As mentioned in my recent article on this blog, providing pet birds with access to sunlight and fresh air is of great value to their well-being. A pair of yellow-fronted Amazon parrots, Amazona ochrocephala, kept at a research station on Tortuguero Island, Costa Rica, where I worked some years ago, seemed a perfect example of this. They spent their days climbing in 2 small trees and over the ropes stretched between them (their flight feathers were clipped). Active and inquisitive, they were in the peak of health and color. A large cage, door opened, hung in one of the trees. For a time, the birds’ owner had tried to herd them into the cage for the night, but had given up in the face of their stubborn refusal to cooperate.
One morning, we awoke to the gruesome discovery of a small pile of blood-spattered feathers below the birds’ roosting site – all that remained of the male. Tortuguero is home to a number of creatures, including ocelots, Leopardus pardalis, great horned owls, Bubo virginianus, and the unusual Linneaus’ false vampire bat, Vampyrum spectrum, that would be more than happy to snack on a plump parrot. Apparently, the dog that usually slept below the roost had gone “off duty”, and a nocturnal predator had made the most of the lapse in security. On the very next evening, with only the slightest of prodding, the female walked over into her cage and perched quietly while the door was secured – and, I’m told, she has done so each night since!