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Parrots in Guatemala's Mangroves Few and Far Between

Project Coordinator in El Chico, Manuel Galindo

Parrots in Central America seek refuge from the relentless onslaught of the illegal wildlife trade and habitat loss in certain kinds of locations where it is harder to poach and traffic: islands, volcanic slopes, remote areas, private lands that are jealously guarded, dangerous areas, and mangroves. We have documented a remnant population of yellow-naped amazons in the mangroves on the Pacific Coast of Honduras, and a similar species of parrot, the yellow-headed parrot, in mangroves on the Atlantic coast of Guatemala. For this reason, we wanted to see if there were any yellow-naped amazons left in the mangroves of Guatemala.

Parking the COLORES project car before taking a launch to El Chico. Thanks to Manuel for letting us use his personal car!

Map of the South Coast of Guatemala with our parrot counting sites. El Chico is the red marker to the left, and Hawaii to the right.

Two patches of mangroves still exist that frame the country: El Manchon near the Mexican border and Hawaii near the El Salvador border. After numerous counts we have documented only two individuals in Hawaii. We went to El Manchon in 2016 for only two days and did not discover any individuals, although there were ample reports of poaching.

Poached parrot nest in the mangroves in El Chico

Our guide and host, EIias

We returned in March of 2018 to continue our quest. We traveled over land through the wastelands of Southern Guatemala, and after parking the car, took a launch to the small community of El Chico, where fishermen had told us there were still parrots. We were offered home hospitality and guided by Elias Mendez. Though we searched in all the local mangrove canals, we did not hear or see any yellow-napes, although there were white-fronted amazons and orange-fronted parakeets. The only yellow-napes we saw were in people's homes and we heard of them in stories of nests poached earlier in the year.

Homed yellow-naped amazon being fed tortillas

Due to the reports of birds and nests present, our project manager in the field, Manuel Galinda, returned to work with Elias in May 2018. This time they were able to identify a pair of yellow-naped amazons in two different locations, with the possibility that it was the same pair seen on two different days.

Mangrove canals that we often had to pull ourselves through

We were glad to know that these parrots still exist on the coast, but frightened to know how few there are and how heavy is the poaching pressure. What does one do when the news is so dire? We dig in ever harder, for the reality of beauty lost, but ever present cheers us on.

Raising our arms with "Fly Free" yellow-naped amazon wrist bands

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