Green-winged macaws back in Argentina after 200 years

This is a green-winged macaw video from Brazil.

By Aves Argentinas in Argentina, Monday, 02/11/2015 – 17:31:

The return of a giant: Green-winged Macaw back in Argentina

After an almost two hundred-year disappearance, the first Green-winged macaws have been released in northeastern Argentina. BirdLife Partner Aves Argentinas describes how they brought this giant of the parrot world back into their former range.

Macaws have been historically persecuted by humans because of their colorful plumage. In the province of Corrientes in northeastern Argentina, there were at least two species: the Glaucous Macaw (Anodorhynchus glaucus), which became globally extinct, and the Green-winged macaw (Ara chloropterus), which also disappeared from the region. The macaws inhabited fields with jungle islands between estuaries, and palm and gallery forests along the waterways.

Today the only Green-winged Macaw populations close to Corrientes are more than 300 kilometers to the north in the states of Mato Grosso do Sul and Parana in Brazil, in the extreme northern Paraguay, and in southeastern Bolivia, and they are not sufficiently protected. The Green-winged Macaw is globally listed in the IUCN Red List as a species of “Least Concern”. In Argentina it is classified as a “critically endangered” species, although there are no recent records and the species is considered extinct.

An opportunity to recover a giant of the parrot world

Because of the precarious state of the Green-winged macaw’s survival in Corrientes, a recovery project was begun. Fortunately, the Ibera Natural Reserve represents a unique opportunity to save this species because the reserve has a large area of protected habitat sufficient to allow forest islands to harbor a stable population of Green-winged macaws.

Additionally, in Ibera there are institutions and experts with experience in working with the restoration of extinct and endangered populations as diverse as the giant anteater, the pampas deer and the collared peccary. Another positive development is the growth of ecotourism in Ibera, where the presence of these birds will attract tourists, which will contribute to the development of local communities. The cultural value of Corrientes still present in artistic expressions and historical accounts has also been preserved.

From captivity to freedom

The project focusses on using captive Green-winged macaws originating from several zoos and breeding centers around the country. These birds form the “Ecological Complex of Aguará,” located in the province of Corrientes, where groups of individuals are consolidated and all health checks are performed to rule out diseases that may be spread in the wild following the release. Before their release, the birds spent several weeks in an acclimation aviary in the Cambyretá area, proving the northern access to the Esteros del Ibera.

In this aviary, the macaws learn to feed on native fruits and develop other skills for their reintegration into the wild. The birds are equipped with a small radio transmitter that allows the tracking of each individual in the field. After their release and as they expand their range, the macaws are monitored by project staff to check their adaptation to the natural environment, reproduction and long-term survival.

The power of many

The Conservation Land Trust financing most of the project thanks to the donation of a European philanthropist, and bringing its previous experience in wildlife reintroduction projects in Ibera.  The CONICET scientists contribute their knowledge on the ecology of these birds and their reintroduction. The Directorate of Natural Resources of Corrientes provides the Center Aguará facilities, where the macaws are kept before being transferred to Ibera.

The Directorate of Parks and Reserves authorizes and supervises the proper implementation of the project on the ground. Several ecological parks, wildlife centers and zoos across the country provide the macaws to be released. Conservation institutions as Aves Argentinas (BirdLife in Argentina) and The World Parrot Trust have supported the project from its beginnings, contributing their skills and experience in the conservation of endangered species.

Finally, several groups of volunteers, including scouts, schools and club birders help to disseminate information on the project, and contribute their observations of animals in the field. Through this initiative, Argentina regains its first extinct species from the ex-situ management of wild bird specimens, and will continue working on their recovery through intensive management.

More information:

Ring-necked parakeets and autumn colours

Ring-necked parakeet male, 23 October 2015

On 23 October 2015, ring-necked parakeets came to the trees opposite my window. Including this male, #A13.

Ring-necked parakeet male, on 23 October 2015

As one can see, the trees are in their autumn colours.

Ring-necked parakeet, 23 October 2015

Swift parrot reports from Australia

This video from Australia says about itself:

Tasmania’s swift parrot set to follow the dodo

31 March 2015

The iconic Tasmanian swift parrot is facing population collapse and could become extinct within 16 years, new research has found.

The researchers have called on the Federal Government to list the birds as critically endangered.

“Swift parrots are in far worse trouble than anybody previously thought,” said leader of the study, Professor Robert Heinsohn, from The Australian National University (ANU).

“Everyone, including foresters, environmentalists and members of the public will be severely affected if they go extinct,” said Professor Heinsohn from the ANU Fenner School of Environment and Society.

Swift parrots are major pollinators of blue and black gum trees which are crucial to the forestry industry, which controversially continues to log swift parrot habitat.

The five-year study discovered that swift parrots move between different areas of Tasmania each year to breed, depending on where food is available.

The new data was combined with a previous study that showed that swift parrots are preyed on heavily by sugar gliders, especially in deforested areas.

The research predicted that the population of the birds will halve every four years, with a possible decline of 94.7 per cent over 16 years.

A moratorium on logging in swift parrot habitat is needed until new plans for their protection can be drawn up, said co-researcher, Dr Dejan Stojanovic, also from ANU Fenner School.

“Current approaches to swift parrot management look rather inadequate,” he said.

“Our models are a wake-up call. Actions to preserve their forest habitat cannot wait.”

The research has been published in the latest edition of Biological Conservation.

From Birdline Victoria in Australia today:

Sat 15 highlight Swift Parrot
You Yangs Regional Park–Visitor Entrance Area
4 Swift Parrots in eucalypts close to Park Office. Fuscous Honeyeaters and Black-chinned Honeyeaters still in area also.
John Newman & David Tytherleigh 15/8 #224210
highlight Swift Parrot
Deakin University–Waurn Ponds Campus
2 Swift Parrots vocal and mobile around the NA building and Koorie studies building of the campus this morning.
John Newman 15/8 #224209

Night parrot discovery in Australia

This video from Australia says about itself:

Help us Save the Night Parrot

9 August 2015

With the recent discovery of the only known population left in the world, we have a second chance to ensure the survival of this unique and remarkable species.

While little is known about the mysterious Night Parrot, no more than 100 individuals are thought to remain. That is why we must move quickly to save it.

The most immediate threat facing this highly vulnerable bird is uncontrolled feral cats prowling their habitat – being both nocturnal and ground-dwelling, the Night Parrot is vulnerable to predation.

If we are to haul it back from the brink of extinction, a recovery team must be on the ground now, implementing feral animal control as a matter of urgency. We will also need to develop a fire management plan before summer, and tackle the issue of human disturbance – the other main risk to the bird’s future.

Together, we can save the Night Parrot. Please donate urgently today.

This 9 August 2015 video from Australia is called Elusive night parrot captured for the first time in 100 years in Queensland.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Night parrot capture and tagging hailed as ‘holy grail’ moment for bird lovers

The area of south-west Queensland where the elusive nocturnal parrot, presumed extinct, was caught is now to be protected

Oliver Milman

Monday 10 August 2015 03.26 BST

The elusive night parrot, a species thought to be extinct for about 100 years, has finally been captured and tagged by scientists as part of a pioneering project to safeguard the remaining ground-dwelling birds.

Aside from two dead parrots found over the past 25 years, the night parrot had not been captured since the 1890s and was presumed extinct by many bird experts.

But in 2013, ornithologist John Young announced that he had taken a few blurry images of the night parrot after a decade spent scouring the spinifex vegetation and caves of the Queensland outback for the bird.

Following an 18-month search for a night parrot, fellow ornithologist Steve Murphy netted one of the birds on 4 April. Feather samples were taken from the bird, and a small tracker, with a battery that lasted for 21 days, was placed on its leg to gain greater insight into the habits of the mysterious creature.

“It’s fantastic to have this bird, which is such an enigmatic creature,” said Rob Murphy, executive manager of conservation group Bush Heritage Australia. “When you talk to bird lovers, this is the holy grail. It’s like finding a thylacine.

“Before this research, we didn’t know what they ate, where they got their water from or anything. We’re really starting from ground zero with the night parrot.”

The area of south-west Queensland where the nocturnal parrot was caught is now to be protected, with the property bought and managed by Bush Heritage Australia.

The tagged bird roamed up to 8km for food each night, but remained in the same nesting site. It is unclear how many of the animals remain, and Bush Heritage is keeping the exact location of its habitat, the only known site for night parrots in Australia, a secret.

“This is such a rare bird that giving the location would attract some well meaning people but also poachers,” Murphy said. “The confidentially of the site has been the best friend to the bird.”

About 30 remote cameras have been set up to gain a better understanding of how many night parrots are in the area. However, these have so far proved less effective than sound recordings that have picked up the sounds of several birds within the prickly spinifex shrubs.

While the drought that has gripped western Queensland has reduced the number of feral cats in the area, the feline predators remain a mortal threat to the night parrot.

Bush Heritage will trial a feral cat “grooming trap” at the site to kill any cats in the area. The trap, developed by South Australian firm Ecological Horizons, contains a range of sensors that determine whether an animal passing within four metres is a cat.

If it identifies the target as a cat, the trap will spray it with a toxic gel that the cat will ingest when grooming.

See also here.

How parrots mimic human speech, new study

This video is called Parrots: Majestic Birds (Nature Documentary).

From Wildlife Extra:

Scientists solve how parrots mimic humans

Ever wondered how parrots are ablie to mimic human speech? New research indicates that it is key structural differences in the brains of parrots that explain a parrot’s unparalleled ability to imitate sounds and human speech. This research was led by an international team of scientists led by Duke University researchers.

“This finding opens up a huge avenue of research in parrots, in trying to understand how parrots are processing the information necessary to copy novel sounds and what are the mechanisms that underlie imitation of human speech sounds,’ said Mukta Chakraborty, a post-doctoral researcher in the lab of Erich Jarvis, an associate professor of neurobiology at Duke and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator.

Parrots are one of the few animals considered ‘vocal learners,’ meaning they can imitate sounds, and researchers have been trying to figure out why some bird species are better imitators than others. Besides differences in the sizes of particular brain regions, however, no other potential explanations have surfaced.

By examining gene expression patterns, the new study found that parrot brains are structured differently than the brains of songbirds and hummingbirds, which also exhibit vocal learning. In addition to having defined centres in the brain that control vocal learning called ‘cores,’ parrots have what the scientists call ‘shells,’ or outer rings, which are also involved in vocal learning.

The shells are relatively bigger in species of parrots that are well known for their ability to imitate human speech, the group found.

Until now, the budgerigar (common pet parakeet) was the only species of parrot whose brain had been probed for the mechanisms of vocal learning.

This team included researchers from Denmark and the Netherlands who donated precious brain tissue for the study. They characterized the brains of eight parrot species besides the budgerigar, including conures, cockatiels, lovebirds, two species of Amazon parrots, a blue and gold macaw, a kea and an African Grey parrot.

The researchers looked for specific gene markers that are known to have specialized activity in the brains of humans and song-learning birds.

They compared the resulting gene expression patterns in all the parrot brains with neural tracing experiments in budgerigars.

Even the most ancient of the parrot species they studied, the Kea of New Zealand, has a shell structure — albeit rudimentary. This suggests that the populations of neurons in the shells probably arose at least 29 million years ago.

Before now, some scientists had assumed that the regions surrounding the cores had nothing to do with vocal learning. In a 2000 study, Jarvis and Claudio Mello of Oregon Health & Science University concluded that the core and shell were actually one large structure. These differing views caused confusion about the sizes of the brain regions important for vocal learning. Jarvis teamed up with Steven Brauth from the University of Maryland and his former postdoctoral fellow Sarah Durand, to help reconcile this confusion.

‘The first thing that surprised me when Mukta and I were looking at the new results is, ‘Wow, how did I miss this all these years? How did everybody else miss this all these years?” said Jarvis, who is also member of the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences. ‘The surprise to me was more about human psychology and what we look for and how biased we are in what we look for. Once you see it, it’s obvious. I have these brain sections from 15 years ago, and now I can see it.’

The new results support the group’s hypothesis that in humans and other song-learning animals, the ability to imitate arose by brain pathway duplication. How such a copy-and-paste job could have happened is still unknown.

‘How can you get a mirrored song system surrounding another one?’ Jarvis asks. ‘Each (vocal learning centre) has a core and a shell in the parrot, suggesting that the whole pathway has been duplicated.’

Most of the bird’s vocal learning brain regions are tucked into areas that also control movement. These areas in parrots also show some special patterns of gene expression, which the scientists speculate might explain why some parrots are also able to learn to dance to music.

‘It takes significant brain power to process auditory information and produce the movements necessary for mimicking sounds of another species,’ Chakraborty said. ‘The question is, how specialized are these parrot brains, and in what ways? Is it just a select group of specialized genes, or is it some specific projections that we haven’t discovered yet?’

The scientists are especially curious about whether the shells give parrots a greater ability to imitate human speech.

‘If that’s true, then we’ve answered a big question in our field that people have been wanting to know for many years,’ Jarvis said.

Australian parrots’ beaks and global warming

This video is called Mulga parrot – Bird watching in Australia.

From Wildlife Extra:

Bigger beaks help birds combat global warming

To help them cope with climate change birds are grow[ing] bigger beaks, new research suggests. The scientists, led by Dr Matthew Symonds from Deakin’s Centre for Integrative Ecology in Australia, have discovered a pattern between increased climatic temperatures and an increase in the size of the beaks of parrot species in southern and eastern Australia.

“Birds use their beaks to keep themselves cool. Just as an elephant’s ears help to act as a fan to keep the animal cooler, birds can pump blood to their highly vascularized bills, enabling them to lose excess heat when they get hot,” Dr Symonds said.

The researchers examined 410 bird skins, collected between 1871 and 2008 and located at Museum Victoria, the Queensland Museum, the South Australian Museum and the Australian National Wildlife Collection, Canberra.

They found that four of the five species examined had measurably bigger beaks now than they had in the 19th century.

“In an earlier study we found that birds in hotter climates had bigger beaks than those in cooler climates, which prompted us to look at whether there has been an increase in beak size generally as the climate has got hotter over the past century,” Dr Symonds said.

“We found an increase in beak surface area of between four and 10 per cent, which may not sound like much, but would actually make a huge difference to the birds’ ability to cool down when they are stressed by heat. We have been able to show there has been an increase in the size of the beaks, in line with the increase in the temperature these parts of Australia have experienced over the same time frame.

“However, we can’t yet conclusively rule out the effect of other environmental factors, such as changes in habitat or food availability. This work provides an important basis on which to do more research. The next step will be to expand the research to consider a wider range of species from other regions, and with different kinds of beak shapes and lifestyles.

“Aside from it indicating another way in which climate change is affecting animals, the beak is so intimately tied to a birds’ lifestyle that climate-related changes in beaks may have further ramifications for other aspects of their biology: what kind of food they eat, how they compete with each other and how they reproduce.”

The five native Australian parrot species examined were the mulga parrot (Psephotus varius), gang-gang cockatoo (Callocephalon fimbriatum), red-rumped parrot (Psephotus haematonotus), Australian king parrot (Alisterus scapularis) and crimson rosella (Platycercus elegans). The Australian king parrot was the only species where an increase in beak size was not recorded.

The research, “Climate-related spatial and temporal variation in bill morphology over the past century in Australian parrots”, has been published in this month’s edition of the Journal of Biogeography</em>.

Lorikeets, originally from New Guinea?

This video from Australia says about itself:

Lorikeet Feeding Frenzy

22 November 2012

The feeding of the Rainbow Lorikeets at Bungalow Bay Koala Village which is on the North-east side of Magnetic island, just off the coast of Townsville, Queensland.

From Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, Volume 90, September 2015, Pages 34–48:

Molecular phylogenetics suggests a New Guinean origin and frequent episodes of founder-event speciation in the nectarivorous lories and lorikeets (Aves: Psittaciformes)


We report the first DNA sequence-based phylogeny of parrots known as lories and lorikeets.

The group is inferred to have originated within the last 10 million years in New Guinea.

Dispersal and founder-event speciation have been important in their diversification.

Dispersal appears to have been primarily ‘downstream’ from New Guinea and Australia.

Some genus level changes to the group’s systematics are recommended.


The lories and lorikeets (Aves: Loriinae: Loriini) are a readily recognizable, discrete group of nectarivorous parrots confined to the Indo-Pacific region between Wallace’s Line and the Pitcairn Island group in the central-east Pacific Ocean. We present the first phylogenetic analysis of all currently recognized genera in the group using two mitochondrial and five nuclear loci.

Our analyses suggest a New Guinean origin for the group at about 10 million years ago (95% HPD 4.8–14.8) but this origin must be interpreted within the context of that island’s complicated, recent geological history. That is, the origin and early diversification of the group may have taken place as New Guinea’s Central Cordillera arose and the final constituent terranes that form present-day New Guinea were accreted. The latter activity may have promoted dispersal as a key element in the group’s history.

We have detected several instances of dispersal out of New Guinea that we argue constitute instances of founder-event speciation. Some phenotypically cohesive genera are affirmed as monophyletic but other genera are clearly in need of taxonomic dismantlement and reclassification. We recognize Parvipsitta Mathews, 1916 for two species usually placed in Glossopsitta and we advocate transfer of Chalcopsitta cardinalis into Pseudeos Peters, 1935. Other non-monophyletic genera such as Charmosyna, Psitteuteles and, probably, Trichoglossus, require improved taxon sampling and further phylogenetic analysis before their systematics can be resolved. Cursory examination of trait mapping across the group suggests that many traits are ancestral and of little use in determining genus-level systematics.

Lorikeet and lori family tree, according to new research