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Conservation Action Brings Yellow-Eared Parrot Back from “Extinction”

Finally, some good conservation news!  Believed extinct until 81 individuals were found in the Columbian Andes in 1998, the Yellow-Eared Parrot (Ognorhynchus icterotis) is now recovering nicely.  Thanks to an intensive, country-wide conservation program, the population now numbers over 1,000.  In fact, the International Conservation Union (IUCN) has downgraded the species from “Critically Endangered” to “Endangered”, an action that is all-too-rare these days.

Cooperative Efforts

Although the bird’s recovery is believed largely due to the efforts of 3 major conservation organizations – Fundacion Pro Aves, American Bird Conservation and Fundacion Loro Parque, over 180 individuals, 47 organizations and numerous local communities also played a vital role.  Their spectacular success will no doubt be very useful in serving as a template for recovery efforts aimed at other species of birds.

Survival Problems and Solutions

PalmsThe Yellow-Eared Parrot faced, in addition to the usual dangers that decimate rare species, a unique threat – it nests almost exclusively in the Wax Palm.  This palm, which is also Columbia’s National Tree, is much valued for use in certain religious services of the Catholic Faith, and is itself in danger of extinction.  Fortunately, the Catholic Church became an enthusiastic supporter of the parrot recovery plan, and is working hard to reduce Wax Palm usage.

The creation of the 10,000 acre Parrot Conservation Corridor, and an ambitious nest box installation program, is also key to this Yellow-Eared Parrot’s continued survival.

Further Reading

Please see my article Religion, Psittacines and Palms for info on the conservation of this species and the Golden-Plumed Parakeet in Ecuador.

Natural history and conservation info is available in this Birdlife International article.


Bird Conservation Update: the Current Status of Threatened Species

Attention to breeding birds in public and private collections, along with increased legal protection, has helped a great many species to recover from earlier population crashes. In some instances, rescue efforts represent the only hope for a species, as none survive in the wild. However, upon reviewing species status reports recently, I was dismayed to see that bad as opposed to good news prevailed. From well known pet trade parrots to recently described Asian swallows, wild birds everywhere face grave threats.

Following is a summary of recent trends:

Frightening Statistics

Of the world’s 9,685 described bird species, 1,227, or 12.4%, are included on the IUCN’s Red List as threatened with extinction. Of these, 192 species are considered to be critically endangered, and likely to become extinct in the near future. An additional 838 bird species are classified as “near threatened”.

Since the year 1500, 133 species of birds have become extinct. Currently, 4 species exist only in captivity, and 15 species have not been observed despite surveys and may be extinct as well.

Since the year 2000, at least I species, Hawaii’s po’ouli, has become extinct and at least 2 species – Spix’s macaw and the Hawaiian crow – have become extinct in the wild.

Regions and Habitats of Concern

Indo-Malayan birds, Asian vultures and albatrosses face particularly hard times, with many species in severe decline.

Brazil and Indonesia lead the world in the numbers of resident threatened species, with 123 and 114 respectively.

Eighty seven percent of all threatened birds reside in forests. Tropical and subtropical lowland forests support 43% of all such species; 36% reside in moist montane forests.

The Most Significant Threats

Converting land to agricultural use is seen as the most critical threat to bird life, with 73% of all species being significantly affected. Logging and trapping/hunting impact 71% of all birds and, along with agriculture, are the main reasons behind the decline of 95% of threatened species worldwide.

Introduced species of birds, mammals, invertebrates, reptiles and plants significantly affect one third of the world’s threatened bird species via predation, competition, habitat alteration or the spreading of disease.


Further Reading

You can read more about bird declines, the effect they may have and what can be done to help at http://www.biodiversityinfo.org/sowb/section.php?r=introduction.

How Birders Can Contribute to Conservation: The Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count


Several conservation organizations have hit upon simple ways to turn the observations of casual birders into valuable conservation data.  If you enjoy birding, why not also ensure that your hobby helps to preserve your favorite creatures….it really is very simple to become involved.  As one who has been involved in this and related programs for years, I can assure you that it is quite gratifying to know that your efforts will be put to practical use in helping to conserve local birds.  Enjoy!

The Christmas Bird Count

At 109 years old, the National Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count is the nation’s longest-running wildlife census.  Each year tens of thousands of “citizen scientists” count birds in their neighborhoods and submit their observations to the Audubon Society for use in assessing avian health and population trends.  This information has also helped to support the passage of protective legislation for the black duck and several other species, and has been used to document the spread of West Nile Virus and other health hazards.

Bird count data has also been incorporated into two government reports, both of which have direct bearing on future conservation initiatives.  Common Birds in Decline has established that populations of many formerly abundant birds have plunged by 65-80% over the past 40 years, while Watchlist 2007 documents 178 mainland and 39 Hawaiian bird species in need of immediate protection.

You can learn how to become involved at:


To help make sure that there are plenty of birds around to count, please check out our wild bird foods, feeders and other supplies.


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