazar ordered to do his job.

They are represented by Michael Ray Harris with the University of Colorado's Environmental Law Clinic in Denver.

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