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Rainbow Over Guatemala - Returning the Scarlet Macaw

Updated: Feb 11, 2023

De colores, de colores se visten los campos en la primavera De colores, de colores son los pajaritos que vienen de afuera De colores, de colores es el arco iris que vemos lucir Y por eso los grandes amores de muchos colores me gustan a mí Y por eso los grandes amores de muchos colores me gustan a mí

All the colors, all the colors of birdies, oh how they come back to us outside, All the colors, all the colors in rainbows we see shining bright in the sky, And that's why a great love of all colors makes me feel like singing so joyfully, And that's why a great love of all colors makes me feel like singing so joyfully

The dream of scarlet macaws flying once more over Guatemala's Southern coast

This is the time of the year where many in the Americas celebrate Dia de los Muertos, Day of the Dead, All Hallows Eve, Halloween, Samhain, All Saints Day, and All Souls Day. In this season we remember those we have lost. Through the pain, though, we also remember the colors of their lives, such as the Mexican folk song, De Colores (above). The colors of life are so vivid, especially here in the northeastern U.S. with the fall trees full of oranges, reds, and yellows.

At One Earth Conservation, every day is one of loss and colors. So many parrots are lost to the illegal wildlife trade within all our projects Not a day goes by that we don't see a little color slip from the world.

Rainbow over project area in Honduras where few scarlet and great green macaws remain

Many of our projects are bringing vividness back. Today we remember and celebrate the work of our collaborative group in Guatemala, COLORES (Corredor de Loros, Reservas, y Santuarios - Corridor of Parrots, Reserves, and Sanctuaries). Working closely with ARCAS, we finished our field season a few months ago, and you can read our annual report about this project here.

White-fronted amazon chick in an artificial nest box at one of our participating reserves, El Patrocinio

One of our big efforts is to monitor and protect yellow-naped amazon nests at our six "hot spots" that are participating fincas (ranches) and parks. Startlingly, we were not able to confirm any successful nests during the breeding season, as the nests we confirmed were poached. But workers at two sites did confirm that a total of three nests fledged that we had not registered. These nests are hard to find, perhaps because the parrots, after decades of poaching, have grown more cautious.

Climber from Wildlife Conservation Society, Guatemala (thank you WCS!) Jose Luis Caal

We also conducted a population count in June at each location and counted a total of 136 birds: 5 single individuals, 36 pairs, 18 trios, and 1 group of 4. The trios and group of 4 likely represent parents with chicks, for a total of 20 chicks. It appears that though we may not be able to easily locate successful nests ourselves, some yellow-naped amazons are able to reproduce and escape the wildlife trade.

Super thanks to Manuel Galindo Vásquez, our Project Coordinator 2017-2018 for COLORES!

The overall population seems dangerously low, a small fraction of what it was 30 years ago, and the poaching continues. We need to step up our efforts, as do other collaborators within COLORES.

One way we plan on increasing our impact and effectiveness is to dream even bigger. We strive to not only save the yellow-naped amazon, but to also bring back the scarlet macaw that once flew over this region before the wildlife trade caused it to disappear from almost the entirety of its range in Guatemala. By building the infrastructure for reviving the yellow-naped amazon population, we prepare for the reintroduction of the scarlet macaw into this area.

We do not forget the loss of our parrots, nor the bright colors of their regeneration. Our hope is that the colors that once flew here - the oranges, the reds, and yellows of the scarlet macaw - return here as soon as possible.

This project, "Rainbow Over Guatemala," is so named to represent our promise to attempt to achieve with our collaborators this very difficult and complex goal, and to put into words the yearning we have for rainbow birds to fly once again in our sky.

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