California parrots are out to populate the nation, starting with the Red-crowned Amazon stars of a new video from CaliforniaFlocks. Move over, wild parrots of Telegraph Hill. You’ve got competition from your feathered friends down south.
Salvatore Angius, the filmmaker behind CaliforniaFlocks, said that he has filmed 13 parrot species in over 30 cities in his quest to raise awareness of the charming birds. The new video may be his best yet, as it captures the personality of two species of wild parrots as they pair up to start their families.
In addition to the Red-crowned Amazons getting busy on an open telephone wire, he also follows a pair of Blue-crowned Conures, a species better known to some film fans from the $23 million 1998 Hollywood feature Paulie.
It’s good to see Red-crowned Amazons (also known as Red-crowned Parrots or Amazona viridigenalis) doing the wild thing. According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature red list, they have been endangered since at least 1994. Their population has collapsed to a few thousand individuals in their native Mexico, probably because of over-collection for the pet trade as well as habitat loss.
However, they have quietly introduced themselves to some areas of the United States, including California’s San Gabriel Valley, where they have been nesting since at least 1973. The California Parrot Project said that they are now thriving so well there that they were added to the official list of California birds in 2001.
Where did they come from? To a certain extent, no one really knows the whole story. A 1991 Los Angeles Times article said that some of the birds may have come from the old Busch Gardens bird collection at the Anheuser-Busch brewery in Van Nuys. Others may have escaped from their owners or been willingly released by smugglers trying to escape the long arm of the law.
Wherever they came from, CaliforniaFlock’s video allows you to experience the beauty and energy of these intelligent parrots, even if you can’t get to the West Coast any time soon. He has a lot more videos of the parrots on his You Tube channel, and I highly recommend them to all parrot lovers.
As the populations fall in Mexico, is California the parrots’ new hope?
[blue-crowned conure photo courtesy 3268zauber at Wikipedia Commons]
It’s homecoming week for two species of endangered parrots, with two different flocks of birds being returned to their homelands on two different continents.
The World Parrot Trust announced Wednesday that 32 African grey parrots that had been illegally smuggled out of Africa and into Bulgaria had arrived at Uganda’s Ngamba Chimpanzee Sanctuary after a three year saga. The birds were originally slipped out of Africa via Lebanon and then taken to Bulgaria where they were seized by customs.
The iconic African grey parrot is considered one of the most intelligent bird species, and it has been heavily over-collected because of its uncanny ability to mimic human speech. Because of heavy trapping and capture, this once common species is rated as “vulnerable” and “decreasing” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
The returned African greys will now undergo a quarantine at the sanctuary. Once they clear the health checks, they will be released back into the wild.
On Tuesday, six blue-throated macaws were flown from the UK to Bolivia, which is the only country in the world where the species exists in the wild. These six birds were never smuggled or held illegally. Instead, they were legally bred at the Paradise Park Zoo in Hayle, England.
The captive-bred blue-throats will help build up the population of a species that numbers around 100 in the wild. It hasn’t yet been determined if it will be best to use them for captive-breeding more blue-throats or if they too should be released back into the wild. Lorena Kempff, the foundation’s director, said that they’re in good condition for either purpose.
The blue-throated macaw was devastated by over-collection for the pet trade in the 1970s and 80s. At one point, the species was thought to be extinct in the wild, but it was rediscovered in 1992 — only to be hard hit by smugglers again. IUCN rates the species as critically endangered because of the combination of a tiny population and a relatively small habitat in the Beni department of Bolivia.
In April 2011, I traveled to a nest site on a partly flooded cattle ranch where I saw a wild pair of blue-throated macaws that were using an artificial nest box provided by the researchers. The babies in the photograph were just days away from fledging and were removed briefly from the box so that technicians could check on their health.
I learned that as long as they’re not hunted or trapped, these endangered parrots can live in harmony with human beings. It’s up to us to bring them safely home.
[photos of wild blue-throated macaw babies by Elaine Radford]
Elderly parrots now have a place to live out their sunset years.
The World Parrot Refuge in Errington has opened a geriatric centre for aging parrots.
Some parrot species can live up to 100 years, outliving their owners. Aging birds can become frail, blind and suffer ill health.
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Centre owner Wendy Huntbatch decided to make a special wing for them. The refuge spent $40,000 to convert an old school portable for the purpose.
Of the 900 parrots the facility has adopted from people who can no longer care for them, 14 elderly birds were moved into the new facility early this week. Some, which are blind, need time to adjust to their new home.
“By the time we’re finished I think we’ll be moving altogether 29 birds,” Huntbatch said.
In old age they can become arthritic, cancerous, even epileptic. “It’s no different than people. We’re getting such a collection of them.”
They become frail and do better separated them from younger, more boisterous and active parrots.
“We spent all our money doing it,” Huntbatch said.
The refuge draws about 10,000 visitors a year.
Â© The Daily News (Nanaimo) 2013
Every time we test blood from new endangered parrot species with small, isolated wild populations, we find Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease (PBFD) virus, a particularly nasty airborne circovirus that destroys the skin and feathers while opening large, painful fissures in the beak that eventually breaks it apart. Cape parrots, black-cheeked lovebirds, Carnaby’s cockatoos, New Caledonian parakeets, Norfolk Island Green Parrot, red-fronted parakeets, swift parrot, orange-bellied parrot, and Echo parakeets are all endangered by catastrophic deforestation and/or widespread capture for the wild-caught bird trade, and ALL have high levels of PBFD virus in the wild population. Is this the “Doomsday Virus” for Endangered parrots?
Our research has demonstrated that PBFd is endemic to the wild Cape parrot population and thus should exist at low levels in the wild. Something has disturbed the balance… This poorly-known virus also attacks the immune system, opening the PBFD-positive parrot to bacterial infections like avian TB, Pseudomonassp., and pneumonia. The first to go are the down feathers, then the crown, breast, rump and eventually all body feathers disintegrate, leaving a naked parrot with just flight feathers. At this advanced stage the parrots are up to 50% under optimal body weight and die of exposure in temperate climates. The virus is airborne and highly-contagious, dispersing into the environment in the excessive feather dust caused by the disintegration of skin and feathers.
Parrots with PBFD have the appearance of being homeless and out of place. Forlorn and dejected by their circumstance more than their condition. It seems that, once a parrot population simply does not fit into their natural habitat anymore and have to abandon preferred food items, nesting trees and even habitat types, this malevolent virus slowly takes over until they cannot survive another day in the wild. The only solution is intervention at all levels with rehabilitation protocols for sick parrots and community-based habitat restoration projects. When beak and feather disease takes over it is time to take action and assist these intelligent birds in finding a new way of living sustainably in the wild again. Parrots are cultural animals that have highly advance vocal chords to support their complex languages of emotion, intention, attraction, information-sharing, kinship and ownership. They share information on food resources, vigilance for predators at feeding sites, safe roosts and breeding sites, as well as the companionship of, for the most part, a highly social bird taxon. African grey parrots have survived in captivity for over 85 years and have demonstrated advanced cognitive abilities by constructing sentences and developing a vocabulary. Most parrots are long-lived and mate for life, maintaining pair bonds through constant allo-preening and mutual affection.
We have been studying an outbreak of PBFD in a wild population of Cape parrots since 2008 and watched infection rates go up to 50% in 2011 and then a staggering 100% in 2011. This was due to a drought that resulted in a very low availability of suitable food resources. It was heart-breaking to follow panicked, sick and starving parrots searching for food. Soon they were turning up dead or unable to fly under trees, in swimming pools, and at clinics. We only managed to save four parrots in 2011 and one in 2012, and hope to do much better next year with more sick parrots expected in the future. We are currently raising funds to build a flight aviary in the Eastern Cape to house parrots during rehabilitation. Our research on PBFD in wild Cape parrots at the Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology with the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology (University of Cape Town) is the most in-depth study of the molecular systematics and activity of the PBFD virus ever undertaken. PhD student, Guy Regnard, has worked tirelessly to analyze and re-analyze all the samples as part of PhD thesis. We are now in a position to develop a vaccine specific to Cape parrots that could be used in the proposed re-introduction of a disease-free population in an area where they have gone locally extinct. We are also planting tens of thousands of indigenous trees in large indigenous fruit orchards or forest plots with local communities to provide alternative food resources within the next 10-15 years. Our project team has already erected over 200 Cape parrot nest boxes in Afromontane forest patches where suitable large hardwoods have been removed. Every year the Cape Parrot Project grows with new partnerships, new opportunities to stimulate positive change for Cape parrots in the wild, new members of the Cape Parrot Project Group, and more people involved. Please share this video and these links with your friends and become part of the revolution…
Great links for additional background information on Cape Parrot Project:
Parrots in Costa Rica mimic each other’s distinct calls to communicate, study finds.
PARROTS IN CAPTIVITY ARE known masters of mimicry, but new research suggests some species of parrot use impersonation to converse with specific birds in the wild.
Scientists from the University of Copenhagen and the University of Aarhus in Denmark studied the vocal behaviour of the orange-fronted conure (Aratinga canicularis), a parrot species found in the forests of Costa Rica.
Researchers were able to identify distinct â€œcontact callsâ€� for each individual parrot. However the study, published last week in the journal PLOS ONE, showed birds that heard their call mimicked through a recording responded faster than those who hadnâ€™t been imitated.
According to Dr Thorsten Balsby from the University of Aarhus, these findings suggest parrots may have developed their gift for mimicry to allow them to single out individuals they wish to communicate with.
Imitation allows parrots to “talk”
â€œImitation gives the parrot an effective communication channel in a network where you have a huge amount of potential receivers,” says Thorsten.
â€œBy mimicking a contact call of another individual you can address your communication to this particular individual.â€�
Orange-fronted conures live in large, dynamic â€œfission-fusionâ€� flocks, where individuals flit in and out. When flocks meet, there can beÂ dozens of birds interacting at the same time while contact calls are exchanged.
Thorsten argues that parrots have developed the ability to communicate in this noisy, constantly-changing environment. “Our research suggests that the fact the parrots have this amazing ability to imitateâ€¦ is probably a result of the social dynamics and the social system that they have,â€� he says.
Researchers are yet to work out why the birds converse with each other in this way. One theory is that the mimicking calls are part of a negotiation about whether flocks should join together, or who should lead the fused flock.
Australian galahs mimic to communicate
Dr Judith Scarl, a conservation biologist who specialises in Australian galahs, says it is likely Australian birds are capable of these behaviours. â€œMany parrot species have similar social systems, including a lot of the Australian cockatoos,â€� she explains.
Judithâ€™s work in south-eastern Australia found that wild galahs (Eolophus roseicapilla), like conures, could morph their contact calls on the spot to match calls played to them in a recording.
â€œThatâ€™s particularly interesting because galahs and orange-fronted conures are in two separate families of parrots, and so weâ€™re talking about evolutionary divergence millions of years ago,â€� she says.
Judith adds that it isn’t clear whether galahs mimic to make contact with a specific bird. â€œWe suspect that it goes beyond just addressing and into some sort of negotiationâ€¦ to indicate that they want to join the flock, or to indicate that they are willing to be subordinate.â€�
Studies have shown that captive parrot species including Australian budgerigars (Melopsittacus undulates) are capable of matching their contact calls to those of other individuals. However this usually happens over a few weeks, not in a single interaction, and itâ€™s unknown whether they would replicate this behaviour in the wild.Â
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As humans, we can start a conversation with someone else and be pretty confident they will know we’re talking to them. This is one of those things that’s so basic we forget to even take it for granted. But this is much, much trickier for parrots — and it might explain their gift for mimicry.
After all, even if we find ourselves in a crowded room, we can always single out a particular person for conversation by walking over to them, saying their name, or — and this is really the “if all else fails option”, but I’ve found it to be effective — shouting and gesturing like a lunatic until the other person finally gets the hint and comes over. But parrots and their relatives — including the the orange-fronted conures, a kind of parakeet found throughout much of Central America — have to get a little more creative if they want to start a conversation with a specific bird in the flock.
Parakeets live in what’s known as a “network environment,” which means lots of different flocks constantly meshing together. While some parrot species seem to have developed “names” for other individuals, in which they use very specific bird calls to indicate they’re talking to one parrot in particular, that isn’t an option for the orange-fronted conures, who interact with hundreds of birds each week.
If you’re a parrot — in which case, congratulations on being able to read and operate the internet — then the smart thing to do in this situation would be to come up with one particular call for yourself, rather than hundreds of different address calls for every other parrot in your flock. That’s exactly what the orange-fronted conures do, and this is where the parrot’s preternatural gift for imitation comes into play.
In order to start a conversation with a specific bird, a parrot simply mimics that bird’s own personal contact call. According to Danish researchers, orange-fronted conures responded significantly quicker in both lab and wild environments when addressed with an imitation of their own call. It’s a rather remarkable idea that each parrot has to mimic someone else if they want to talk to them, particularly if you translated the notion to humans.
As amusing as it is to imagine humans constantly doing bad impressions of each other — and let’s be honest, this is humans we’re talking about, the impressions will be bad — that actually might not be the best comparison. After all, the alternative, in which each bird comes up with hundreds of address calls, is more like the human equivalent of start conversations with other people with descriptive addresses like “You there with the baseball cap and the blue eyes and the bad acne!”, whereas the conures’ contact calls might be more like each person giving themselves a nickname, then expecting to be addressed by that nickname.
The point, I think, is that we should model human interaction on parrots, because it would be hilarious, and possibly lead to fistfights. For another, slightly more scientific takeaway, let’s go to researcher Dr. Thorsten Balsby of the University of Aarhus:
“Many species of parrots live part of the year in flocks. Living in flocks may be challenging and require a flexible vocalization system. The vocal imitation of orange-fronted conures is probably tightly linked to the fission-fusion flock dynamics that results in frequent encounters and interactions with many different individuals. In natural interactions, orange-fronted conures continue to imitate each other after they have established contact. The function of these prolonged imitative interactions is not known yet but may be related to some kind of negotiation regarding the decision to make a flock fuse with another flock.”
By Salvatore Angius
Throughout California, I have filmed thirteen parrot species in over thirty cities to date. Of the current thirteen species of California naturalized parrot flocks filmed, the largest in both flock member population and species diversity occurs in various cities throughout California’s San Gabriel Valley. Pictured here are the endangered Red Crowned Amazon parrot, originally from Central Mexico, they have made their homes in our numerous San Gabriel Valley cities such as Pasadena, Monrovia, Temple City, Arcadia, Rosemead, Duarte,Pomona, Laverne, Covina, West Covina, Azusa and El Monte.
The success that these naturally tropical birds have to survive many decades in California is astonishing. Originally from tropical American countries and India, This success stems mainly finding the right amount of edible, imported landscaping trees and shrubs which are consumed year round.
Another contributing factor to their success is their history. These parrots were descendants of wild caught birds imported during the seventies/eighties while parrot importation was legal and occurred heavily. In other words, these parrots are a far cry from today’s pet parrots which have been humanly dependent and literally hand raised , thus further dulling these wild survival instincts. Parrots are also noted to learn from other flock members while in their flock, making survival easier for them as well.
It is still unclear how these birds first arrived in California, many stories have emerged which include but not limited to: Pet store fires, aviary and circus releases by employees, closing of a popular theme park in Van Nuys, a truck accident overturning numerous wooden cages full of parrots, even reports of parrots flying out of moving airplanes during transportation. Although it seems that these stories are varied and likely to change in the future, one thing that is unlikely to change is the consistent and future presence of these remarkable birds.
I continue to search for these flocks and I have publicly uploaded many of my videos which can be seen on a Youtube channel known as Californiaflocks. My channel’s mission is to raise human awareness and appreciation for the parrots that share our state, while giving viewers insight into the lives of these exotic beauties which fly over our heads.
Excerpt from BIRD TALK Magazine, April 2004 issue, with permission from its publisher, BowTie Magazines, a division of BowTie Inc. To purchase digital back issues of BIRD TALK Magazine, click here.
White-capped Pionus are the smallest of the Pionus species. As their name implies, they have a patch of white feathers above their cere. They have the characteristics that distinguish Pionus from other parrot species: a triangle of red vent feathers under their tail and a wide, fleshy eye ring.
Their colors are muted and much less brilliant as youngsters than they are later in life. In good light, mature white caps are a riot of iridescent blue, gold and green. Much about them is subdued and quiet, except their personalities. Among Pionus, these small birds are the most feisty.
I asked white-capped Pionus owners what set these birds apart? Pionus owners found these 10 traits in common:
1) Pionus wheeze when frightened. The sound is like an attack of asthma, which may startle those unfamiliar with this behavior. Some Pionus owners have never heard the sound, as it is a rare occurrence among pet Pionus that are exposed to a wide variety of things in their daily lives. Allison’s female Pionus, Sophie, wheezed, most memorably, when someone moved a lamp and its cord wriggled on the ground.
By Gina Cioli/BowTie Inc
White-capped Pionus are the smallest Pionus.
2) Expect feisty behavior. As Barbara reports about her 18-month-old white-capped Pionus, “His name is Spunky, and it fits him very well. He is sometimes cautious but rarely is frightened of things.”
White-capped Pionus look for trouble and are willing to take control if you relinquish it. When you’re raising a white cap, establish rules and set boundaries. Make an effort to socialize your bird. When Pionus are given up by their owners, it’s often for aggressive behavior they’ve developed from a lack of play, love and discipline.
Helen has three such birds that she adopted into her home. She explains what happened in their first homes: “I have a 2-year-old male whose previous owner had a baby, and the bird was ignored and she lost control. The bird became quite territorial and possessive, he started biting and attacking.” In his new home, he tussles with two other Pionus and gets flight time and play time.
Helen said of her three white-capped Pionus, “I’ve often thought of them as crows — they will steal and hide anything! All of mine are quite aggressive most of the time, that is why they were given up. I have chosen to leave them to their own personalities and not try to ‘rehab’ them. Well, initially I tried, but they drew blood one too many times, so I told them to just go ahead and ‘be birds’ and I would enjoy them from a distance. I wish you could see them in full flight in the house. The colors are just beautiful.”
3) Shy around others. You can’t expect your white-capped Pionus to be the life of the party when you have guests visiting. Most owners reported that their birds were shy at first when meeting new people. They do warm up, if properly introduced.
According to Kim, Twinkie is shy around new people but will step up for most of them without aggression. It makes a difference to socialize your white cap so that it is used to being around people. Allison’s Sophie talks to their cat and makes occasional trips to Sunday school to visit with children. Many white cap owners remark that their bird has a favorite person and dislikes some people.
4) Sleep is important. Your Pionus will appreciate the opportunity to get a good 11 or 12 hours sleep every night. Barbara’s Spunky “sometimes climbs in his cage and closes the door to let us know he’s ready to sleep.” You know how you feel without enough sleep – grouchy and irritable. The same is true of your bird.
5) Showering is fun! Pionus appreciate showering with their people or being misted regularly to take good care of their gorgeous feathers. Sometimes a light mist is enough shower, while at other times they like to get soaked to the skin. Gayle, who has a 10 to 15-year-old female white-capped Pionus, stated, “She loves to hang upside down on her cage and spread her wings out as far as she can. She will do sort of a dance until I get tired of spraying her.”
Barbara’s Spunky likes to as well and, as she says, “The only thing he doesn’t like is getting out. He loves for us to blow him dry, and he vocalizes very loudly when we do it.”
6) Veggies can be treats and toys. Pionus love to eat, and they have to watch their waistline. They love nuts, eggs and other high-fat foods, but these are best served as occasional treats.
Fortunately, white-capped Pionus also love to eat vegetables and some fruit. Gayle’s Tommy Girl eats most things. Barbara has a long list of the veggies and fruits her Pionus Spunky enjoys: veggies: kale, mustard greens, collard greens, broccoli, cauliflower, snow pea pods, carrots, celery, black-eyed peas and Granny Smith apples. For entertainment, white cap owners reported that skewering veggies on a kabob was a favorite toy.
7) White-capped Pionus are not champion talkers, but they do often talk. Their voice is described as garbled, soft or robotic. Both males and females talk, according to their owners.
Helen said of her talking male white cap, “He sings ‘Bogie, Bogie Boo, I love you.’ The ‘I love you’ part is hard to understand, but the ‘Bogie, Bogie Boo’ is outstanding.” Allison’s 4-year-old female white cap uses language appropriately and has a special name for her mom, whom she calls “Chili pepper.”
8) Dangle those toys! Provide your Pionus with toys to hang on, wooden toys to chew on and baskets or boxes of toys to pick up and drop, a favorite Pionus activity. When asked about toys, Helen remarked, “If it dangles and swings in the air, it is theirs!” Gayle said that Tommy Girl actually likes cockatiel-size toys. Spunky has a toy box, “He can perch on the side of the toy box. He picks out his favorite toy and climbs up to the back of the couch and chews on the toy. When he drops it, he comes back down, gets another and starts the process all over again.”
9) Many white-capped Pionus owners reported that their birds’ vocalizations were clicks and clucks, with rare screaming activity. That’s a plus, and makes it possible to keep these parrots in apartment-living situations.
10) White-capped Pionus are independent by nature. They can play quietly on their own. Favorite activities are sitting on or in their cages and watching activities around them. A white-capped Pionus can be very happy just being in a room with you, as you go about other activities.
The type of physical touching they enjoy most is having their head and neck scratched. When they’re molting, a pet owner is likely to be solicited to provide quite a bit of this activity.
Among Pionus species, these white-capped Pionus are the most feisty.
By Gina Cioli/BowTie Inc./Courtesy Amy Baggs
The greater vasa parrot is the larger of the two vasa parrots.
Two of the most fascinating parrot species are in the genus Coracopsis: C. vasa, the greater vasa parrot, and C. nigra, the lesser vasa parrot or black parrot. Native to Madagascar and surrounding islands, vasa parrots are the largest parrots in their natural range. An adult greater vasa parrot’s body size (500 grams) is comparable to a large Congo African grey parrot.
However, vasa parrots have extremely long necks, legs and tails, giving them the appearance of a much larger bird. The plumage is a subtle grayish-black and often reflects bluish hues in sunlight. The ceres and eye rings are naked. At first glance, these birds look as if they might be a strange cross of crow, pigeon and pheasant until you see the signature hookbill of a parrot. Characterized as extremely curious and active, these birds are a joy to watch. When asked what sparked her interest in vasa parrots, Connecticut resident Timothee Graze, current owner of three pairs of greaters and thought to have produced the first generation from a domestic pair of greater vasa parrots states, “They’re different.” And different they are!
Vasa Parrot Seasonal Changes
During the October through December breeding season, both male and female vasa parrots exhibit dramatic visible changes. For starters, the female vasa parrot’s feathers actually change color from dark gray to light brown without undergoing a molt. She also sheds the feathers on top of her head to the point of baldness. The exposed head and facial skin of both genders turns from a pale white to a mustard yellow color. Beaks change from dark gray to horn-colored, and the hen’s beak becomes noticeably swollen. Both experience enlarged cloacas, and the male’s inverts or prolapses to 2 inches in length. Imagine the observer’s surprise if not familiar with these peculiarities!
Females are dominant and demanding, even to the point of aggression. In fact, since a single male vasa parrot has such a difficult time supplying the mating and feeding needs of the female vasa parrot, some breeders have been known to “pair” a hen with two males. It is reported that hens in the wild have been observed copulating and accepting food from several males, too. For this island-dwelling genus, it is all about survival.
Growing Up Fast
The incubation period for greater vasa parrots is only 17 to 18 days, the shortest of any large parrot. By comparison, the similar-sized African grey parrot’s eggs hatch in about 29 days. Upon hatching, chicks grow incredibly fast. A small pouch of skin develops under the hen’s lower mandible and is filled with a clear, greasy, almost soupy substance that is fed to the neonates.
According to Graze, vasa parrots can produce chicks weighing more than 500 grams at only 6 weeks of age. Fledging usually occurs at about 7 weeks while, again in comparison, African grey parrots tend to first leave the nest at 10 to 11 weeks. Why the need to spend such a short time in the nest? No one seems to know for sure, but it is of course suspected to be the result of a high likelihood of predation.
The Vasa Parrot Pet
The fact that vasa parrots don’t form particularly tight pair bonds means some of the challenges we’re accustomed to dealing with among other parrots are lessened. They are not as likely to be fond of only one person or to become overprotective of that person.
According to Rusty Rusin, lead aviculturist of the Tracy Aviary in Utah, vasa parrots are very active and need a great deal of behavioral enrichment. Rusin states that vasa parrots are fairly cold-hardy and do fine during Utah’s winters. By all accounts, these birds are extremely intelligent, but they also know the value of some good old foolish play and clowning around.
They love baths – dust baths, water baths, sunbathing – it doesn’t seem to matter. Some are good talkers, and most enjoy cuddling and being held. Their natural calls are almost donkey-like snorts and whines, and they’re generally considered to be “quieter” parrots. The volume and noise level does, however, increase dramatically during the breeding season. They do best when kept in an aviary or a very large cage due to their active nature and long tails. Toys are, of course, a must. Both chewable and mechanical toys are useful for keeping the vasa mind, body and beak stimulated.
Vasa parrots are relatively rare in American aviculture. It’s estimated that only a dozen or so breeders in the U.S. work with these beauties. Although not widely kept as pets in the past, in recent years there have been enough successful breedings for a slow emergence of companion vasa parrots. If one is lucky enough to find vasa parrots available, they are moderately priced considering their rarity in aviculture.
Look Toward The Future
Deforestation, due to both human destruction and hurricanes, poses a severe threat to the natural habitat of the vasa parrot. Only a sliver of deep forest remains along one side of Madagascar. Sadly, in addition, vasa parrots are sometimes viewed as pests in their own homeland because of their habit of foraging maize crops. One species of lesser vasa parrots, C. nigra barklyi, from Seychelles, a tiny offshore island of Madagascar, is critically endangered. However, thanks to the efforts of individual breeders as well as organized breeding programs in the U.S., Europe and the Philippines, there’s hope for the future of these unique living treasures.
THE African Grey parrot is at risk of going extinct because of the scourge of illegal trapping and trading of the species, the Avicultural Association of Namibia (AAN) has warned. AAN, a self-policing voluntary group of bird breeders, is exhibiting at the Windhoek Agricultural and Industrial Show this week to enlighten people about the dangers of illegal bird trade and is assisted by the Namibia Animal Rehabilitation Research and Education Centre (Narrec) in its campaign to raise public awareness.
Narrec together with AAN is highlighting the issue of illegal trade through posters and flyers displayed at the stall.
Because of the voluntary nature of AAN not everyone who associate with the group adheres to proposed norms and standards and these standards may even be ignored by its members, most of whom breed and trade with parrot species.
In order to trade with wildlife, a permit is required from the Ministry of Environment and Tourism and in order to breed and sell parrot species the birds must have permanent identification.
This is done with a closed ring fitted over the baby bird’s foot so that once the bird has grown the ring can no longer slip off the foot. The ring provides an identification proving that the bird was bred in captivity. This method is very poorly enforced and many members of the public do not seem to know that buying a parrot without a closed ring is buying a bird that may have been illegally caught in the wild.
Aviculture is one of the greatest threats to parrot species globally. A case in point is the extinction of the Spix’s Macaw, a beautiful blue bird poached to extinction in the 1990s just across the Atlantic Ocean in Brazil. It is the ease of transporting birds, the lack of local inspection and enforcement by authorities and the lack of information given to the general public that puts all bird species at risk of unscrupulous action.
Africa has its own parrot species at risk and on a continental scale the African Grey parrot is most at risk from the scourge of illegal trapping and trading.
Jamie Gilardi, the executive director of the World Parrot Trust, writes: “If you care about wildlife, nature, your pets, our planet, and all things good, you need to support the suspension of all trade in grey parrots from Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Thousands of these long-lived, intelligent parrots are ripped out of the wild every year, packed into cramped travel crates, fed on mouldy peanuts, and then sold into the lucrative wildlife trade.
“Many die from exhaustion or fatal injury in nets and snares or from dehydration, disease and stress in rudimentary wooden crates when being stored, transported and sold by local trappers. Even more die in crammed travel crates in transit to rural markets where thousands of grey parrots are collected by exporters and quarantined until they are sold, euthanised or die….”
Namibia is one of the countries through which birds are trafficked, with a busy port through which birds can be moved around the globe. .
On a national scale Namibia’s five parrot species are all at risk of illegal trade and this trade can only be limited by the factor of the connection between demand and supply. The more people are aware of the inhumane treatment of animals during trafficking operations, the closer we can get to blocking the demand for wild caught birds.
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