Published on October 22, 2018

Increased Efforts to Protect Yellow-headed Parrot Proving Successful

Yellow-headed Parrot flying out of nextbox © Andrew Williams
Yellow-headed Parrot © Andrew Williams

The Yellow-headed Parrot (Amazona oratrix) is on the IUCN Red List and is considered in danger of extinction across its range. Additionally, the distribution of the race Amazona oratrix belizensis is primarily restricted to the coastal pine savannas of eastern Belize.

Population Surveys & Assessment

Checking a Yellow-headed Parrot nestbox
Checking a nestbox

In northern Belize, population surveys conducted in 2016 and 2017 by Programme for Belize (PfB) located approximately 300 Yellow-headed Parrots in the Rio Bravo Conservation and Management Area—suggesting that the reserve is one of the last strongholds for this bird.

PfB evaluations found that the Yellow-headed Parrots are in good health and free of disease. A total of 47 nests were monitored from February to May/June 2018. The chicks from 29 nests were confirmed to have fledged successfully, but unfortunately 11 nests were lost to predators. Of the 20 artificial nests established in the reserve, only four were used by Yellow-headed Parrots. The remainder was used by other parrot species.

In southern Belize, Toledo Institute for Development and Environment (TIDE) monitored the forests of the Maya Mountain Marine Corridor within Payne’s Creek National Park, Deep River Forest Reserve, Swasey Bladen Forest Reserve, and Bladen Nature Reserve. A total of 31 nests were located in 2018—an increase over 2017—with a total of 83 eggs found in these nests. A total of 21 parrots fledged in 2018.

The highest cause of nest failure was predation. This included predation of the eggs or nestlings, as well as predation of a parent that then caused nest failure. A small number of nests were abandoned by the parents. Other than natural predation and habitat loss, poaching is the next largest threat to the nesting success of the Yellow-headed Parrot.

Expanding Protection Strategies

Closeup of Yellow-headed Parrot
Yellow-headed Parrot

Both TIDE and PfB dedicate a huge effort toward the protection of the Yellow-headed Parrot, its habitat (the pine savannas), and the protection of the nests until the chicks have fledged successfully.

  • In southern Belize, when chicks were determined to be in danger of being poached, they were extracted and transferred to Belize Bird Rescue. These birds were raised and released back to where they were extracted the following spring. A total of 7 chicks were extracted in 2017, and 23 were extracted in 2018.
  • PfB’s rangers established a camping patrol that monitored and protected the Yellow-headed Parrot nests 24 hours a day until the last chick fledged on June 16, 2018. Only one nest was lost to poaching.
  • TIDE’s educational outreach programs in nearby communities are essential to reduce the amount of poaching that occurs in the protected lands.

Given the threats to this species, and the generally low reproductive success of parrots, it is essential that we raise funds so they can continue protecting the endangered Yellow-headed Parrot in Belize.

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