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July 1

Sam Williams, PhD | Jul 01, 2006


This week has been another week with mixed news. On Monday night we heard that someone had shot 8 adult parrots and that they had been hung on a gate. So first thing on Tuesday morning I visited the place where they were said to be and sure enough there were dead birds, three parrots and a troupial. The location was a kind of allotment and coincidentally the owner passed while I was there. I learned that he did not know who had killed the birds or why they birds were hung on his gate. There were 8 but something had taken the other ones ( a cat?). It seems as though someone was trying to make a statement but this is odd as it is not the time when the parrots damage crops. The news made the front page of the local newspaper, which is good in a way as it shows people are disgusted by this act. It is unlikely that any legal action will be taken because nobody claims to know who did it and anyway the person apparently has to be caught in the act. What is worst in my mind is that these may have been precious breeding adults that may have been on chicks. I took samples for DNA analysis from the dead birds and remains I found nearby. As you can imagine this was not a pleasant thing to do but hopefully we can take something away from this tragic event.

Yesterday we confirmed a further loss. Rowan was concerned about a nest following three hours of observations when the typically clockwork parents did not appear. I abseiled to the nest but found it empty without a trace of chicks or what may have taken them. This nest is halfway down a 20 meter cliff and to access the chicks involves a great deal of discomfort. In truth is probably the hardest nest to get to the chicks. For that reason, but also because the chicks were still young (the oldest being less than 3 weeks of age. I do not think it was poachers. Further observations may give us a clue of what it was…

The good news is that our friend Buchy (picture coming soon!) found another nest and it’s in a tree. I went along with him one morning and he showed me where it was and one of his chick extraction tricks. The cavity has formed relatively recently when part of this tree has fallen. Buchy says it is less than two years old, which is probably why no one has chain-sawed it yet! The chicks are actually on the ground and the nest entrance is only hip height. I revisited the nest, which was a test as its miles down no descript tracks and I have broken the GPS. Then using a combination of Buchy’s technique and the magic ladle I got the chicks out. All three were the most well stuffed chicks I have ever seen. Their crops were ready to burst! I quickly weighed and measured each chick and then put rings on them before returning them safely to their home. They are the youngest that I know of right now so I’m really happy that Buchy found them and I’m looking forward to seeing how they develop.

News of dead parrots in the local newspaper

New-found nest in tree

“Magic ladle technique” to remove and inspect chicks

One well-fed and happy fellow!

Measuring a wing

Beautiful photo of parrot habitat