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A New Dawn for Parrot Conservation

Field team with leaders at Caiman Field House

Caiman Field House Station located in Yupukari Village, Guyana, is well known as a way station for tourists, researchers, and conservationists along the Rupununi River in Region 9 (southern Guyana). It is our last field stop before heading back at the end of October 2017 to Georgetown, the capital city of the country. We came here to see what parrots are here, and if the village is interested in a conservation program with the parrots.

LoraKim Joyner and Danika Oriol-Morway in the

middle of a count in Yupukari

We barely have time to stow our gear before heading out to the evening count near the station. Yellow-crowned parrots fly by us, and some into the cashew trees to feed, but most seem to be heading west into and beyond the village. I move in that direction and just as the sun sets, I hear a lot, and I mean a lot, of parrots coming from the valley on this side of the village. I am now on the hunt for a roost site!

Yupukari roost site

I meet our guide in the dark the next morning and we make our way down into the valley by flashlights. Over the next two days we find the roost site and do some preliminary counts. We can't yet get a precise count because the birds are coming in by the hundreds and we haven't found the best locations to count the site. It actually seemed overwhelming at times with the incoming onslaught of both parrots and mosquitoes.

Tree covered in termite construction on way to roost site

Here is our tally at the roost site:

-555 Amazon parrots spending the night in the central roost (506 orange-winged and 49 yellow-crowned)

-40 Amazon parrots flying by or roosting further away

-36 Brown-throated parakeets flying by

-8 red-shouldered macaws flying by

-11 red-bellied macaws flying by

Though at first appearances this seems like an ample number of parrots, they could be congregating here because there is nowhere else safe to go, as trapping of parrots is still allowed in Guyana. The red and green macaws, and the scarlet macaws, have long been trapped out according to reports, and all parrot populations plummeted due to the export trade of the 1990's and 2000's (before the USA and Europe imposed an import ban). The villagers of Yupukari tell us that currently there is no trapping for sale here, only for homed companions. Regardless, monitoring this roost site, and others, is important because it can be an indicator of population trends. We plan to come back in March to firm up the methodology so we can repeat roost counts throughout the year and future years.

Red-bellied macaws flying out of a palm oasis

While in this area we also want to survey the smaller macaws that are here - the red-shouldered and the red-bellied. We hear that they feed, roost, and nest in the Ité palm groves, so we head out in our truck to see what we can find. It does appear that every grove has a flock of red-bellied macaws. We would also like to monitor these populations, as the areas where they are found often flood and are at risk from industrial farming. It may be that the macaws are here because the flooding makes most of this area inaccessible for much of the year.

Palm oasis where the red-bellied macaws congregate

We meet with local school children and teachers and they would like to do a parrot conservation club in their village. The leaders of the village and our guides are also open to starting a parrot conservation project. Our primary guide, whose house is the closest in the village to the roost site, says he loves the birds because "they are such close friends to humans." He also tells us that Yupukari is a blessed village because there are lots of birds around. He mourns that there are no more sun parakeets here, telling me that "the trappers took our sun."

Mike Schindlinger singing "Fly Parrot Fly" for the school in Yupukari

The past is full of anguish and loss in these colonized areas of Latin America, but there is still an ever present beauty in the people and parrots who, with persistence, will see a new dawn where life is preserved and cherished.

Sun set seen while counting at the roost site

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