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Celebrating COLORES - Parrot Conservation in Guatemala

Updated: Sep 12, 2023

ellow-naped amazon attending to their nest

Yellow-naped amazon attending to their nest (photo by Manuel Galindo)

Today we celebrate all the colors of this earth. In Spanish the word for colors is COLORES, but for One Earth Conservation and some of our partners COLORES also means “Corredor de Loros, Reservas y Santuarios” (Corridor of Parrots, Reserves, and Sanctuaries). This is a coalition of parks, reserves, agribusinesses, birders, academics, and anyone who is interested in resuscitating the yellow-naped amazon population and the south coast ecosystem in Guatemala. We have just wrapped up work on this year's conservation season, which runs really all year long, but intensifies during the nesting season (from December – May) and during the annual population count in June and July. You may find our annual report here.

We now have conducted population counts in our main conservation areas for six years so far and we add new sites every year or so. We are only limited by the number of interested people who’d like their location – a farm, home, or park – to be a conservation area. So far, we don’t see negative or positive trends (Figure 1 below). But we can surmise that the population might be holding steady, as is the relative abundance of first year fledglings (Figure 2 below). To determine relative abundance of fledglings, we count how many fledglings are flying with their parents during our annual counts. We can identify the number of fledglings by their lack of yellow plumage and estimate their numbers by assuming that a group of 3 consists of 2 parents and 1 fledgling, a group of 4 is 2 parents and 2 fledglings, and a group of 5 is 2 parents and 3 fledglings. We then determine what percentage of the total flock consists of fledglings. The higher this percentage, the higher the success of nests in terms of fledgling output and recruitment into the general population of new birds.

Six years  of parrot population data Guatemala

Figure 1 (above): Total numbers of parrots counted at each conservation site since 2018

Figure 2 (below): Total percentage of juveniles during the parrots counts since 2019

Six years of data showing the percentage of juvenile parrots in Guatemala

We can also say that, clearly, we need to see a much higher number of fledglings and many, many, more birds. What was once an estimated population in Guatemala of over 50,000 yellow-naped amazons in the early 1990s, we now estimate may only total about 400-500 individuals of this species.This decrease has largely been due to nearly 100% of active parrot nests being poached in trees deemed safe enough by poachers to climb. The only nests that survive the onslaught of the illegal wildlife trade are those with Africanized bee colonies near nest cavities or in dead trees that are likely to fall during a climb. Poachers take many risks, but will mostly avoid trees too dangerous to climb. The lower number of birds is also due to the loss of habitat. The lowland Pacific coast of Guatemala, known locally as La Costa Sur, has been nearly entirely converted from forest to farm and many of these farms are use intensive monoculture farming techniques, leaving little natural ecosystems for the parrots to thrive within.

Teaching children the importance of parrot conservation in Guatemala

Manuel Galindo interacting with students who live near our parrot conservation areas and facilitating a growing awareness and fondness for yellow-naped amazons and the South Coast of Guatemala

What can be done to reverse this situation? From our report you can see that we are trying many things, such as activities aimed at decreasing poaching; increasing public awareness; offering opportunities for universities, students, and government authorities to engage in conservation; and supporting livelihoods. How can a small group of committed conservationists hope to have a sustainable impact when there is so much to be done? Margaret Mead offered the answer, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed individuals can change the world. In fact, it's the only thing that ever has."

But hope never truly dies because beauty is eternal in the color of the parrots, the flowering of the trees, and the smiling and earnest faces of those who have come together to cherish and preserve that which they love.

We thank the COLORES team and welcome you to become part of this effort. You can do so by applying to our Parrot Conservation Corps (coming soon in January 2024), donating time and resources, and/or spreading the message of parrot conservation.

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