Blue-throated Macaw – Reinvigorating wild population

Blue-throated macaw

Blue-throated Macaw Background Information

  • Bolivia is home to 12 species of macaws, and most are thriving. Not among these healthy parrot populations, however, is the Critically Endangered Blue-throated macaw (Ara glaucogularis), with less than 15 breeding pairs known to be nesting in a remote, widely dispersed range in the north of the country.
  • Years of intensive effort using traditional conservation methods to protect wild Blue-throated macaw from predators, raise chick survival rates, and engage local human communities have not significantly boosted the wild population nor have new breeding pairs been discovered.
  • Rethinking a long-held view that captive-bred parrots released to the wild have little hope of surviving there, James Gilardi is working with local and international partners to select and prepare captive, pet trade and confiscated macaws to join their wild counterparts.
  • Although there haven’t been any releases of captive Blue-throated macaw as yet, Gilardi is confident that wild populations of the species can recover if the captive birds are carefully chosen, health screened, and fully prepared for the wild.
Pair of blue-throated-macaw
Blue-throated Macaws at nest cavity. Poachers knew where to find this species when the conservation world did not. The Critically Endangered Ara glaucogularis was rediscovered in 1992 when a former trustee of the World Parrot Trust posed as a wildlife photographer to get a poacher to reveal the location of a single nest. Photo by Darío Podestá

After relentless trapping for the pet trade reduced wild Blue-throated macaw populations to mere rumors, the bird was rediscovered in 1992 in a remote area of Bolivia. Endemic only to this nation, Ara glaucogularis lives in hard-to-reach places that are flooded much of the year. Unable to easily survey similar locales, conservationists could only hope that more of the Critically Endangered parrots existed than the hundred or so they originally found.

An intensive regimen to protect the remaining birds was put into action by local NGOs —including the Conservación de Loros de Bolivia, and the Research Center for Biodiversity and the Environment — along with academic collaborators and the World Parrot Trust.

However, more than a decade of hands-on conservation yielded frustrating results, with no significant population increase or recruitment of new breeding pairs.

At that point the World Parrot Trust, under the guidance of executive director Jamie Gilardi, began to consider the captive population they had been managing for more than 15 years in a different light. Under the right conditions, perhaps some of these birds could be readied for release to the wild. If captive-reared bird releases were successful, then parrots rescued from the illegal trade might also help create a bit of bird “restitution.”

James Gilardi in Bolivia
James Gilardi (right), executive director of the World Parrot Trust, a global conservation organization founded in 1989, trains Dr. Oka Dwipo, WPT’s Indonesia Program Coordinator, to climb to parrot nests in Bali, Indonesia (not a Blue-throated macaw project). Gilardi was drawn to conserving parrots because, in addition to being the most endangered bird group, they are often impacted by local problems that are often solvable. “I was hopeful that my fieldwork could have direct and meaningful consequences for the conservation of the species I was working on,” he explained. Photo courtesy of Wild Parrot Trust

Now Gilardi and his colleagues hope to add more breeding pairs back into Bolivia’s Beni Department, in the northeast corner of the country, by carefully selecting healthy birds in captivity that have retained enough wild ways to be returned to the un-caged life.

“In the past, the thinking was that the only real way to achieve honest-to-goodness conservation was to protect wild birds where they are, and then hope they can recover with human assistance or on their own,” says Gilardi.

But the Blue-throated macaw is in too precarious a position not to explore every possible option to rebuild its population. With likely less than 300 birds scattered across a vast and inhospitable terrain, waiting for nature to take its course might allow the species to slip into extinction. Researchers hope to release a first test group of captive Blue-throated macaws as soon as possible.

Group of blue-throated macaws
Blue-throated macaws have been protected by the national legislation of Bolivia and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) since 1986.
Map with borders
Map showing all known active breeding pairs of Blue-throated Macaw (black dots) from 2007–2012. The birds occupy an area about twice the size of the U.S. state of Connecticut. With so few birds scattered across such a large area, it’s hard for them to meet and mate, reducing chances for population recovery. Reproduced under Creative Commons license from: Reproductive Parameters in the Critically Endangered Blue-Throated Macaw: Limits to the Recovery of a Parrot under Intensive Management. PLoS ONE (2014) Volume 9 (6)

Mongabay: What made you look beyond the usual approaches to protecting wild populations?

Gilardi: When we started out, about 16 years ago, it seemed to us — as had been the case for so many other parrot conservation efforts — that if we just left the birds alone and protected them from people and other predators, then they’d bounce back pretty quickly. Maybe not as fast as rabbits or sea turtles, but certainly over the course of years, we expected the population to stabilize and then start growing.

But with the Blue-throated macaws, we were working with such a small group, and every year some new thing became a big problem [threatening the species with extinction]. One year it was other parrots harassing the nesting pairs. Another year it was predation from small mammals. By the time we got to year ten, we realized there still weren’t that many birds and new recruits weren’t joining the breeding population.

So we slowly came around to the idea that we had to switch our approach because these birds are not only very small in number, they are also spread broadly across the landscape, making it even harder for them to form breeding pairs. These and other factors were apparently preventing the expected recovery.

At that point, [we saw] the captive population we’d been managing for 15 plus years as something that might be essential to the species recovery. So even though our top priority is protecting the wild birds and supporting breeding pairs to help them produce as many chicks as possible every year, we’re also focused on getting captive birds back to Bolivia, breeding them, and releasing those progeny back to selected areas of the wild.

Jose Antonio Diaz Luque
José Antonio Díaz Luque, World Parrot Trust Bolivia program manager, surveying for Bue-throated macaws. Photo courtesy of Wild Parrot Trust

Mongabay: When will you start releasing the birds?

Gilardi: As soon as possible.

One thing about eradicating a species from its former range, is there’s a lot of room for them to return. But lots of things have to be sorted out before any releases happen.

Initially we would want to create a “proof of concept” release site where we build up the number of birds at a site that’s working for them; a place where they’re finding each other, breeding, and raising chicks.

Once we do that, we can start augmenting the existing groups of birds out there, putting two nests here, three over there… until hopefully we’d create a situation where there’s enough population density that the birds can find each other. We’d like all these birds to be in contact with each other, exchanging genes and see the whole population growing. If we got to that point, we’d be well on our way to success.

But first, we need to get the [captive] birds back to Bolivia. Although some birds are in the country, many [confiscated and pet trade birds] are elsewhere: about 50 Blue-throated macaws are in Florida, 30 are in Canada, maybe two dozen are in England, and another two dozen are in the Middle East.

Adult with young Blue-throated macaw
An adult and a young Blue-throated macaw (Ara glaucogularis) in their natural habitat. What makes a releasable bird? Every individual has a different history, said Gilardi. A bird that was a pet for many years and only recently learned how to fly might be better to keep as a breeder, while a younger bird that fledged with a bunch of other macaws and developed flying skills early will likely do well in the wild — hopefully finding a mate, breeding, and taking care of itself. Photo courtesy of Wild Parrot Trust

The birds need to be biologically ready to go, too. Besides getting acclimated to a new place, screened for diseases, and oriented to wild foods, the macaws need to be in good physical condition to fly. Most people don’t realize how a bird’s physical condition plummets in captivity. A wild parrot can fly 40 to 50 kilometers [about 25 to 31 miles] without stopping, but a bird that’s been caged, even for just a few months, would have a hard time flying even one kilometer. It takes time to get the birds to develop that condition, so when they do go out they can fly with confidence, land appropriately, and aren’t completely exhausted by flying 100 meters.

Mongabay: What made you consider returning confiscated and pet trade birds back to the wild?

Gilardi: Up until about ten years ago, the dogma was that parrots are really hard to release back into the wild, and if you do they’re never going to eat properly and survive.

However, apart from the work we do with Critically Endangered species like the Blue-throated macaw, we also work really hard to stop the wild bird trade. One result of enforcement is that large groups of birds get confiscated and many of those birds are common species.

Over time, we learned how to prepare these birds for release [back into the wild]. We tracked them and found they were doing well, so we realized it’s not that hard to do, so long as you get the details right. For example, we’ve successfully reintroduced African grey parrots in Uganda, and Scarlet and Great-green Macaws in Central America.

Blue-throated-macaw in Bolivia
Blue-throated macaw (Ara glaucogularis). Photo by Darío Podestá

Recently, the Ara Project in Costa Rica discovered that Great-green macaws (Ara ambiguus) released over the past few years currently have at least eight active nests. That’s more than 25 percent of the total number of nests for the species in the entire country.

In the case of the Blue-throated macaw, we’re eager to apply this reintegration method that we’ve developed as a result of our work on stopping the wild bird trade. Now we feel very comfortable releasing birds that were kept in captivity, whether they were confiscated or captive bred. That’s why we’re confident that releasing Blue-throated macaws can be a very productive way to get more birds back into the wild so their population recovery can take place.

We kind of got here sideways; it wasn’t intentional, but we ended up developing a lot of confidence in this new tool. For us, it’s really exciting because it opens up a ton of possibilities, not only for getting the job done, but also for allowing all kinds of partnerships — with the London Zoo, Africa Lion Safari in Canada, Natural Encounters Conservation Fund based in the U.S., and other NGO’s all around the world.

Compared to ten years ago, we view the whole conservation landscape differently [and more positively]. We never dreamed we’d be able to put lots of these birds back into the wild. Now we can.

For more information on the Topic Visit: World Parrot Trust

Food, Toys & Accessories Suitable for Macaw Parrots

Source: Mongabay.com

How to Make Friends with your Parrot

How to make friends with your parrot

How to make friends with your parrotIn this article Barbara covers the topic of How to Make Friends with your Parrot.

If you are a fan of parrots like me, you look forward to those moments when you get to make a new parrot friend. Unlike a dog or cat that may respond to a new person right away, birds can sometimes require a little extra effort on our part. Birds are often a bit nervous about meeting a stranger. Here are some things you can do to help them to be more comfortable when you are getting to know them.

How to Make Friends with your Parrot

1. Give the bird space: Although it is very tempting try not to go right up to a bird. Give him some time to get used to you being in the same room. Once he is looking relaxed and comfortable you can move a bit closer to the bird.

2. Move slowly: Birds can become frightened when people move too quickly. You don’t want to scare your soon-to-be new friend.

3. Approach from the front: Be sure to approach the parrot so that he can easily see you coming. Many birds don’t like it when someone is moving behind them.

4. Show him something special: Before walking closer to a parrot, it is a good idea to have some treats, parrot toys or other special item with you. Ask people who know the bird what he likes best. You can show the bird what you have to give him before you get too close.

5. Watch his body language: When you show the parrot the special treat or item you have for him, watch how the bird responds. If he leans towards you he is saying he would very much like to accept your gift. If he leans away he might be saying he is not sure he is ready to make friends right now. If he is not ready, you can always try again later.

6. Offer him the special treat: If the parrot leans forward and reaches his beak towards what you have to offer, you can move closer and give him what you have. Whenever you offer a treat or toy to a parrot for the first time try to present it so that the bird has to lean forward to take it with his beak. This way you don’t have to get too close to the bird’s beak. This is so you can be extra sure the bird is ready for the treat. Sometimes when we get too close or offer the item to fast, a bird might respond by biting.

7. Offer more treats: If the parrot takes the first treat or toy and enjoys it. He might look or lean towards you for another one. If he does, that is an invitation to really start getting to know each other. Continue to offer him special treats or items. This will cause your new parrot friend to really look forward to your visits.

Once a parrot understands good things happen when you visit, you will begin to notice he will really want to get to know you better. He might be eager to step onto your hand. He might even talk or sing to see if he can encourage you to come closer with a special treat. If he feels very comfortable with you, he might even let you stroke the feathers on his head. This is a good sign that you were very careful not to scare him and have done a good job earning his trust.

Making friends with a parrot sometimes takes a little extra effort. But it is a very special compliment when a parrot accepts you as a friend. Pay close attention to your actions when you are meeting a parrot for the first time, offer him yummy treats and fun toys. Soon you will find yourself surrounded by many new feathered friends.

Barbara Heidenreich has been a professional animal trainer since 1990. Her company Good Bird Inc (www.GoodBirdInc.com) provides parrot training DVDs, books and workshops. She has been a featured speaker in twenty countries and has been published in nine languages. Barbara also consults on animal training in zoos.

Barbara Heidenreich
For more information on how to train your parrot visit Good Bird Inc
Barbara’s Force Free Animal Training www.BarbarasFFAT.com

Saving Macaws in Costa Rica

The Ara Project

Saving Macaws in Costa Rica - Great Green Macaw ParrotThe Ara Project was established in 1982 and is dedicated to saving the macaws in Costa Rica: Great Green Macaw (Ara ambiguus) and the Scarlet Macaw (Ara macao) are both native to this country. The population of this magnificent parrots has been affected by both; unsustainable capture for the pet trade and loss of habitat.

The Ara Project is a Costa Rican licensed, government-supervised organisation operated by the non-profit organisation Asociación El Proyecto Ara.  Its main goal is to reintroduce macaws throughout Costa Rica.  The project is professionally staffed and open to the public with a reservation.

For reservations at Manzanillo our Great Green Macaw release site on the Caribbean please email: manzanillo@thearaproject.org, or call 8971-1436.

To see released Scarlet Macaws and visit our breeding centre at Punta Islita on the Pacific please email: islita@thearaproject.org, or call 8505-3336.

You can also volunteer or donate to the project and help save wild parrot chicks from poachers by visiting: https://www.razoo.com/us/story/Protect-Macaw-Chicks-From-Poachers

Contributing to the project

Saving Macaws in Costa Rica - Scarlet Macaws in flightScarlet Macaw chick Rose hatched in Rural Costa Rica by captive bred parents, released by The Ara Project. Unfortunately Rose did not get to fledge as she was taken by poachers.

Each year, Scarlet and Great Green Macaw pairs have their chicks stolen. This time of the year is critical for the parrots and their chicks as poachers will try to take them again, illegally. By donating to the project you can help saving the macaw chicks. Your donation will help The Ara Project team to:

  • Recruit locals to safeguard the nest boxes
  • Use camera technology for cover surveillance
  • Put team members in the field to monitor breeding activity and protection of nest boxes
  • Increase understanding of the macaw’s plight through education
  • Work with the relevant government agencies to ensure that the macaw’s protective status is enforce.

Ensuring wild macaws can raise offsprings like Rose is critical for the future of these endangered macaws.

If you wish to learn more about The Ara Project visit: http://thearaproject.org
If you wish to make a donation visit: https://www.razoo.com/us/story/Protect-Macaw-Chicks-From-Poachers

Thank you for reading.

Parrot Essentials

 

 

Family Hire Crane To Rescue ‘Stubborn’ Parrot

Parrot Rescue

Parrot Rescue OperationWhile it might be nice to let your parrot fly free outside its bird cage every once in a while, this story from the press this week serves as a bit of a warning to make sure there’s no escape route to the world outside, especially if your pet is a little bit ‘stubborn’.

After making a break for it from the family home, after being let out for some fresh air on a warm day, Topaz the macaw flew up to a high branch in a nearby tree and refused to move for three whole days according to Wales Online.

The owner, 23-year-old Zahra Latif, was understandably keen to get Topaz back, so eventually had to give in and hire a cherry picker crane in order to entice the parrot down, costing them £300 in rental fees.

Cue scenes of Zahra 50 foot in the air, armed with grapes and bananas – some of the bird’s favourite treats – and eventually teasing Topaz onto the crane and into her arms.

Zahra alleges that the family rang the RSPCA, but they refused to come rescue Topaz, but Zahra insists they would have done so for a cat.

New Life Parrot Rescue offers some helpful advice and tips if your own parrot has made escaped and flown off.  It says that if your bird is a strong flyer, it’s likely to perch itself in a treetop and become stony silent, due to shock of the unfamiliar territory – which sounds like what might have happened to Topaz.

Introducing me and my birds – Dorothy Schwarz

http://www.parrotessentials.co.uk/foraging-tower-mentally-stimulating-parrot-toy/

http://www.parrotessentials.co.uk/foraging-tower-mentally-stimulating-parrot-toy/I’m Dorothy Schwarz and in the coming months I’ll be sharing with you  some of the joys and heartaches, pleasant surprises and shocks of a parrot person’s life. I’ll tell about the lives of my birds and those of others that I know. I’d like to share some of the theoretical knowledge and insights that I’ve developed from my avian involvement. I trained at workshops and seminars with Steve Martin in Florida, Susan Friedman in France and Ireland and Barbara Heidenreich in USA and UK. These trainers all practice and teach positive reinforcement training and I’ll be talking about that quite a lot.

I am often asked how my parrot life began. Am I an ex zoo curator, like my friend Bill Naylor, am I an ornithologist, a zoologist or a professional trainer? No, I’m none of those. However, for the last fifteen years, parrots, people involved with them, learning about parrots, keeping parrots – even breeding them in a small way – has become my main preoccupation.

It began by chance as  I believe many of our passions do.

Barrett WatsonMost of my adult life has been  involved in some sort of breeding: six kids, horses as a small business, dogs, cats, rabbits and now birds. I had been riding, training and breeding horses in a small way. With middle age and the children leaving the nest, horses began to play a lesser role in our lives. And then one of my horsy friends, Barett Watson, who is one of the foremost UK trainers of show jumpers, opened up a new world for me. I’d known Barrett and his partner Tim Davies for years. Their yard is a visual delight of immaculate horses – and flocks of macaws, cockatoos, and greys in large flights with individual cages for breeding pairs. A pet bird that comes from Barrett is already accustomed to people and socialized.

Keen for a new challenge, I asked Barrett for one of his baby birds. We discussed the situation and decided that African Greys would be the best choice for a somewhat older couple.

Pair of African Greys Parrots BirdsBarrett had a bonded pair.  In early December, he phoned ‘the hen is sitting.’ Two weeks after hatching, the chicks were pulled for hand rearing and Barrett suggested I visit as often as possible to learn how to handle the birds. What a valuable education Barrett gave me! You learn so much more from hands-on practice than from books. The chicks looked unappealing, featherless and squirming, like blackbirds that had fallen out of the nest. ‘Aren’t they adorable?’ said Tim. He proceeded to hand feed them with skill and gentleness. He or Barrett had been doing this at 4- hourly intervals day and night and still found them adorable!

Pirdy - Cockatoo Parrot BirdAfter a few weeks they were nicely feathering up and sharing the incubator and then the weaning cage with a Moluccan cockatoo. One of the chicks seemed bolder than the other. I chose that one.

On my fortnightly visits, I started to hold MY chick and observe what was going on in the nursery. A clutch of military macaws was learning to fly, doing Charlie Chaplin imitations as soon as they landed; some eggs were in incubators. I learnt to handle Barrett’s two enormous Blue and Gold pet macaws. I learnt the difference between birds being reared as pets and ones for breeding. Everything Barrett and Tim did was explained; they were limitlessly patient.

The chicks were also taught to ‘Step up’ before they were even fledged. They were accustomed to household noises like vacuum cleaners and washing machines. On the last visit but one before we bought our bird home,  Tim emerged from the nursery with the 2 Greys and the Moluccan perched on his stretched out arm, all four looking pleased as Punch. Another advantage of buying a bird from a reputable breeder is that Artha was harness trained as she was being weaned. When the chicks pecked, Tim would gently blow the top of their heads and say, ‘Don’t bite.’ This technique worked with our bird once we got it home. Hand on heart I can say that Artha has never bitten a human in 15 years. (To be 100% honest, I have to say she has bitten other birds.)  Her name is Artha because she was at first thought to be a cock bird whom we named Arthur. After a month at home, I decided that Arthur perched like a hen bird. A DNA test proved me right. Being so used to calling Arthur we feminised the name to Artha. That happened fifteen years ago.

Siesta - Birds - AviaryA home-made aviary was constructed to give the birds  fresh air and space to fly.  And the aviary itself – like Topsy ‘it just growed’. We added sections yearly until the whole aviary now measures 40 meters in length. The trees inside have grown and I am terribly proud when I cannot see the inhabitants who are amongst the leaves.

Our family suffered a personal tragedy when our youngest daughter, Zoe, died at 27. Artha’s apparent empathy while I was grieving gave me the urge to devote time and effort to understand birds and providing a home for those in need. Because the aviary is  large, I have been offered birds in need of a home.

A year later Casper came from Barrett to keep Artha company. Sad to say they – although good friends – have never mated and produced the patter of tiny claws for us to marvel at.

With birds I entered a new world; birds are not mammals. A puppy, a kitten and a baby share far more traits in common than we do with our pet birds.  But one of the most fascinating aspects of parrot keeping is that the modern way of training them by positive reinforcement is also the best way to train your puppy, your kitten – or your partner!  I hope to describe positive reinforcement training and give case studies which illustrate how it works out in practice. Theories are great but if they don’t produce the result you want  you are apt to discard them.

Need for training your birds

Training is essential for full-winged birds, especially if any of them share your living space. They must know and accept the recall. I’ve had my birds fly out of the house through a carelessly left open  window or door but once found, they’ve flown down to me because they know the recall. Casper, an escape artist of almost indescribable genius, has scarpered to the village a quarter of a mile away even before his absence has been noticed. Unfortunately, he likes people and has flown into village houses and into open cars. I’ve been lucky; his newly found human friends were all honest folk and he was returned. But I dare not allow him the liberty he so clearly craves.