Startling Discovery on Ometepe Island, Nicaragua

A pair of yellow-naped amazons, one of which has yellow beyond his or her nape.

A pair of yellow-naped amazons, one of which has yellow beyond his or her nape.

When I first went to Ometepe Island, Nicaragua in November, 2013 I was shown a site where Salvadora Morales and Norlan Zambrana Morales had been conducting counts of yellow-naped parrots in the Peña Oculta forest near Playa Santa Domingo.  I admit to being totally bewildered about the parrots on the island during that visit. Parrots were flying into the forest for the night, and also leaving the forest, so was it a foraging area, a regional roost site, a nesting area, or all three?  I also saw birds flying in pairs, families, flocks, and alone, indicating that it could be breeding season, or post breeding season, or both.  It only got stranger from there, as I discovered a nest cavity where the female spent the night, which usually confirms that there are eggs are young chicks in the nest. But in November?  The rest of the yellow-naped populations in Mexico and Central America, at least that we know of, lay eggs in January and February and have fledglings mostly in April and early May.  To compound this mystery, we also heard from the local people that there were two distinct breeding seasons on the island – some parrots fledged chicks in December and others in April.

 

Paso Pacifico climbers on Ometepe Island. Thanks to them!

Paso Pacifico climbers on Ometepe Island. Thanks to them!

Since that first trip in 2013 we have hoped to understand what is going on here exactly.  We have conducted island wide counts of parrots, trying to understand their population status. We have a good idea of how many there are, but not what they are doing and what might be endangering them.  Our plans, therefore, are to locate nests and document their success, and poaching rate (which is usually very high throughout Central America).  Only recently have we been able to locate nests on the island, and they are in Peña Oculta.  Thanks to the help of Paso Pacifico who lent their tree climbers and parrot biologists, we were able to climb the nests trees. Indeed there were yellow-naped chicks, some ready to fledge and others more than a month away from fledging.

 

Studying wild yellow-naped amazons on Ometepe, nearly at the age of fledging

Studying wild yellow-naped amazons on Ometepe, nearly at the age of fledging

This is a startling confirmation of what could be a unique population, and perhaps even more so if we find that on the same island, other subpopulations of this same species of parrot breed at other times.

We will seek in 2016 to study and monitor nest sites throughout the island so that we can understand the birds, and then develop a conservation plan that suits these birds, and people, where they are.

I give special thanks to all that have helped with this project over the years: Flora and Fauna International, Paso Pacifico (who give thanks to their funders, Loro Parque Fundación and USFS-IITF), Lafeber Conservation for leading the way with funding, One Earth Conservation, Salvadora Morales, Norlan Zambranas, and the local island biologists known as the LOCOS.