Field Research Programs on Parrots in Mesoamerica

jack Clinton-Eitniear


Only a decade ago, one could count on one hand the number of field projects involving parrots. Most effort was being placed on the Caribbean species of Amazona parrots while some mainland studies had begun, principally on macaws, in Costa Rica and in Peru.

Today, countless projects involving parrots are going on throughout the New World tropics. Nowadays, hardly a country is without a biologist conducting parrot research or an outdoor educator implementing an educa- tional program with a significant emphasis on parrots.

This article will address some longterm parrot studies in Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica and Venezuela. I am hopeful that you will be able to get a "taste" as to the variety of programs going on in the region and be better able to select those projects and organizations worthy of your support, Mexico

The status of parrots in Mexico depends greatly upon the species and geographical location within Mexico under consideration. Rampant habitat alteration coupled with decades of harvesting for the pet trade (internal and external) has resulted in the listing of the Yellow-headed Parrot Amazona oratrix (formerly A. ocbrocephala oratrix) and the Red-crowned Parrot A ma zoria uiri digerialis as threatened in the recent edition of the ICBP/IUCN Red Data Book. This should not be misconstrued to indicate that parrots are, in general, doing poorly throughout the Republic. In the Yucatan Peninsula, both the Whitefronted Amazona albifrons and Yellow-lored Amazons Amazona xantholora have been counted in the thousands at roost sites. While some trapping has been noted, robust parrot populations appear to exist in this part of Mexico.

In the northern border state of Tamaulipas, the future survival of parrots has been the focus of several major efforts. The Mexican biologist Ernesto Enkerlin (a doctoral candidate at Texas A&M University) has been investigating the ecology of the Amazona parrots in northeastern Mexico. After two seasons in the field, knowledge as to the nesting and foraging requirements of Amazon parrots in the region is becoming clearer. In addition to his doctoral research, Enkerlin is working with the Center for the Study of Tropical Birds and the Universidad Autonoma de Tarnaulipas (with funding from the avicultural community) to begin additional aspects of parrot conservation. The possible use of confiscated parrots for re-stocking and/ or re-establishment projects was explored. An educational program has been developed utilizing coloring books and posters. Finally, the possible role that artificial nestboxes might play in bolstering parrot populations was investigated. Both the research and educational outreach projects will be continued into the foreseeable future so long as financial support continues.

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