Tuesday, May 6, 2014

So just where DO you go to see wild parrots?

People reading my blog probably don't have a hard time figuring out my two main passions.

They don't even really need to read a post, just see the title.

Of course, one of the earliest posts I wrote featured lists of my favourite places to paddle. However, I have yet to post a list of my favourite places to view wild parrots.

While you can paddle a canoe or kayak anywhere there is a lake, river, ocean or even a pond, viewing parrots in the wild involves a bit more of an effort, at least if you live in temperate North America, and if you want to see them in their native habitat (sorry, San Francisco, your Telegraph Hill flock won't be featured here.)

I've been very fortunate that I've travelled to several places in the world to see wild parrots. But there are several other places I would still like to visit in my lifetime, to view wild parrots.

I saw my first wild parrots in Belize, in 1991. However, at the time, I had not been overcome by "parrot passion," so I did not spend a lot of time trying to see them or take pictures. 

That changed in 1994, when I met Nikki, our African grey parrot

Since then, I've been on a journey to see them, write about them, and where possible, help them.

Here then are two lists: one of places I've seen wild parrots, the other places I want to see wild parrots.
A Cayman brac parrot, seen along the Mastic Trail.
Wild Parrots: Experienced

1. The Cayman Islands. There are two main species of parrots here, the Cayman parrot and Cayman Brac parrot. I've seen them both, although I only caught a brief glimpse of the endangered Brac parrot on the island of the same name. The Cayman parrot was much more co-operative; I saw several members of a flock during a day-long hike on the Mastic Trail on Grand Cayman Island.

2. Ecuador: La Selva Lodge. During a five-day kayak trip down the Rio Shiripuno in Ecuador's Amazon rainforest, I saw and heard several parrots and macaws - but all at a distance. I then spent three days at a lodge where I was able to see them better at the Yasuni Clay Lick, just off the Rio Napo. I saw several pionus parrots and some Mealy Amazons, but they mainly stayed up in the trees, so I still could not take great photos.

3. Peru: Heath River Lodge. This was a much better experience than the one in Ecuador. We stayed hidden on a floating blind in the middle of the river and watched green-winged macaws and several species of Amazons gather at the lick and in the trees surrounding it. A wonderful experience on the river that actually forms the border between Peru and Bolivia in that part of South America.

4. Puerto Rico. I saw parrots here as part of the annual World Parrot Trust parrot lovers' cruise, a once-a-year event structured around existing cruise schedules that allows parrot people on the cruise to pay a bit extra and visit centres around the Caribbean and Central America that have active parrot conservation projects underway. We actually went to the breeding/rehab centre on the island, as the Puerto Rican parrot is very threatened, and almost became extinct. It is now recovering as a wild population.

5. Dominica. This was another stop on the WPT parrot lovers' cruise. Like all parrots on the Caribbean Islands, the parrots here are very unique - and all very much at risk as they are endemic to very specific habitats and populations can easily be threatened by disease or natural disasters like hurricanes. 

Wild Parrots: Bucket List

1. Central Africa. Since I live with two African grey parrots, it should come as no surprise that I want to see their wild cousins in their natural habitat. Unfortunately, political difficulties and economic instability in the countries in this region make it difficult to set up successful ecotours to see these marvelous birds. It also makes it a prime target for smugglers, something the World Parrot Trust is constantly trying to eliminate.

2. Indonesia. These islands are home to several species of cockatoos as well as eclectus parrots. The Indonesian Parrot Project did run some ecotours here for a few years, and it looks like they are gearing up to get that program going again after a few years' hiatus.
A pair of green-winged macaws in Peru.

3. Peru: Manu and/or Tambopata. I was actually supposed to go to Manu the trip I went to Heath River, but there was some kind of airstrip difficulty, so I had to either go home or go to Heath. I went to heath. Tambopata is arguably THE bucket list destination for parrot lovers.

4. Brazil: the Pantanal. This area of Brazil is the last remaining spot where viable populations of the giant blue Hyacinth macaws can be seen. If you're lucky, you may also see other rare wildlife on tours in this area, including jaguars.

5. Australia. Not only is it the land down under, it's also the land of cockatoos, cockatiels and budgies. And a kookaburra or two. People who know me cannot believe I have not already been there, it is such a birders' - and parrot lovers' - paradise. While I'm there, I should probably check out the kea parrots over in New Zealand, as well.

Like their cousins in South America, African greys also eat clay - 
but from the ground rather than cliffs.

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