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.

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.

Parrots in the Netherlands

This video shows an Alexandrine parakeet in Spain.

Dutch Vroege Vogels TV reported on 24 June 2016 about parrots in the Netherlands.

37 feral parrot species have been seen flying freely in the Netherlands at various times.

Three of them breed now in the Netherlands: ring-necked parakeets, thousands of them in the western Netherlands.

Larger Alexandrine parakeets breed in Amsterdam and Haarlem cities: nine couples in 2012.

Monk parakeets, the smallest of the three species, nest in the eastern Netherlands.

Feral cockatiels, Senegal parrots, and scarlet macaws have nested in the Netherlands as well, but not any more.

Kākā parrots, welcome back in Wellington, New Zealand?

This video says about itself:

Kaka, New Zealand Parrot. Hear its various calls

12 August 2015

Kaka –Stewart Island, New Zealand. Very ‘talkative’ – love their calls.

Many years ago, I was privileged to see and hear kākā parrots, on a small sanctuary island just south of Stewart Island.

From BirdLife:

Return of Kākā to Wellington sparks controversy

By Mike Britton, 31 May 2016

Do city dwellers really want a return of wild species to the areas they once lived? It is a question being asked in many places, especially where some of the species moving back can conflict with the new inhabitants. In Wellington the impact of species reintroduced to the region by the Zealandia Sanctuary and the noise and ‘damage’ they can cause is creating controversy.

For most of the twentieth Century the birdlife in New Zealand’s cities mainly consisted of species European settlers brought with them, plus a few that got here by themselves from Australia. And they were mainly species that could survive the predation of other imports like rats and stoats and possums. Indigenous species like tui and New Zealand pigeon only survived on the city edges and were rare and special sightings for most people.

When I was in New Zealand then, I was lucky to see a New Zealand pigeon in a patch of forest just outside Wellington.

But the control of possums in and around cities and more areas where rat and other invasive pest control created safer neighborhoods for birds tipped the balance and allowed some like tuis to move back into urban places. The establishment of predator free sanctuaries was also a huge factor in providing safe places for species to be re-introduced to places from which they had largely disappeared. In Auckland the restoration and removal of invasive predators from islands in the Hauraki Gulf and also in the regional parks was the catalyst. This includes New Zealand BirdLife partner Forest & Bird’s hugely successful Ark in the Park, an area of almost 3000 ha, where invasive predators are controlled by its volunteers.

But in the capital, Wellington, the big tipping point was the establishment, 25 years ago, of the Zealandia Karori Sanctuary in a water catchment valley and its fencing with a predator-proof fence. This has transformed the bird life of the city. Species that now can call Wellington home include Hihi (Stitchbird), Kakariki (Red crowned parakeet), Tieke (saddleback), Takahe and Little Spotted Kiwi. Some prosper only behind the safety of the fence but combined with the possum control by the regional council and the big upswing in public and private predator control in Wellington generally, other species are spreading out from their secure base, and even starting to nest and fledge young.

Cats have been identified as a major threat to these species reclaiming their heritage habitats, in some cases, for the first time in over 100 years. There is now debate in Wellington over how cats are managed (and controlled) with limits on cat numbers and compulsory chipping, to identify pets from wild cats, are all some of the (controversial) ideas being considered by the Wellington City Council. Creating a halo around Zealandia, where predator control is extended, is another idea actively being promoted in the community.

But is the re-invasion of long gone birds to their historical habitats always welcomed by the new residents? When tui came back Forest & Bird regularly got calls from the public asking it to “control its noisy birds”. And they are noisy – one of the most beautiful songs.

This video says about itself:

Tui song

31 May 2014

New Zealand native tuis, native wood pigeon (kereru) and waxeyes (tauhou) in Purakaunui near Dunedin.

The BirdLife article continues:

But the latest controversy is about the impact of one of the magic parrots of New Zealand, the Kākā Nestor meridionalis septentrionalis. Kākā are a large, olive-brown forest parrot and is a ‘cousin’ to the alpine parrot, kea, a bird about which almost every visitor to New Zealand’s South Island alpine areas will have tales to tell.

Kākā have a loud call and also some beautiful songs and whistles. The word kākā can mean ‘screech’ in Māori. Kākā had effectively been extinct in Wellington since the early 20th century until they were transferred back into the wild at Zealandia in 2002.

From just 6 birds there is now a population of over 200 birds. But like their alpine cousins, Kākā can be mischievous and target exotic trees like pines and eucalypts. Kākā will tear bark off these trees looking to feed on insects and sap – and maybe just for fun. They like fruit too! Potential opponents note that now Wellington is once again becoming a suitable place for previously locally extinct birds to reclaim, what is the future? Potentially these populations will continue to grow and with some aspirational goals for controlling invasive predators, in the future more and more indigenous species may once again be wanting to share our cities with us. A kiwi in every garden is one of the (very) long term aims of the ‘save the kiwi’ campaign.

This raises many questions about our interaction with wildlife, our responsibilities and their rights. And in places where there are indigenous people with a long history of their own in the interaction with them – yes for food but also in their cultural context – their views are a critical part of the discussion. As conservationists we have a responsibility to be advocates for the birds and other animals when they start to return to places where we once were responsible for their loss. It’s their home and we need to share. But we need to be active in educating, informing and helping minimize conflict where we can.

Whisky protects Polynesian parrots

This video says about itself:

Rimatara Lorikeet and other birds on Atiu, Cook Islands

Rimatara Lorikeet – found only on Rimatara (Tubuai Islands), Kiribati, Atiu (Cook Islands)
Rarotongan Fruit-dove – found only on Rarotonga and Atiu (Cook Islands)
Rarotongan Flycatcher – found only on Rarotonga and Atiu (Cook Islands)
Chattering Kingfisher – found only in Society Islands and Cook Islands

Videos, photography and sound recording by Philip Griffin, April 2014 – Atiu, Cook Islands

From BirdLife:

Whisky protects lorikeets in French Polynesia

By Caroline Blanvillan, 27 May 2016

Invasive alien predators, especially rats, are the biggest threat to the birds of the Pacific region. Their spread across the Pacific has followed the movements of people, particularly Europeans, over the last two centuries. These invaders, as they “stepped off the boat”, heralded the beginning of the decline of many bird species.

Today, the Pacific region has 42 bird species that are classified as Critically Endangered, a quarter of the world’s total of such species.

BirdLife and its Pacific Partners have already cleared 40 islands of invasive species: the recovery of previously declining species on these islands has been spectacular. It is one of two actions that can ensure the continuing survival of species. The second, which is also the most cost effective option, is to prevent invaders from arriving in the first place.

In both cases, biosecurity is the essential component. Moreover, it makes good economic sense both for places that invasive predators not yet reached and those from which they have been removed. While this seems like simple common sense, in places where boats are vital to everyday life, an opportunistic rat will always try to catch a lift. It only takes a romantic couple or a pregnant individual and a new invasion will start.

So, prevention is not an easy task. Yet, in island communities, especially those sometimes hundreds of kilometres across the sea from the main resources, local people are the key defenders against predator invasions: they need every tool they can find to help them.

With the help of a generous grant from the Prince Bernhard Nature Fund, the Société d’Ornithologie de Polynésie (SOP Manu, BirdLife in French Polynesia) and the local associations on Ua Huka and Rimatara islands are putting in place biosecurity measures to protect these precious places.  To help them, Dora and Whisky, two Jack Russell terriers bred and trained in New Zealand, were imported to try to detect any stowaway rats or other invaders.

Are they effective?  In the eight months since Whisky has been on rat patrol on Rimatara, three rats have been detected, the most recent one already dead.  This demonstrates the elevated risk of re-invasions.  The potential is real and conservationists are not merely crying wolf!

Did Whisky miss any invaders?  To test how good our ”super hero” really is, SOP Manu’s Caroline Blanvillain hid the skin of a rat in a cargo going out to Rimatara and waited to see if the protocol of inspection now in place on the Rimatara wharves was effective.

The result: one rat skin and one dead rat in another package were detected.  This proves the importance of the biosecurity and the need for adequate resources to be available to local communities in order to continue this essential work.   The cost is small when compared with the tens of thousands, possibly millions, of dollars that would be needed to remove the rats if they invaded successfully.

The islands of Rimatara and Ua Haka are last refuges of three of the most beautiful and rare lorikeets in the world; the Endangered Ultramarine Vini ultramarina and Rimatara Lorikeets V. kuhlii and the Vulnerable Blue Lorikeet V. peruviana.  All three owe their survival to the fact that rats have not yet got to these isolated islands.  Rimatara is also the potential site for the establishment of a second Tahiti Monarch Pomarea nigra population.

These are precious places.  We owe a big thank you to the Prince Bernhard Nature Fund and the dedicated local communities and Site Support Groups for keeping them safe.