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Tag Archives: Ecuador Parrot Conservation

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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.


Religion, Psittacines and Palms – Conserving Rare Parrots in Ecuador


Ecuador’s yellow-eared parrot (Ognorhynchus icterotis) and golden-plumed parakeet (Leptosittacia branickii) face a most unusual threat – an annual religious celebration.  The group Aves and Conservation has identified the collection of palm fronds for Catholic Easter celebrations as the main cause of the species’ near disappearance from Ecuador.

Survival Linked to a Single Tree

Both birds nest exclusively in Ceroxylon palms, the central leaves of which are harvested yearly in an unsustainable manner.  The palms do not reproduce until age 25-30, and live to age 75-100.  Removal of the leaves prevents reproduction, and may kill the palm.  The golden-plumed parakeet, once common throughout much of Ecuador, is now limited to the southern Andes provinces; the yellow-eared parrot has not been sighted at all in recent years, and is believed to number less than 150 nation-wide.

Providing Education and Alternatives

In cooperation with the government and other conservation groups, Aves and Conservation has embarked on a program designed to alert local people of the plight of both palms and parrots.  Local Catholic churches have been cooperating in the effort, encouraging members to use corn stalks and Eucalyptus in place of palms.

These substitute plants, grown at the Botanical Gardens of Quito and other locations, are distributed yearly in front of churches, and are gaining acceptance.  Happily, the golden-plumed parakeet has begun to reclaim some of its former range (please see below).

This program illustrates the importance of including within a conservation plan those people who will be most affected, and of offering alternatives.  Blanket prohibitions that impinge upon people’s religious beliefs or livelihoods are, in my experience, difficult to enforce and rarely successful in the long term.

Further Reading

You can read about recent golden-plumed parakeet nesting records at 



Images referenced from Wikipedia and originally posted by markharper1 and Loise Wolff


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