The Yellow-headed parrot (Amazona oratrix belizensis) is an endangered species that is only found in the wild in a small area of Southern Belize. Due to it's ability to memorize and repeat sounds it is a popular pet and as such is often captured and sold to the pet trade. With most poaching occurring in the forest reserves surrounding Payne’s Creek National Park (PNCP), members of TIDE’s terrestrial team have set up an artificial nest box program to offer greater protection and increase survival for this endangered species. In 2014 we monitored the breeding success in both artificial and natural nests. Of 19 nest boxes, five were used, with 10 eggs laid and five chicks successfully fledged. We observed 14 natural nests. In the six within reach of proper monitoring, 16 eggs were laid, 13 hatched, and nine chicks fledged.
In 2014 TIDE also invested in large bird cages in PCNP to temporarily house parrots for rehabilitation. TIDE receive parrots that have previously been rescued by the Belize Bird Rescue organisation to release in the wild. Payne’s Creek rangers Mario Muschamp, Leonard Williams, Andrew Williams and Terrestrial Biologist, Elmar Requena, will monitor the birds before their eventual release back into the wild.
The first project of its kind was to release yellow-headed parrots, two that were confiscated as pets and four that were found in over crowded nestboxes. Payne’s Creek National Park Ranger, Andrew Norman Williams has been opening the cage in daylight and observing the birds’ behavior as they become more confident in their new and natural environment. So far Andrew has witnessed an increase in flight as the birds travel further and for longer. He has seen the parrots’ natural instincts kick in as they avoid predators and they are getting more adventurous every day in their natural pine habitat. The only thing the birds currently have trouble with is learning which branch of a tree to perch on. In the wild, their mothers would guide the birds to the best spot, so our birds are learning slowly for themselves.
The birds fly back into the cage every night. It is hoped once the birds are fully mature, they won't come back as they will have found a mate and began their own lives in the wild. Andrew is waiting until the birds have learnt enough (for example, once they know where to perch) and then he will chase the parrots off, like their mothers would do naturally.
To help increase the population, the Belize Forest Department has also passed a law, declaring it is illegal to attain any new yellow-headed parrots as pets. Also, every person with an existing pet must register their Yellow-Headed parrots by December 31st 2014 or be fined up to $1000BZ and/or face jail time.
We are extremely happy with the yellow-headed parrot conservation in PCNP and want to thank the Payne’s Creek National Park rangers, Andrew, Mario Muschamp and Leonard Williams, as well as the folks from Belize Bird Rescue, for their dedication to the project.