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First Among Firsts: Parrot Rangers of Guyana

Updated: May 1

People in Guyana have been climbing trees for thousands of years, but only recently have parrot conservationists been doing so. Thanks to the US Forest Service (USFS), who trained the parakeet rangers of Karasabai in September 2022, we now have the ability to safely climb trees to monitor the status, health, and outcomes of parrot nests. Not until March 2023, however, did we climb up to any active sun parakeet nests, or any nests for that matter.

Karasabai parrot rangers counting on the Rewa River (above)

hosted by the Rewa parrot rangers (below)

Then the parakeet rangers of Karasabai visited the parrot conservationists of Rewa Village, which is a 3-hour drive by truck and then another 2.5 hours by river. There was an exchange of experiences and knowledge during the first few days of the visit, as well as demonstrations of how Rewa rangers do their monthly parrot counts and how Karasabai rangers climb parrot nests.

Karsabai rangers demonstrating tree climbing to the children of Rewa

The Rewa rangers then invited the parakeet rangers of Karasabai out onto the Rewa River to see their parrot nests and, hopefully, to confirm if any of their nests were active by climbing trees. The day was crisp and clear as we headed up the river, with the Karasabai parakeet rangers (with stoic wonder) noting their first blue-and-yellow and scarlet macaw sightings. They also saw their first red fan parrots, for these do not occur in the savannah areas around Karasabai, although scarlet macaws did at one time before they were trapped out.

A scarlet macaw in her nest cavity giving us a wary eye (above).

She then flew nearby while we climbed the tree.

Waiting, and waiting, for the spectacular results of a long tree climb

to document scarlet macaw chicks

Then it was the turn of the Rewa conservationists to stare with mouths agape as the Karasabai climbers went up very large and tall trees to check on macaw nests. Those who were not climbing waited patiently (okay, maybe not so much) below the tree or in the boat on the river, while the fairly inexperienced climbers (especially of large river trees) inched their way up to the nest cavities. At one-point, bees began to attack Michaelson, so he just calmly took off his climbing gloves and stuffed them into the bee cavity entrance so he could continue his climb.

After much struggle, Michaelson was able to thread a cable camera into the entrance and confirmed that scarlet macaw chicks were in there. This then became the first active parrot nest confirmed by Indigenous parrot conservationists in Guyana!

Overnighting in hammocks on the river, the rangers were full of smiles at their accomplishments, which also included returning to camp with a boat full of fish to smoke for dinner and to take home to their families. The next day, Nerius confirmed the presence of an active red-and-green macaw nest. Our return to Karasabai was triumphant.

Smoking fish through the night and into the early morning by moonlight and flashlight

We hoped we were on a roll with “firsts” so after returning to Karasabai and a partial day of rest, we went to climb nests in the drier and mountainous rimmed savannah. The parakeet rangers were sure that one dead and slender tree in a farming area was active with sun parakeets. When we placed the cable camera attached to a long pole into the entrance, there were 3 white eggs. Smiles broke out because we thought we had our first pictures of an active sun parakeet nest. I was concerned because the eggs appeared too oblong for sun parakeet eggs and worried that they might not hatch, but everyone thought they were parakeet eggs because only the week before sun parakeets had spent the night here. Our glee was further enhanced as we next climbed a red-and-green macaw nest nearby, where we found one chick alive and another that had died of unknown causes within the last week.

Using an endoscope camera to inspect a possible sun parakeet nest. The pictures aren't clear with this kind of camera, but the images can help us determine what is going on

in the cavity (most of the time!)

Red-and-green macaw nest in Karasabai - thanks to Willington for the successful climb!