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4 X 4 Parrot Conservation

November, 2017

Valle Department, Honduras

Transportation was a real problem - sometimes we had a 4X4 truck, and other times we slogged through flooded cow manure fields or took a motor-taxi (toot-toot). Here is one of our conservationists, Roger Flores, in a toot-toot.

Four of us of various backgrounds - biologists, veterinarians, agronomists - but all parrot conservationists, headed to the Pacific Coast of Honduras this past November where there are mangroves, islands, and volcanoes. We were situated in a tri-country area whose land mass flows into the Gulf of Fonseca (map below).

Gulf of Fonseca. White circular area is where we concentrated our efforts in 2016and 2017.

Red circular areas are where we need to count in 2018.

We spent only 4 days there (all very long days, let me assure you). No one knows the status of the endangered yellow-naped amazon parrot in this region, and our goal is to find out what it would take to understand this population and the risks to it. We did a very quick survey last year and after only a few counts, we knew that there were a minimum of 79 distinct individuals in this location.

Counting at a boat launch into the mangroves

This year we were able to extend our monitoring to a few more areas and found 94 distinct individuals. After speaking to a lot of local community members, we now suspect that there are more to be found in the Isla de Toro area and on the islands of Tigre and Zacate Grande. We also have yet to identify the location of the roost site near La Ceiba or to confirm if there are yellow-napes near San Lorenzo. Locals told us that there were not many birds in that area and further east because of loss of habitat, in large part due to shrimp farming. We did two counts in shrimp fields (photo below shows car tires being disinfected as we entered the shrimp fields), then taught shrimp farmers how to count so they could help us, and then witnessed one of the most glorious and long lasting sun sets I have ever seen - in a shrimp field!

Clearly, there is much more work to do in this part of Honduras, though it does seem as if there might not be more than about 200-300 birds in total, and that the poaching levels are high. The reason there might be birds here at all is because parrots often find refuge in mangroves and on volcanic slopes, which make up this coast and neighboring islands. Even still, birds can be “poached out” of this area too. Because of this, some of our counts had few birds. When that happens we enjoy the people sights, and other birds such as the roadside hawk and turquoise-browed mot mot in the photos below.

So, while we seek to know the population better here, we also need to begin nest identification and protection efforts by involving local community members, as well as education and consciousness raising efforts. This is a new project for us, and one we can’t turn our backs on, even if we have yet to raise the funds for it. So, it might mean just four of us doing this work, four days a year, but I hope not.

This is the Isla de Tigre in Honduras, where the locals say there are a lot of parrots. There could be, as it is a volcano island, which is often the last refuge of birds under heavy poaching pressure.

We don’t want to lose the population here, well, first, because this culture and parrot families matter. And also, this coastal area is a vital link for the species from Costa Rica to the drastically reduced populations in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Mexico.

Somewhat accurate map of current range

Thank you for helpings us if you can with a donation of any size (click here to donate), and thanks to the Honduran conservationists Roger Flores, Gustavo, and Jonathan Hernandez.

Our counting crew with Isla de Tigre in the background (from left, Gustavo Cabrera, me, Roger Flores, Jonathan Hernandez).

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