10 Jan 2019

Five ways our partners are working to prevent the next Spix's Macaw

Following the announcement of the first bird extinctions this decade, here's what BirdLife partners are doing to protect rare birds, and to stop more species from going extinct.

Al Wabra Wildlife
By Daniela Paz & Samantha Moreno

In early September, BirdLife made headlines when it confirmed the first bird extinctions of the decade. Eight birds, including the iconic Spix’s Macaw, the main character in the animated film ‘Rio’, can now no longer be found in the wild. Disturbingly, five of the eight extinctions occurred on the South American continent, largely due to the high rate of deforestation in this region. This has raised concerns for the future of birds in the area. Fortunately, our partners all over the Americas are working to help protect birds. Here’s how they’re trying to prevent the next Spix’s Macaw.

1. Black-breasted Puffleg

Murray Cooper

With less than 300 individuals estimated to still be living in the wild, the Black-breasted Puffleg Eriocnemis migrivestis is one of the world’s most Critically Endangered hummingbirds. Its habitat is restricted to the upper ridges of the Pichincha Volcano in Ecuador. Unfortunately, this habitat is extremely threatened due to deforestation to create charcoal and make ways for livestock grazing.

Aves y Conservación (BirdLife Partner in Ecuador) is working hard to bring the puffleg back from the brink of extinction. The have installed irrigation systems to improve the efficiency of pastures for livestock, so that the forests cease to be grazing areas. They are also working with villagers to raise awareness about bird-watching, the importance of the puffleg, and preventing forest fires and logging for charcoal production. Simultaneously, the organization is working on gaining a clearer understanding of the community's socio-environmental situation, with the goal of strengthening local capacities and supporting productive community enterprises and ecotourism in the region.

2. Hispaniolan Parrot

In Haiti and the Dominican Republic, the Hispaniolan Parrot Amazona ventralis has found itself Vulnerable to extinction mainly due to the poaching of fledglings for the pet trade and habitat destruction caused by deforestation. As nests are often destroyed when robbed, the shortage of tree cavities for the parrot could also limit its recovery. 

Grupo Jaragua (BirdLife Partner in the Dominican Republic), is working to change attitudes towards pet parrots across the country (see part of their educational campaign here) and is restoring some of the dry subtropical forests affected by the charcoal trade where the parrot lives. They are planting native species, creating a habitat for the parrot as well as other endemic, native and migratory bird species.

They are also conducting a nationwide assessment to estimate current parrot population size in the Dominican Republic, so they are able to measure success of their conservation interventions in the future.  In addition, Grupo Jaragua is working to protect parrot’s nests, firstly by working with and rewarding local nest looters for finding and guarding nests and by training community members to perform monitoring transects and nest searches. In the future, Grupo Jaragua aims to expand its community monitoring and patrolling program in the main nesting sites to increase surveillance and reduce trade of this charismatic species. 

3. Alagoas Antwren

The Serra do Urubu reserve is home to the Critically Endangered Algoal Antwren.

The last of the Alagoas antwren Myrmotherula snowi currently reside in north-east Brazil (Murici). This species is Critically Endangered, with less than 30 individuals remaining in the wild. The antwren has a very limited habitat, which is threatened by logging.

In order to save this species,  Murici is prioritized by BirdLife’s Atlantic Forest Action Plan, in which SAVE Brasil (BirdLife Partner) will continue to work with the federal government to implement the Murici Ecological Station, and which aims to recover and preserve the corridor connecting Murici and Serra do Urubu, where SAVE Brasil has a private reserve.

4. Hooded Grebe

Santiago Imberti

One of the projects that has been going on in the Patagonia region for more than 10 years is the protection and conservation of the endemic and Critically Endangered Hooded Grebe Podiceps gallardoi, a bird with a wild population of less than 800 individuals. Aves Argentinas (BirdLife Partner) is placing GPS and satellite transmitters on the birds to more fully understand their life cycle.

In May 2018, with the latest work cycle successfully closed, statistics indicated that species numbers have begun to stabilize and in fact may even be subtly increasing. Great news for both the project as well as for our planet.

5. Royal Cinclodes

Native to south-eastern Peru and La Paz in Bolivia, the Royal Cinclodes Cinclodes aricomae lives in tiny, humid patches of woodland and scrub in the Andes. Unfortunately, uncontrolled fires and heavy grazing are decimating the woodland in which the Royal Cinclodes lives, making this species Critically Endangered. Just 50 to 250 individuals are thought to still exist in the wild.

Asociación Armonía (BirdLife Partner in Bolivia) has been working hard to save this small bird. Working with the local Quechua communities, they have put projects in place to restore the Cinclodes’ habitat. They have planted 26,000 Polyelpis seedlings in Madidi National Park.  They’ve also constructed a nursery in which to grow new trees for reforestation. These, combined with education and outreach programs, will hopefully lead to the forest growing back. The Polyelpis Forest project is funded by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership found.