New parrot species discovery in Mexico


The male of the new Amazona species. Photo credit: Tony Silva

From ScienceDaily:

Blue-winged Amazon: A new parrot species from the Yucatán Peninsula

The newly identified Blue-winged Amazon parrot has a loud, short call and evolved from the White-fronted parrot quite recently, about 120,000 years ago

June 27, 2017

In 2014, during a visit to a remote part of the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico, ornithologist Dr. Miguel A. Gómez Garza came across parrots with a completely different colour pattern from other known species.

A study published today in the open-access journal PeerJ names these birds as a new species based on its distinctive shape, colour pattern, call and behaviour. The paper compares and contrasts the distinguishing features of this species with many other parrots.

The new parrot (Amazona gomezgarzai), referred to as the Blue-winged Amazon because of its primarily blue covert feathers, is characterized by its unique green crown that contrast to blue in other Amazon parrots. This new parrot occupies a similar area in the Yucatán Peninsula as the Yucatán Amazon (A. xantholora) and the White-fronted Amazon (A. albifrons nana) but it does not hybridize with them.

A very distinctive feature of the new taxon is its call, which is loud, sharp, short, repetitive and monotonous; one particular vocalization is more reminiscent of an Accipiter than of any known parrot. The duration of syllables is much longer than in other Amazon parrot species. In flight, the call is a loud, short, sharp and repetitive yak-yak-yak. While perched, the call is mellow and prolonged.

This species lives in small flocks of less than 12 individuals. Pairs and their offspring have a tendency to remain together and are discernible in groups. Like all members of the genus Amazona, this parrot is a herbivore. Its diet consists of seeds, fruits, flowers and leaves obtained in the tree canopy.

The analysis of mitochondrial DNA genes indicates that the blue-winged Amazon has emerged quite recently, or about 120,000 years ago, from within the A. albifrons population. During this time, the taxon differentiated sufficiently to be clearly recognizable as a new species.

There is no conservation program currently in effect to preserve this parrot but its small range and rarity should make its conservation a priority.

Threatened Spix’s macaw, Brazilian girl interviewed


This video says about itself:

RARE bird spotted in Brazil

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 ⚡

From BirdLife:

19 Jun 2017

The Spix Mystery: one year later

By Edson Ribeiro, SAVE Brasil

On June 19th, 2016, Damilys and her mother Lourdes Oliveira woke up before dawn to look for the Spix’s Macaw Cyanopsitta spixii in the forest near their house in Curaçá, a small town of about 30,000 in the dry Caatinga area of Bahia, Brazil.

The day before, a farmer had assured them he had spotted the rare bird – a surprising claim, since it hadn’t been seen in the wild since 2000. Much to her excitement, 16 year old Damilys not only saw it, but also managed to film it with her mobile phone. After she shared on social media, her video went viral. One year on, we caught up with her back in the forest where she sighted the Spix for the first time.

When you were told that a Spix’s Macaw had been spotted, did you believe it right away?

No, we didn’t believe it at all actually! We thought it would be impossible for the Spix’s Macaw to be back in the Caatinga. It may be its natural habitat, but after so many years without sightings it was unlikely to be true. When we actually saw it ourselves, that’s when we really believed it. In the same way, many people only believed it after seeing the video.

Had you had any false alarms of people spotting the Spix’s Macaw before?

Yes, we had two of them last year, but we didn’t know whether or not they were true. One of them happened before I took the footage. When we were in another expedition after we had spotted it, I heard it myself. But since we had our thoughts so fixed in the idea we can’t say for sure… However, since other people also heard it, we thought that maybe it could be close, and it had only been a few days since the footage.

Why do you know so much about this bird?

I started as a volunteer for SAVE Brasil‘s Spix’s Macaw Project (Ararinha Na Natureza). Since the Project began I’ve always taken advantage of all the opportunities I had to go to the field with the team. When this volunteering opportunity presented itself, I did trainings on vertical climbing and radio telemetry.  And now I’m still with the Project, going to the field, compiling data… it’s our daily routine.

Now we are starting to work with the Blue-winged Macaw Primolius maracana (Near Threatened) to observe and monitor them to help in the Spix’s Macaw reintroduction, since they’re closely related.

Do you still go out often to look for it then?

I’ve gone to all expeditions with the people of the Spix’s Macaw Project and until today I still have the hopes of seeing it again. The first expedition I went to lasted more than 15 days.

We also know that your grandfather Pinpin was an avid birder. Is it true the Macaw appeared right in the area your grandfather donated as a nature reserve?

It all started through him, he always had this will to protect nature. His dream was to donate part of his land to protect the environment and see the Spix’s Macaw fly around again, but he didn’t have enough information on how to do it.

There are many farmers’ associations here in Curaçá, and about four years ago my mom went to one of these association meetings and met the Spix’s Macaw Project staff. Then they presented some proposals and my mom saw that they matched with what my grandfather wanted. After this, he succeeded in making his land a protected area. He got us to open our minds, he has always loved nature, and he taught us that. That’s where all my passion comes from.

Do you think the rediscovery of this Spix’s Macaw has changed the way people in Curaçá see the Caatinga and nature?

The town is divided. One has to have an open mind to learn and see the value in nature. A lot of people see that it has changed, and the rediscovery has brought benefits to the town, but other people say everything is the same…However, most people did notice the change.

But are people looking forward to its comeback?

I believe so. People are very excited about the return of the Spix’s Macaw. We have worked really hard on the Project to raise awareness and people are excited because it’s a species that only existed in the Caatinga. The Spix’s Macaw is the symbol of Curaçá, after all!

The footage was certainly appreciated by the online community – it went viral on Facebook, was shared by more than 1500 people and reached more than one million users. Why do you think the video was such a hit with people all around the world?

We knew it would be a success, but not as much as it was! I think it resonated because it made people curious. I guess many people didn’t believe it and wanted to see the video to know if it was real. Even today, a lot of people still don’t believe it.

We’ve been told you want to study biology. Tell us more!

I’ve always enjoyed walking around here and getting to know new places, and before, I wasn’t aware that this type of work even had a name. Then, through the Project they explained it to me, and now I know this is want. The Project staff influenced me in this decision, and they are very supportive. I want to study biology and become an ornithologist!

Are you aware of any threats affecting Curaçá’s nature?

Yes, the most important threats are poaching, mining, and ranching. I think all species are at risk, mainly the ones that feed on fruits and survive of the Caatinga’s vegetation. Ranching is damaging the vegetation, and mining is worsening the deforestation.

So do you see yourself in the future being a biologist for the Spix’s Macaw Project?

More than a biologist. I see myself speaking the Spix’s Macaw’s language, doing all the reintroduction work I’m currently doing with the Blue-winged Macaw, monitoring the nests, picking up the chicks. I see myself doing the same with Spix’s Macaw chicks and achieving what my grandfather always wanted to see, flocks of Spix’s macaws flying around Curaçá again.

Ring-necked parakeet and flowers


This 11 May 2017 video shows a, mainly green, ring-necked parakeet between greenish flowers.

Luuk Punt from the Netherlands made this video.

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.