Home > Miscellaneous, Wild Parrots > Blue -thoated Macaw news! (..and horse news)

Blue -thoated Macaw news! (..and horse news)

Back to blogging again! I haven’t been blogging too much lately as I’ve been busy with a new job (I’m a wildlife biologist for an environmental consulting firm now) and I’ve been spending a lot of time working with this guy (the white/grey one):

HorsesYes, I bought a horse. His name is Amigo and he’s an Arabian/Andalusian cross. He’s about 12-13 years old.

Onto parrots: here’s a news article about Blue-throated Macaws out of Canada. Blue-throated Macaws look similar to the much more common Blue and Gold Macaws, but they are smaller, lack the green on the head, and have ‘blue’ beards instead of black ones. The feathers on the face are also blue on a Blue-throated Macaw (they are black on a blue and gold).  Blue-throated Macaws are critically endangered and have a restricted range in the wild, as they are found only in north-central Bolivia.

I hope this release works out well. I admit I’d be very hesitant to release a bird that’s been living in captivity for 14 years into the wild. Perhaps they’ll wait and see which birds seem most suitable for release before letting them go? This is certainly a very generous move on the part of the breeder of these birds.

New life for endangered macaws from Cowichan


Blue-throated Macaw

Blue-throated Macaw

According to the World Parrot Trust, for every blue-throated macaw in the wild, there are 3,750 African elephants, 200 rhinos, 12 giant pandas, and six mountain gorillas.

That’s about to change, however slightly, with the release of 17 birds raised in Shawnigan Lake.

Those birds are among 27 who are leaving April Sanderson’s Shawnigan Lake aviary this week. Five breeding pairs will remain in Toronto, where African Lion Safari will take over Sanderson’s breeding program, while the majority will eventually head to Bolivia to be gradually released into their natural habitat.

It is the result of a lifetime with parrots.

“I’ve had parrots since I was a child,” said Sanderson, who will still have three blue-throated macaws – her pets – when all is said and done. “I got my first one when I was nine, and I’ve worked with them all my life.”

Sanderson started breeding parrots for the pet trade, but soon discovered that wasn’t a business she wanted to be part of, particularly since many pet parrots end up in unfortunate circumstances.

“A lot of people don’t know how to care for parrots,” she noted.

Not wanting to give up working with the birds altogether, Sanderson decided to breed them for the World Parrot Trust’s conservation program.

That has involved an extreme amount of permits and contracts, and the birds have all been quarantined at her aviary for the last five years, with no contact with other parrots or even other parrot owners.

It has also required at least three hours of labour a day, seven days a week, limiting family holidays, and cost hundreds of dollars a month to keep them fed and sheltered.

“It has been hard for my family to understand,” Sanderson admitted.

Sanderson’s five breeding pairs represent nine different bloodlines, probably one of the most diverse breeding groups in North America, which will help prevent inbreeding in the wild.

Parrot release programs are controversial, which Sanderson readily acknowledges.

“There are two teams,” she explained.

“One wants to protect the existing population, and the other wants to release more birds.”

The wild population of blue-throated macaws is estimated at around 125, within an area roughly the size of Vancouver Island. Breeding pairs usually have just one chick per year. The survival rates of those few chicks are low, and Sanderson believes releases are necessary.

“With numbers so low, I don’t believe they can recover without human intervention,” she said.

The efforts in Bolivia are modeled after the successful Ara Project, which has helped reintroduce two species of macaw in Costa Rica.

The birds are closely watched, and will begin their time in South America in huge aviaries, where they will be able to build their flight wings, transition to the wild diet, and get accustomed to the climate.

Despite all her hard work, and that of everyone involved in Toronto and Bolivia, Sanderson has accepted that there won’t be a 100 per cent survival rate once the birds are released, but still feels it’s worth it.

“They’re not all going to make it,” she said.

“I’m not being naive about it. I know some of them are going to die, but what are the species’ chances? Our generation could be the last one to see them.”

© Cowichan Valley Citizen – See more at: http://www.cowichanvalleycitizen.com/news/new-life-for-endangered-macaws-from-cowichan-1.1324494#sthash.DMPaZCoB.dpuf

  1. November 16, 2014 at 5:28 am

    This is certainly interesting. What little I have learned about release programs is that they are very complicated and parrots are no exception. I’ve read a paper in the past about work with thick-billed parrots in the SW US & Mexico. They’ve had some successes but also failures due to the birds’ abilities or lack thereof to avoid predators and find food. I’d love to know more about this with the Blue-throats.

    When will they be released in Bolivia? Do they train the birds near wild populations? It does seem nerve wracking to imagine how birds raised in captivity for so long will fair in the wild jungles.

    Thanks for sharing this, I hadn’t come across this info before. Oh and I’m happy to have found your blog and that you are still blogging!!

    • November 16, 2014 at 5:54 pm

      I agree – parrot release programs are complicated! I believe a lot of the thick-billed parrots were taken by raptors. They also eat pine nuts and captive birds often didn’t know how to open the pine cones to get the nuts.

      I’m not sure when they plan to release the blue-throats. I do know that they will acclimatize them to the local climate in large aviaries but other than that I don’t know too many details. I agree it is nerve-wracking to think about how they will do in the wild.

      • November 16, 2014 at 6:26 pm

        Yes I do believe I heard that, that they were taken by raptors as well as the fact about the pine nuts. In fact I think several weeks ago I saw a video of Parrots in an aviary where they were given pine cones and only the wild caught birds knew how to take them apart.

        I look forward to that update whenever you get one about their progress. Do you know how they’re kept prior to moving to Bolivia? It would make sense that they be kept outside (weather permitting of course) in large aviaries and encouraged to find food by say giving them novel items. There’s so many factors that need to be considered I’d imagine it’s at least a bit stressful on everyone – bird and human – involved!

        Thanks for your reply!

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