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First Among Firsts: Parrot Rangers of Guyana

Updated: May 1, 2023

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!

Michaelson and I conducted a long nest watch later that afternoon of the sun parakeet tree to confirm the activity of the nest, and as we approached, a lineated woodpecker flew out from the cavity. Now it is not unheard of for a woodpecker to inspect an active parrot nest, so we were still hopeful as we buried ourselves into the thorny and itchy brush to hide our presence. Through the hot afternoon and early evening sun parakeets did come very close to the cavity, but only to forage. They showed no interest in the cavity, but a lineated woodpecker sure did! She came and went several times and spent the night, with her eggs! I admit to being disappointed, for it was only a woodpecker’s nest.

Michaelson and I working hard (above), as was the female lineated woodpecker on her nest (immediately below) but not so much the sun parakeet (further below)

We were not able to accomplish documenting with pictures our first parakeet nests or chicks, and the mood for the evening and the rest of my visit was somewhat subdued. Climbing tall and challenging macaw nests is no easy feat, and they have much to be proud of, but they have their goals set on improving sun parakeet knowledge and conservation.

This does not preclude them from caring for wildlife, for Michaelson returned to the woodpecker nest a a few weeks later because a wildfire had swept through the area. He wanted to make sure the eggs or chicks were okay, for a woodpecker is not just a woodpecker, but a bright and beautiful being. The fire had indeed ravished the tree, and having been burned at its base, had cracked in two. Michaelson scooped up the two woodpecker chicks and found that they had survived the fall, but how would they make it with their nest cavity down?

The answer – put the nest cavity back up. Michaelson took the segment of the tree that had the cavity and attached it to a nearby tree. He then put the chicks in the cavity and watched the cavity to make sure the parents would enter it to feed the chicks. They did! And this time everyone was glad to see the woodpeckers come and go from the nest, for it meant life was safeguarded and the rangers had been instrumental in saving lives.

The refurbished home of the woodpeckers after the fire and fall

The perseverance of the rangers to not only care for many species but to continue advancing their ability to care for the endangered sun parakeet finally paid off with a positive documentation of sun parakeet chicks. The next week they found not just one, but two active nests (photos below).

Others have seen parakeet chicks in nests before in Guyana, but those others are the trappers who market these birds domestically and internationally. There are far more sun parakeets in captivity than in their native range in Guyana and Brazil. Once with numbers described as being in the thousands around Indigenous villages, we have counted in Guyana only 253 – 405 wild sun parakeets during our annual November counts. So, let’s applaud the Karasabai parakeet rangers for documenting the first sun parakeet nest confirmed visually in Guyana and applaud all who work tirelessly to keep parrots flying free.

Thanks to our very special donors , the US Fish and Wildlife Service and USAID, who awarded us a grant to support the sun parakeet project in Karasabai, and

to Foster Parrots, who introduced us to the people and wild parrots in Guyana

and continue to support us in every way.


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