Watchbird January 2022


Yellow-naped Amazon

by Simon Kiacz and Donald Brightsmith

In July of 2021, the Yellow - naped Amazon ( Amazona auropalliata ) was officially uplisted to Critically Endangered (CR) by the International Un- ion for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). As recently as 2009 the species was considered to be “ Least Concern ” suggesting that it was doing well. But since 2016 the species has rapidly vaulted from “ Vulnerable ” to “ Endangered ” to now “ Critically Endangered ” as new data have shown how few in- dividuals remain. Currently, Birdlife estimates that as few as 2,500 individuals of the species occur in the wild across its entire range with small popula- tions rapidly declining in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua. (BirdLife International 2021) In 2005, researchers in Costa Rica conducted roost counts at twelve sites and found an average of 74 Amazons at each roost; those same researchers counted the same sites eleven years later and found an average of just 34 birds at each site - a reduction of over 54% in only eleven years (Wright et al. 2019). More recently, a total of just 2,361 birds were counted across their entire range which spans from northern Costa Rica to w. Mexico and n. Hon- duras (Dupin et al. 2020). Taken together, these da- ta led Birdlife to conclude that the population in Costa Rica is declining at a rate of 92% per 35 years. Yellow - naped Amazons ’ incredible vocal abilities make them a favorite for researchers wanting to learn more about wild birds and their vocal learning abilities. Scientists have discovered that in Costa Rica alone, there are at least three different vocal dialects – basically, different groups of birds are speaking three different languages! But the Ama- zons have shown the ability to learn their neigh- bors ’ dialects which may be important as popula- tions decrease and birds must interact with adjacent subpopulations. It may also be important as it could play in to how rescued or captive bred birds can in- tegrate into the wild.

This ability to learn and mimic vocalizations also makes it an attractive species to illegal poachers. in Costa Rica, researchers found almost 60% of all nests failed because chicks were illegally poached (Dahlin et al. 2018). Roost counts by Wright et al (2019) in 2016 suggest that only about 15% of the pairs coming to roost had young and in two roosts, no young were detected at all. In western Nicara- gua, the percent of pairs with young was much higher and estimated at 45%. While some of the details of these findings could be debated, these da- ta suggest that poaching rates in Costa Rica may be very high and it paints an overall grim picture for the future of the Yellow - naped Amazon. Although habitat loss is usually cited as a major factor leading to the decline of the species, most roosts for Yellow - naped Amazons are actually found in pastures and built - up rural areas (Dupin et al. 2020). Like some other Amazona species, Yel- low - naped Amazons tend to do well in ranch style landscapes as long as there are some larger trees left throughout the landscape that can be used for nest- ing. The major problem with this is the increased exposure to people, which may be contributing to the unexpectedly high levels of poaching.

Juvenile Yellow - naped parrots are all green and don ’ t begin to de- velop the yellow feath- ers on the back of the neck until they reach one year of age. The full band can take up to five years to develop, increasing in size with each year ’ s molt.

Picture courtesy of Andrew Gwozdziewycz Brooklyn, NY

26 Volume XLVIX ● January 2022

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