Blue-throated macaws in Bolivia


This video from Bolivia says about itself:

Alternative feathers save macaws!

24 November 2016

Armonía’s educational program empowers the Moxeño native communities to protect the Critically Endangered Blue-throated Macaws by promoting the use of alternative feathers for the traditional Moxeño headdresses used in the machetero ritual dances. Since 2010, Armonía and Moxeño communities have saved over 6000 Macaw individuals of four macaw species and engaged thousands of local youth in the conservation of other Bolivian species while promoting their indigenous culture.

Armonía has been able to conduct alternative feather training workshops in the largest Moxeño towns, but the killing of macaws for headdresses continues in more rural areas.

Please consider supporting Armonía to organize additional training workshops in 2017 to save the lives of many more macaws.

At the following link you can make a tax deductibe donation to Armonía.

From BirdLife:

A new hope for the Blue-throated Macaw

By Irene Lorenzo, 13 Jan 2017

The discovery of a new roosting site for Blue-throated Macaw Ara glaucogularis coupled with an innovative and successful programme geared towards promoting the use of artificial feathers in ceremonial headdresses, gives renewed hope for the survival of this charismatic parrot.

The Blue-throated Macaw is one of South America’s rarest parrots, with a population estimated at around 250 individuals. In the last decade, Asociación Armonía (BirdLife Partner in Bolivia) has been tackling the main threats affecting it: habitat loss, the lack of breeding sites and ending illegal poaching. But their approach to ending the latter has been especially unique and very successful: to give locals an alternative to using real macaw feathers for their headdresses.

During their traditional celebrations, the inhabitants of the Moxeño plains in Bolivia’s Beni department perform with colourful headdresses as they move to the rhythm of bongos and flutes. The dancers, so-called macheteros, dedicate their movements and attire to the colours of nature. Unfortunately, those headdresses are made of macaw tail feathers from four different species, including the Blue-throated Macaw.

This is where Armonía’s Alternative Feather Programme comes in; it consists of an educational campaign promoting the use of artificial feathers made of organic materials among the macheteros through workshops held in local schools. …

Since the Moxeños consider themselves to be the guardians of nature and all of its creatures, they were quick to understand the importance of using substitutes.

“Each headdress is made of an average of 30 central tail feathers; that means that one headdress of artificial feathers saves at least 15 macaws,” explained Gustavo Sánchez Avila, Armonía’s Conservation Programme coordinator for the Blue-throated Macaw in Trinidad.

The programme, which started in 2010 with the support of Loro Parque Foundation, not only protects this critically endangered Macaw, but also empowers local craftsmen and women to preserve their natural heritage and their culture.

Furthermore, after seeing the mesmerising dances, many tourists buy the alternative headdresses as souvenirs, providing locals with much needed additional income.

Since 2010, the Moxeño people and Armonía have saved over 6000 individuals of four macaw species and engaged thousands of local people in the conservation of Bolivian nature. Most big Moxeño towns already host alternative feather training workshops, but rural areas still use real feathers.  If you wish to help, you can support Armonía so that they can organise additional training workshops this year and save even more macaws.

The new roosting site

While conserving the already established populations of the Blue-throated Macaw is essential to their survival, further research remains vital to make sure none of its habitat is left unprotected.

However, entering the Bolivian northern Department of Beni during the rainy season is a huge adventure. As seasonal rainfall merges with melt water from the Andes, the grasslands become extensively flooded, making it impossible for cars to travel around the area for three to five months every year.

The situation forces locals to revert to their old ways, using horses to get across a savannah that is speckled with pools of water, knee-deep mud and head-high grasses. As a result, conservation research becomes complicated and expensive.

But this was not going to stop our team of conservationists at Asociación Armonía, supported by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the Loro Parque Foundation, when they set off last summer to search for more roosting grounds of the macaw in this remote region.

The truth is that the team had had many rough failed trips in the region to verify sites where owners swore they had seen the parrot, only to find they got the wrong bird. So, when they got a call from a local ranch owner who claimed to have seen the Blue-throated Macaw in his fields, the team reacted with some disbelief.

They had seen this happen a few times already: while many ranch owners proudly believe that they have seen the Blue-throated Macaw, to the untrained eye it is often confused with a more generalist species, the Blue-and-yellow Macaw Ara ararauna.

Surprisingly, when they arrived on site, it turned out that at least 15 Blue-throated Macaws had made a small forest island their home. This new roosting site was confirmed only forty kilometres north of the Barba Azul Nature Reserve: the largest concentration of macaws in the world live here, with yearly counts of over 100 individuals.

At one of Beni’s most important events of the year, the Chope Piesta, the macheteros are getting ready to start their traditional dance. Today, headdresses with alternative feathers outnumber natural ones nearly five to one. In the meantime, conservationists rejoice about the new discovery of a roosting site. Developments worth dancing about.

Bird flight, new research


This video says about itself:

5 December 2016

Using a high-speed camera, scientists captured the swirling vortices produced by a slowly flying bird. Surprisingly, they found that the vortices rapidly dissipated. The unexpected effect suggests that scientists need to rethink methods for calculating the lift produced under such conditions.

From Science News:

Bird plus goggles equals new insight into flight physics

Unexpected vortices form in parrotlet’s wing wake

By Emily Conover

6:21pm, December 5, 2016

A bird in laser goggles has helped scientists discover a new phenomenon in the physics of flight.

Swirling vortices appear in the flow of air that follows a bird’s wingbeat. But for slowly flying birds, these vortices were unexpectedly short-lived, researchers from Stanford University report December 6 in Bioinspiration and Biomimetics. The results could help scientists better understand how animals fly, and could be important for designing flying robots (SN: 2/7/15, p. 18).

To study the complex air currents produced by birds’ flapping wings, the researchers trained a Pacific parrotlet, a small species of parrot, to fly through laser light — with the appropriate eye protection, of course. Study coauthor Eric Gutierrez, who recently graduated from Stanford, built tiny, 3-D‒printed laser goggles for the bird, named Obi.

Gutierrez and colleagues tracked the air currents left in Obi’s wake by spraying a fine liquid mist in the air, and illuminating it with a laser spread out into a two-dimensional sheet. High-speed cameras recorded the action at 1,000 frames per second.

The vortex produced by the bird “explosively breaks up,” says mechanical engineer David Lentink, a coauthor of the study. “The flow becomes very complex, much more turbulent.” Comparing three standard methods for calculating the lift produced by flapping wings showed that predictions didn’t match reality, thanks to the unexpected vortex breakup.

Ring-necked parakeets eat apple


This 29 November 2016 video is about female ring-necked parakeets eating an apple.

Rob van Veen in the Netherlands made this video.

Save African grey parrots


This video says about itself:

African Grey Parrot: Species in Decline (English)

14 September 2016

The African Grey Parrot – a highly intelligent bird that is popular as a pet – has been eliminated from much of its west African range and the largest populations are now only found in central Africa. In the fall of 2016, delegates from around the globe will meet for the world’s leading forum to debate and discuss issues related to international wildlife trade – the 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP17) to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or CITES. Parties will consider a proposal to transfer the African Grey Parrot (Psittacus erithacus) from Appendix II to Appendix I, effectively banning international commercial trade in the species.

Read the full proposal here.

The Cornell Lab or Ornithology in the USA writes about this:

Increased Protection for a Bird Being Loved to Death

The Gray Parrot, also known as African Grey Parrot, is one of the world’s most popular pet birds—but that popularity has fueled the capture of millions of parrots from the wild in Africa. Earlier this month, an international wildlife trade conference granted this declining species increased protections under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). The Cornell Lab’s Multimedia Productions program produced this video summary about the plight of the Gray Parrot for the government of Gabon and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.

The video is also available in FrenchSpanish and Portuguese.

Grey Parrot fading from Africa’s rainforests, By Alex Dale, 8 Dec 2016: here.

Yellow-chevroned parakeet eats fruit


This video says about itself:

13 July 2016

Yellow-chevroned Parakeets such as this one feed primarily on fruits and seeds. After selecting the ripest fruit, parakeets use their highly skilled feet to perch on one foot while using the other to clean the fruit from the pit. Once finished, the birds often use branches to wipe excess food off their bills.

This species lives in both North and South America.

Budgerigars and linguistics, new research


This video says about itself:

Budgies are grammar pedants too

20 June 2016

Just like us, these parrots use the grammatical structure of unfamiliar phrases to work out what they mean.

From New Scientist:

20 June 2016

Budgies use grammar to find meaning in unfamiliar phrases

By Colin Barras

Budgerigars are grammar pedants too. Just like us, these parrots use the grammatical structure of unfamiliar phrases to work out what they mean.

There is evidence that some birds pay attention to the order of sounds in a song, but this grammatical behaviour has not been well studied.

Michelle Spierings and Carel ten Cate at Leiden University in the Netherlands made new songs by piecing together three different snippets of recorded bird melodies. They played budgies and zebra finches certain patterns – such as AAB or ABA – and trained them to peck only when they heard AAB.

Order of play

The researchers then played new combinations to the birds. Because the zebra finches had learned not to peck for ABA, they also did not peck for CCA – apparently focusing on the fact the A snippet was in the final position in both cases.

But the budgies were different, focusing instead on the structure of the song. They pecked when they heard CCA, recognising that this is the same pattern as AAB. “They followed the structure and were not distracted by the positional changes,” says Spierings – the budgerigars are structural learners when it comes to grammar, like humans.

The results provide more evidence for convergent evolution of vocal learning in humans and birds, say the researchers. For instance, a study in 2014 found that dozens of genes involved in human vocal learning are active in a similar way in the brains of birds including both the zebra finch and the budgerigar.

Spix’s macaw is back in Brazil


This video says about itself:

15 June 2015

Watch our movie on the blue spix macaw and help us to save this beautiful bird from extinction!

From BirdLife:

Spix’s Macaw reappears in Brazil

By Shaun Hurrell, 24 June 2016

It was Grandpa Pinpin’s dream: to see his favourite bird, Spix’s Macaw, fly again over the skies of Curaçá, small town of about 20,000, in the dry Caatinga area in Bahia, Brazil, where goat herding is the main activity. Pinpin Oliveira passed away last year, age 94, his wish unfulfilled. But the baton was passed to his 16 year old grand-daughter, Damily, who not only saw the macaw, not seen in the wild since 2000, but also managed to film it with her mobile phone.

This video says about itself:

24 June 2016

BREAKING. Extinct in the wild? Maybe not. 16-year old Damily has filmed a Spix’s Macaw in the wild! BLU IS BACK.

The BirdLife article continues:

Spix’s Macaw Cyanopsitta spixii is Critically Endangered and possibly extinct in the wild, primarily as a result of trapping for trade plus habitat loss. This famous vibrant blue bird also became the star of the animated film ‘Rio’, as main characters ‘Blu’ and ‘Jewel’.

The bird was first sighted last Saturday. The first person to see the bird was local farmer Nauto Sergio de Oliveira who, as soon as confirmed that is was indeed a Spix’s Macaw, told his neighbours. On the following day, his wife Lourdes Oliveira and her daughter Damilys Oliveira woke up before dawn to look for the macaw in Barra Grande creek’s riparian forest. At 6:20 AM they were able to not only see the bird, but also take a video on Damilys’ mobile phone.

With the video Lourdes contacted the biologists from the Society for the Conservation of Birds in Brazil (SAVE Brasil, BirdLife Partner), one of the organisations that integrate Projeto Ararinha na Natureza (Spix’s Macaw in the Wild Project). The video and the distinctive vocal calls killed all doubts: it was indeed a Spix’s Macaw. Pedro Develey, SAVE Brasil’s Director, immediately told other project members and organised an emergency trip to Curaçá to locate the bird.

“The local people were euphoric,” said Develey. “They set up groups to locate the bird and control any potential dealers from entering.”

“After two years of us with them they are really proud and hopeful for a reintroduction to save the species.”

This individual’s origin is uncertain, quite possibly [it] came from captivity. Since Sunday there have been no more news concerning the macaw, but the project’s biologists and local residents of Curaçá are now mobilised. The area is very large and some stretches have difficult access, which makes it harder to locate the macaw.

According to Ugo Vercillo, Director of Biodiversity of the Ministry of the Environment, another partner organisation of Ararinha na Natureza project, the fact that a Spix’s Macaw appeared in Curaçá’s region reinforces the necessity of protecting this area. Since 2014, Ararinha na Natureza project has been working to create a 44,000 hectares protected area in the municipality to protect the Caatinga and riparian forests.

There has always been a great expectation of the local community regarding the Spix’s Macaw’s return. This macaw’s sighting relights the population’s hope of seeing one of their greatest prides back in the Caatinga.

Next week, an expedition led by Instituto Chico Mendes para a Conservação da Biodiversidade (ICMBio, federal government’s environmental agency responsible for biodiversity conservation) will join the local residents’ efforts on the attempts to locate the bird and obtain the more information as possible.  The expedition is one of the actions of Ararinha na Natureza project, sponsored by Vale, through Fundo Brasileiro para a Biodiversidade (Funbio – Brazilian Fund for Biodiversity).

In parallel to the field efforts, breeding the species in captivity for future reintroduction in the wild is crucial for the project’s success, and counts with the participation of the breeders AWWP (Qatar), ACTP (Germany) and Fazenda Cachoeira (Brazil). Together they maintain 130 Spix’s Macaws and throughout the following years they will provide the first individuals to be reintroduced in Curaçá.

Until the next sighting many questions remain concerning this bird’s origin. How did it reappear in the region? For how long has it been roaming free? How is it adapting to living in the wild? Answers will come in due time. For now just one, thrillingly pleasant thought: a Spix’s Macaw is soaring free, again, in Curaçá’s Caatinga.

“There’s hope again,” said Develey.