wild yellow-faced parrots termiteria

The Mysterious and Threatened Yellow-faced Parrot

Not much is known about the mysterious yellow-faced parrot in Paraguay, except that their populations are threatened. They are unusual in that they nest in termiteria, on the ground, and have unusual feather patterns and colors that seem to change as they age. We were awed as we sought to understand them.

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Location of yellow-headed parrots

Hope Still Flies Over Guatemala

In November 0f 2013 I was surprised to learn from a couple of birders that the yellow-headed amazon parrot (Amazona oratrix) historically occurred in Guatemala. This surprised me because I had not seen it on any of the major lists of parrots for this area, although the species does occur right over the borders into […]

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Resurrecting Hope in Conservation: With De-extinction, Compassion, or Both?

In late March 2013 the subject of de-extinction went public in a variety of ways, including the cover story for April’s National Geographic.  At nearly the same time, 25 scientists gathered at National Geographic’s headquarters in Washington, DC for a forum called  “TEDxDeExtinction.”  De-extinction as a new term is where molecular biology and conservation biology […]

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Overpopulation: More Myth Than Science?

  Another year has turned, during which there are approximately 62 million more people in the world.  The 7 billion mark was passed in March leading up to 7.062 billion people as of today. Given this seemingly never ending growth of the human population, do you agree with the often expressed sentiment that all the […]

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Future Extinctions Can Be Stopped

Future Extinctions Can Be Stopped

A remarkable paper came out recently that puts into perspective the cost it would take to save the planet.  In this paper, which was published in Science, the authors found that stopping all future extinctions would cost about $80 billion a year.  These funds would cover the $4 billion to lower the extinction risk for […]

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Choosing Which Species Go Extinct

Choosing Which Species Go Extinct

This past weekend I attended the International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.  This is my first encounter with this organization,  and I was pleased to meet the leaders of this organization as I experienced a warm, welcoming, and passionate atmosphere at the conference.  While there I presented two workshops:  Ethics of Wildlife Medicine […]

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A Species Recovery Plan for An Extinct Species

A Species Recovery Plan for An Extinct Species

Last night I saw the movie, “Ghost Bird,” about the recent sightings (and following controversy surrounding the legitimacy of those findings) of the Ivory Billed Woodpecker (IBW). This movie brought up so many “what ifs” in my mind. What if we knew then in the 1930’s what we know now? Even a small group of […]

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[caption id="attachment_4904" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Hoatzin[/caption] In less than two weeks I will be traveling to Guyana to explore the possibilities of psittacine research and avitourism there. I go as the guest of Foster Parrots to this fascinating land that is unique among South American countries in that they speak English and still allow legal capture and trade in parrots. I am delighted to go to see what I can do to help, and also to see beauty and to marvel at the birds and peoples there. One bird I have always wanted to see is the Hoatzin, the national bird of Guyana. What intrigues me is that it is unique among birds in having an enlarged crop used for fermentation of a vegetable matter, much like the digestive system of mammalian ruminants. This species also is somewhat unusual in that its chicks have claws on two of their wing digits. Claws are also present in ratites, gamebirds, waterfowl, divers, storks and kin, finfoots, owls, New World vultures, the Secretary bird Sagittarius serpentarius, waders and many others. Not only do birds have claws, but also spurs, spikes, and clubs. These characteristics occur on their appendages, with spikes and clubs located where their wing terminates into what are really hands. Prehistoric birds had rather impressive developments of these anatomical structures, capable of great harm to others, as do several species today. Writes Darren Naish of modern species, "Angry waterfowl, chickens, raptors and gulls can be real nasty: powerful and gutsy enough to fight off and injure (even kill) mammals bigger than they are. Indeed, last month a man was killed by a rooster in central California. Chickens (Gallus gallus domesticus) naturally have spurs on their legs, and in this case a knife had been attached to its limb to augment its chances in an illegal cockfight. "Cockfighting is an illegal sport in the United States, in which specially bred roosters are put into a ring and encouraged to fight until one is incapacitated or killed." [caption id="attachment_4905" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Knife Attached to Rooster Spur[/caption] Like humans, with artificial accoutrements, birds can kill. We tend to do so with a variety of dangerous objects, including guns, saws, factories, cars, traps, and cages. Hoatzin's shed their claws at about 100 days of age. Perhaps in time we humans will shed our propensity to harm, and the danger of extinction at our hands will go extinct. This is the dream, and the goal of our journey to Guyana. Stay tuned here to see what we find, and if I can indeed see a Hoatzin. [caption id="attachment_4906" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Fighting Men, Fighting Birds (Bali Cockfighting)[/caption]

Danger of Extinction To Go Extinct?

In less than two weeks I will be traveling to Guyana to explore the possibilities of psittacine research and avitourism there. I go as the guest of Foster Parrots to this fascinating land that is unique among South American countries in that they speak English and still allow legal capture and trade in parrots. I am […]

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The Good News and the Bad News of Conservation

The Good News and the Bad News of Conservation

The bad news is that 26,000 vertebrates are “red listed” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The good news that delegates from almost 200 nations have been meeting at the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) held in Nagoya, Japan for eleven days to set targets to combat the […]

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