Update on Our Projects 2010-2011

Mesoamerican Project Acknowledgment:  Funded by Lafeber Company, LoraKim Joyner, Wildlife Conservation Society, Gainesville Bird Fanciers, Instituto para la Ciencia y la Conservción de la Biodiversidad en Honduras, Universidad Pedagógica Nacional Francisco Morazan, Born Free, United Nations Development Fund for La Moskitia, Honduras, American Museum of Natural History

Overall Impact

Without Lafeber Conservation and Wildlife (LCW) the clinical pathology testing of wild Scarlet Macaw chicks in Guatemala would not have happened this year. We have been instrumental in developing in-country capacity for macaw conservation in this country.  LCW support has made it possible to initiate Yellow-naped Amazon conservation in Guatemala.  LCW has served as a nucleus for psittacine conservation in Honduras, without whose financial support, consultation, and motivation we would not have the working group for preserving the people and parrots of La Moskitia, Honduras.


Objectives Accomplished 2010-2011:

1. Dr. LoraKim Joyner gave two presentations “Rescue, Rehabilitation, and Release” and “Human Dimensions of Avian Conservation,” once in Tegucigalpa to the Director of ICF (an agency whose rough counterpart is the that of the Forester Service and USFWS in the USA) and once to the ICF employees in Pt. Limpira. This presentation along follow up discussion afterwards sparked “action steps” on how to deal with the heavy poaching of parrots in Honduras and to take care of confiscated birds.

2.  Met with the President Elect of the Universidad Pedagógica Nacional Francisco Morazan, (National Autonomous University of Honduras) to discuss how we could educate students at their university in conservation biology. This meeting was followed up by Dr. Joyner and collaborators facilitating a morning’ seminar on conservation presented to their students at the Pt. Limpira campus.

3.  Helped prepare for and facilitate a conservation education and awareness program for the primary school in Rus, Rus and to the whole community of Mistuk, Honduras.

4. Conducted a collaborative field investigation of the status of the Scarlet Macaw (Ara macao) in La Moskitia, Honduras and evaluation of nest and chick health, including field instruction in conservation medicine.

5. Grew the capacity of a long term working group to investigate and stabilize population of psittacines in La Moskitia through teaching at universities, ongoing field investigation and teaching, fund raising, population monitoring, nest protection, native community organization and stabilization, establishment of biological research station in Mabita.  Visited Scarlet Macaw release site at Gulf of Fonseca to develop working group relationships.

6. Initiated and lent support to the communities of Rus Rus and Mabita organizing “parrot patrols” to protect their remaining parrot nests June – July 2011.

7. Documented status of parrots, ecosystems, and people through pictures, video, and internet reporting (Lafeber Conservation and Wildlife blog, Liberating Wings Twitter, Lafeber Conservation and Wildlife Facebook page, and Lafeber Conservation YouTube channel).

8. Advised ICF personnel on the care and rehabilitation of confiscated parrots and treated Scarlet Macaws confiscated in La Moskitia.

9.  Consulted and supported a film production company, Dogs Life Productions, which is making a documentary “Free Flight” about the people and parrots of La Moskitia (heard about the issue through Lafeber Conservation and Wildlife YouTube channel.

10.  Fundraised for parrot conservation in Honduras through “Adopt a Nest Program” and through staffing exhibition booths, giving presentations, and advertising through blogs and fund raising sites.

11.  Collected feathers from nests and chicks for genetic analysis in collaboration with Kari Schmidt of the American Museum of Natural History.

12.   Presented “Human Dimensions of Avian Conservation” and copresented “Preliminary Evaluation of Scarlet Macaw Nests in the Savannas of La Moskitia, Honduras” at the 6th Mesoamerican Symposium for Psittacine Conservation (Mesoamerican Society for Biology and Conservation), November 2010.

Findings: We surveyed 20 nest trees, collecting data about the nest tree and cavity itself, as well as performing a complete chick health exam which included measuring chicks for biometric data.


Of these 20 previous nest trees: 16 were active Scarlet Macaw nests (3 were completely inactive, one was an Amazon nest).  17 had evidence of current and/or past poaching (artificial entrances made by hatchets to remove chicks and climbing spike punctures in the bark)

Of these 16 active nests:

  • 8 currently active with chicks
  • 5 poached
  • 3 fledged

Of these 8 currently active nests with chicks:

  • 9 chicks examined (chicks were 5-10 weeks of age)
  • 4 chicks unexamined (unable to safely remove from cavity)


Of these 9 chicks examined:

  • 4 had mites (three with levels significant
  • enough to treat)
  • None had fly strike larvae

7 were thin (one of these was exceptionally thin and had evidence of respiratory disease)

2 were had higher body scores (not thin)

2 had significant stress bars across the secondary coverts (all chicks had stress bars)


While surveying the 20 nest trees, we saw 32 flying Scarlet Macaws, and of these we saw 2 families (groups of 3 macaws flying together).  Some of these birds we may have counted twice.



These birds have a decreased population size since 2005 (according to sightings by Héctor Portillo Reyes) and are experiencing severe reproductive limits due to poaching.  There are also threats from fire, and the thinness suggests possible malnutrition due to disease, lack of feeding sources, or behavior stress impacting parental feeding.

Significant human security issues continue to hamper conservation practices, but seems less of a personnel threat to conservationists in the area, although native people continue to receive threats to their lives. The native communities are more organized and are slowly returning to their communities they fled the previous year.  The leaders of two of these communities promised amongst themselves and with the working group to protect their birds, which in so doing, will also help preserve their culture and lands. Land that has traditionally been theirs and which contained nests we studied last year, has been stolen from them and is currently accessible.  A broad plan incorporating these native lands in a national park might be completed within two year, which might allow for them to regain this land, and to protect themselves and the parrots.

Next Steps:

1.  Lafeber Conservation and Wildlife will continue to work with various agencies to build capacity for parrot conservation through conducting research, fund raising, film production, publicity, and consulting/teaching


1.  Consulted with Wildlife Conservation Society’s Scarlet Macaw conservation program in areas of conservation medicine,  pediatric nutrition and feeding, disease surveillance of psittacines (wild and captive), and field laboratory techniques.

2.  Set up mobile field laboratories so as to process blood samples from all the wild chicks this year. We sampled 22 birds and processed their samples, which primarily included hematological data.  Blood parasite, serum chemistry, and genetic analysis will be done in the USA once we obtain the permits (checking for health, disease, nutritional status, and genetic relatedness and vigor).

3.  Donated Nutristart for the feeding of wild chicks so that they could be supported until they were ready to be placed into a wild nest.

4.  Conducted two in-country population counts and also hired a biologist to conduct Yellow-nape roost counts on a monthly basis in the south coast of Guatemala. We used this data and data from the 1990s roost counts to inform the international analysis of whether to change the Yellow-napes stats from “least vulnerable” to at least “threatened.”

5.  Continued to support and grow the Yellow-naped Working Group and wrote several grants for conservation of this species with ARCAS.

6.  Donated to WCS conservation medical kit:  materials and supplies for hematology study (including a field centrifuge).

7. Documented status of parrots, ecosystems, and people through pictures, video, and internet reporting (Lafeber Conservation and Wildlife blog, Liberating Wings Twitter, Lafeber Conservation and Wildlife Facebook page, and Lafeber Conservation YouTube channel).

8.  Hired a veterinary student to enter clinical pathology data from wild Yellow-naped Amazon chicks collected 1993-1995.  Research to be presented at the AAZV conference,


1.  We are still analyzing the blood work for clinical pathology parameters, as we have yet to obtain the permits to bring the samples into the U.S.A.  We did find anemia in the chicks with external mites.  Our greatest success was in working out the many details of how to collect and process samples in “the field” and consider this “pilot year” as a sound foundation for future and regular health surveillance.



2.      We analyzed the data from the only Yellow-naped Amazon population monitoring project in Guatemala.  This is a roost area that includes The first set of data includes 51 counts from March 9, 1993 until July 18, 1995. We counted once a month, and every 3 months we counted 4 times within one week.  The lowest numbers at the roost site did occur during the breeding season.

Min:  71

Max:  254

Mean:  158

Median:  160

St. Deviation  48

We began counting again at this same roost site in March 2009. Two of the biggest roost trees had been felled due to sugar cane, and the field had been converted from cattle pasture to sugar cane. There are still 3 large roost trees standing, and several smaller ones.  We have looked around the area in a nearby finca, St. Anita where the birds sometimes also roosted, and there may be a few more birds over there.

March 28, 2009:                                      12 birds

November 14, 1010                                   8 birds

December 26, 2010                                    7 birds

February 5, 2011                                        4 birds

February 27, 2011                                      8 birds

April 30, 2011                                            8 birds

May 15, 2011                                             5 birds

June 26, 2011                                           25 birds

Average:    9.6

Median:     8.0

St.Dev:       6.6

Next Steps:

  1. Continue to collaborate with newly formed Yellow-naped Amazon Working Group. Assistance from Lafeber Conservation and Wildlife includes: energetic support and consultation, international networking and publicity, funds, in-country teaching and facilitation, and focus on research and management.  We will continue to write grants to support conservation of this species.
  2. Obtain permits for sample submission from Guatemala (and Honduras) to identify parasites and disease exposure in captive and wild populations.
  3. Cofacilitate and collaborate a clinical pathology survey of wild chicks in 2012, which includes hematology, serum biochemistry, blood parasite, intestinal parasites, genetics, protein electrophoresis, and molecular testing for infectious diseases.
  4. Conduct preliminary surveys of possible “hot spots” and set up these areas for long term population monitoring (roost counts, point and line transect surveys, and nest counts) and ecotourism.

For a copy of this with color photographs: