Parrots in the Land of Oz
Parrots in Danger

Beautiful, elegant, and intelligent, parrots have long been coveted and caged by humans. With over 340 species living in the Americas, Asia, Africa, and Oceana tropic zones, our world should be brimming with parrots. But today, parrots are one of the most threatened families of birds. Nearly a third of parrots worldwide are threatened — a statistic three times greater than the threat to all bird species.

Several factors are responsible for such grim statistics about these colorful birds. Poaching for the pet trade may be the biggest. The stress and damage from the capture, transit, and quarantine of parrots take a serious toll on the fragile birds. It is estimated that for every parrot in a pet store, three have died in transit. Ever since the Wild Bird Conservation Act made it illegal to commercially import parrots into the United States from countries without conservation strategies, most pet shop parrots are captive-bred. However international trade in wild-caught parrots remains a concern. It is estimated that 88 percent of parrots, parakeets, and lovebirds imported into Britain between 1995 and 2000 were caught in the wild.

Destruction of their natural habitats due to clearing of tropical rainforest and to agricultural development has also taken its toll. To make matters worse, as seen in “Parrots in the Land of Oz,” parrots are grain eaters and so are treated as pests by farmers.

The biggest parrot victims appear to be the larger, more colorful parrots like macaws and cockatoos. Not only are they more sought after but they have smaller broods; hence, it takes them longer recover and repopulate. The largest flying parrot, and possibly the noisiest, the macaw has paid a price for its willingness to be tamed and trained as a human pet. Over half of all macaw species are on the endangered list. The Spix’s macaw, a delicate, pale blue bird, was considered one of the world’s most endangered species. For ten years, only one lone male was known to exist in the wild in a small arid region of savanna scrubland in northeastern Brazil known as the “caatinga.” Then, in 2000, this last wild bird disappeared. There is currently an international captive breeding program for the bird, and the hope is to re-introduce the macaw to the wild — eventually.

One species of macaw that scientists hope to save before it suffers a fate similar to Spix’s macaw is the red, yellow and blue-plumed scarlet macaw. With only 300 macaws left in Guatemala’s nature reserve, the primary-colored creatures are in danger of being wiped out in that country. At fault are poachers, drug traffickers and land invaders, who slash and burn the bird’s jungle habitat. Thousands of acres of forest are cut down to make way for settlers and clandestine airstrips for drug traffickers moving cocaine from Colombia up into the United States. To keep an eye on their numbers, researchers recently fit two scarlets with satellite collars to track them in northern Guatemala and southern Mexico. With hope, the watchful eye of science will help protect these beautiful birds from further danger.

While over one million may have roamed at the time of Columbus’ arrival, today less than forty Puerto Rican Parrots remain in the wild. Their decimation has been so relentless that the gregarious Puerto Rican Amazon, or the Puerto Rican Parrot, is one of the ten most endangered species of birds in the world. Habitat destruction throughout the 19th and 20th centuries drastically reduced the bird’s numbers. As early as 1968, conservation efforts began to protect this species with the goal of saving it from extinction. A recovery program sought to establish a wild population and hopefully down-list the species from endangered to threatened.

A diminutive, yet plump parrot with a small, fragmented range in New South Wales and Queensland, the Coxen’s fig parrot has virtually vanished from the wild. Sadly, recent surveys have come up with only a few fleeting sightings, and no active nests have been discovered. The Australian native’s original habitat included lowland coastal rainforests, but these have mostly been cleared.

If humanity is to reverse the trend and save these magnificent creatures from extinction, it is essential that we immediately begin to conserve the habitats of threatened parrots and to be aware of politics of the pet parrot trade. As smart as parrots are, only humans can stop the devastation that some of the most vulnerable species have experienced at our hands.

  • sarah kennedy

    I work in a pet store, and all of the birds we house for retail sale are bred in captivity. They are amazing creatures; even in captivity, their natural instincts can be seen. It is a shame that these creatures have been taken from their natural habitats – and that their habitats have been taken from them.

  • john

    Perhaps a poor dumb, wire bender, such as me should be ashamed of himself for thinking the indigenous peoples of the Amazon might be more important, than the parrots. Then the lives of both are intertwined with each becoming extinct at an alarming rate. Such a small part of the great green rainforest remains such a small number of a once proud and self-sufficient people. If we can save one, we could save both, if we can admit that humans need their natural habitat as well as parrots.
    Then there is the need for natural resources so I may sit and type on my laptop in relative comfort. Could I live without such things? sadly the answer is no. Generations before me saw abundance and used it up; indeed in my short time I have seen so much of the natural world disappear.
    People scream save the rainforest, and cut the local forest down, and sprawl ever outward, consuming all of nature that lay in their way. As a child the area I live in was covered with forest and farm land, now all is concrete and asphalt, urban sprawl. When I multiply this across the nation I wonder will cause the great nation that once could produce more food than the world needed to perhaps someday go hungry.
    I am a member of the hippy generation, we loved the earth, and then we grew up and paved it over for a new superstore. I stand ashamed of the decisions we made, but we were not the first generation to fail our ideals. We may however be the last. So please save the parrot but please save the indigenous people as well. I can’t help but wonder if the last of the natives may well cease to exist in accordance with the Mayan calendar. 2012 is not all that far away, could we stop it, should we stop it?

  • VINCE

    I AGREE FLAT OUT WITH JOHN.THE PARROTS AND THE INDIGENOUS PEOPLE ARE STRUGGLING FOR THE SAME THING “EARTH”. ITS VERY SAD IT SEEMS LIKE NOT MUCH ATTENTION IS GIVEN TO THE STURGGLES OF THE INDIGEOUS PEOPLES OF THE AMERICAS SAME WITH THE PARROTS IN ORDER TO SAVE THE PARROTS WE NEED TO MAKE IT ONE OF OUR TOP PRIORITIES AND WORK TO MAKE IT A TOP PRIORITY IN THE COUNTRIES WHERE THESE PARROTS STILL HAVE A WILD POPULATION. MOST OF THE ILLEGAL TRADE IS FOR DEMAND COMING FROM UNITED STATES AND OTHER RICH COUNTRIES. IF WE EDUCATE THE PUBLIC EVERY WHERE AND WORK WITH CONSERVATION GROUPS THROUGHOUT MEXICO, CENTRAL AND SOUTH AMERICA. MAYBE WE CAN BEGIN TO TURN THINGS ABOUT AND SAVE THE REMAINING WILD PARROT POPULATIONS. IT’S A TALL ORDER,AND IT’S GOING TO TAKE THE EFFORTS OF EVERYONE. IN THE NORTH WEST COAST OF MEXICO THERE ARE SOME BEAUTIFUL AMAZONS AND QUITE GOOD TALKERS. ABOUT 6YEARS BACK I WENT TO A BIRD SHOW IN TUCSON AND I PURCHASED ONE OF THESE LOVELY BIRDS (CALLED A WHITED FRONTED AMAZON) THE PRICE $200 DOLLARS. THE SELLER HAD FOUR OF THEM. A FEW MONTHS LATER I SOLD THE PARROT TO A FRIEND THAT HAD ANOTHER PARROT AND WANTED TO GET A COMPANION FOR IT. BUT I STILL CANT STOP THINKING OF WHAT EVER BECAME OF THAT PARROT AND IS IT BEING TREATED WELL AND IS IT HAPPY. I WOULD NEVER PURCHASE ANOTHER PARROT AND I HOPE OTHER PEOPLE COME TO THE SAME REALIZATION AND STOP AND THINK BEFORE THEY MAKE SUCH A PURCHASE. IF THERE WAS NO DEMAND THE PARROTS WOULD NO LONGER BE TRAPPED AND CAPTURED FOR THE PET TRADE.

  • kabina.s

    i have a pet parrot and i think we ( lots of parrot smart people ) should make a part of this website a awareness page. Parrots are going to be extincted by the time i have grand -kids. Parrots need respect and they could help us humans figure out lots of things. I agree with you John, and Vince it is very sad and i am also ashamed that we humans are cutting down they’re home. We humans don’t need to take they’re home, what if a animal soon started eating away are homes and cities like termites for example they started tearing are homes apart, just like what we are doing to the parrots, and it is just not rite!!!! i mite be a little exasperating and may be not but we humans have probably destroyed 9,900,900 parrot homes. I just think that we should talk to the (evil) bad people that are tarring the rain forests apart.

  • oma

    i have a pet parrot and i think we ( lots of parrot smart people ) should make a part of this website a awareness page. Parrots are going to be extincted by the time i have grand -kids. Parrots need respect and they could help us humans figure out lots of things. I agree with you John, and Vince it is very sad and i am also ashamed that we humans are cutting down they’re home. We humans don’t need to take they’re home, what if a animal soon started eating away are homes and cities like termites for example they started tearing are homes apart, just like what we are doing to the parrots, and it is just not rite!!!! i mite be a little exasperating and may be not but we humans have probably destroyed 9,900,900 parrot homes. I just think that we should talk to the (evil) bad people that are tarring the rain forests apart.So please save the parrot but please save the indigenous people as well. I can’t help but wonder if the last of the natives may well cease to exist in accordance with the Mayan calendar. 2012 is not all that far away, could we stop it, should we stop it?

  • Eric

    If the parrots are to be saved than an active breeding program needs to be put into place throughout the world to repopulate these beautiful endangered birds. An active breeding program needs massive funding for facilites and scientists and laymen to initiate a program.While this is being done the save the rain forests need to be saved.
    One idea is to turn the Amazon Rain Forest into an international Reserve for the world to preserve and protect and study. That would mean the Brazilian government would no longer have any political, economic or development juridiction over the Amazon Rain Forest. They would loose that part of Brazil to the UN for protection. That means no more farming, mining, poaching, drug manufacturing, major cities could no longer exist within this international wilderness preserve. It would only be used for scientific study to find new species of plants and animals, medicines and whatever new discoveries await there. The Amazon would be protected and preserved for millineum. Let the worlds billionaires pay for its Trust which would fund it for future generations.This concept could also be used all throughout the world in Africa, Indonesia, Asia, South and Central America. Their are alternatives to farming(hydroponic farming), mining(recycling). The only way to achieve this is to change peoples mentality and show people in the third world that their are better ways to living instead of decimating their surrounding environment and the incredidle flora and fauna that shape our earth. It has to be because the food chain within nature cannot contiune to be disrupted or someday all life on earth could perish. Their is a solution to every problem. People need to open their minds and start thinking outside the box.

  • Lia

    I love birds and I think they should live forever

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