Rare parrots discovery in Bolivia


This video from Bolivia says about itself:

21 March 2017

POV footage of Barba Azul Reserve Coordinator Tjalle Boorsma. During the 2017 February expedition, Armonía discovered crucial nesting areas of the Critically Endangered Blue-throated Macaw. The discovery is a major step towards ensuring the full protection of the macaw’s lifecycle.

From BirdLife:

23 Mar 2017

Discovery of a new breeding site for the Critically Endangered Blue-throated Macaw

The groundbreaking discovery is a major step towards understanding the life cycle of the macaw and most importantly, to ensure the species’ full protection.

By Asociación Armonía (BirdLife Bolivia)

In early February, an Armonía (BirdLife Bolivia) expedition discovered a new breeding area of the Blue-throated Macaw Ara glaucogularis (Critically Endangered). The groundbreaking discovery is a major step towards understanding the life cycle of the macaw and most importantly, to ensure the species’ full protection.

Since 2008, Armonía has been protecting key roosting and feeding grounds of the largest wild Blue-throated Macaw population at Barba Azul Nature Reserve. Recent sightings of a record-high of 118 macaws indicates a healthy increase of the macaw population at the reserve.

However, the majority of these birds only use Barba Azul from May to November.  At the beginning of the breeding season the macaws appear to disperse to unknown sites, returning to Barba Azul in small groups in March. The question remains: where do all these birds breed?

In January 2016, conservation programme manager Gustavo Sánchez Ávila discovered 15 roosting birds north from Barba Azul Nature Reserve during an expedition supported by Loro Parque Fundación. With this evidence in hand, Armonía with support from American Bird Conservancy and The Cincinnati Zoo kicked off the search for breeding grounds to the north.

The nesting period of the Blue-throated Macaw coincides with the region’s November to April rainy season.  During this time, the Beni savanna is mostly flooded. Inundations halt most vehicular traffic to these areas, therefore the Armonía expedition had no other choice but to venture into this wilderness on horseback.

The February expedition was led by Armonía’s Barba Azul Nature Reserve coordinator, Tjalle Boorsma.  Deep in the wilderness of the Beni Savannah, Tjalle and his crew discovered four unknown Blue-throated Macaw nests northwest from the boundaries of Barba Azul Nature Reserve.

A demanding 130 km (70 miles) horse ride led the team deep into the flooded grasslands.  Initially, the field team focused their searches on Motacú forest islands, as in Barba Azul the Blue-throated Macaw prefers this palm. The macaws forage on the abundant, year-round available fruits of the Motacú palm (Attalea phalerata).  A total of 31 Motacú dominated forest islands were surveyed with few results. However, 16 birds were again observed at the Motacú roosting island, previously discovered in 2016.

“We registered a significant number of Blue-and-Yellow Macaws Ara ararauna in the area, but to our surprise the Motacú dominated forest island showed no signs of Blue-throated Macaws”, Boorsma said.

“The breakthrough happened when we sighted a pair of Blue-throated Macaws flushing from an elongated patch of Royal palms Mauritia flexuosa. The discovery gave a new scope to the whole expedition”, recalled expedition leader Tjalle Boorsma.

Contrary to previous beliefs, instead of Motacú, the birds were found perching on dry Royal palm snags. These palm patches were difficult to access, as they were flooded due to recent rainfall. This natural barrier could very well be the reason that the macaws choose these palm snags for hosting their nesting cavities.

To confirm that the Blue-throated Macaws were indeed using these cavities for nesting, Tjalle concealed himself in a make-shift palm blind.  After six hours of patient waiting, he observed the cautious Blue-throated Macaw pair return to the nest.  This activity confirmed that the cavity was indeed being used as a nesting site.

A second nest was later discovered in another dead Royal palm trunk.  This was followed by the discovery of two more nests in Totaí palms Acrocomia aculeata.

“Finding the nests in Royal palm and Totaí delivered the missing piece to complete our investigations. Now we definitively know that the Blue-throated Macaw prefers Totaí and Royal palms to nest in, as dead palm snags provide excellent vantage point to observe their surroundings”, detailed Boorsma.

After verifying that the birds are not disturbed by the presence of our drone, we used the remotely piloted vehicle to film them.

In case of an accessible nest, Boorsma could verify that the cavities in the palms actually held a Blue-throated Macaw nest. Surprisingly, in the case of the two nests in Totaí palms, the birds chose locations 50 meters (164 feet) away from a populated farm and showed no signs of disturbance from its proximity to humans and livestock.

“Nests were dispersed along pretty much the same latitude, at a distance of 10-12 kilometers (7,4 miles), generally located to a comfortable daily flying distance from the boundaries of Barba Azul Nature Reserve“, added Boorsma.

“At this point it would be too early to speculate whether the birds found during this expedition are from the same colony which visits Barba Azul Nature Reserve in the dry season, or they constitute a separate population”, said Boorsma.

To answer this, and many other pending questions about the breeding habitats of the Blue-throated Macaw, Armonía and ABC will launch a second expedition into the Beni savannah later this March. Alongside our team in the field, a group of experts led by Lisa Davenport are in the process of designing macaw-proof GPS-units, so that tagged birds can be traced during their seasonal migrations.

Given this new information on the local breeding habitat of the Blue-throated Macaw, Armonia will adjust its nest box program at Barba Azul Nature Reserve to include much higher elevated nest boxes, with isolated palms imitating the nest of this region. We need financial support for this project. Please consider supporting our conservation effort with your donation.

Ring-necked parakeet video


This is a ring-necked parakeet video; from the Netherlands, where there is a feral population of these birds.

Monk parakeet video


This is a monk parakeet video from the Netherlands; where some feral individuals of this South American species nest.

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.