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July 9

Sam Williams, PhD | Jul 09, 2006


I had thought that when the chicks got bigger it would be easier to remove them from the nest. My thinking being that they would be a bit more robust and I could hook them with the ladle without needing the extreme caution I was using for the tiny chicks. In that respect they are easier to deal with but there are two other issues that have come to light. Firstly and rather obviously (when you think about it!) getting a larger chick out of an already tight cavity entrance has its complications. So far with patience I’ve managed to get around this though. The second and somewhat entertaining problem is that they are now able to avoid the ladle by moving around the cavity. This week I found myself dangling on the rope at a cavity, my arm up to my armpit was inside the nest holding the ladle. I couldn’t see anything in there, I was working by feel alone and the last of three chicks was running around the nest doing a very good job of escaping the ladle! After several laps and a few pauses to get the blood back into my arm I got him, much to his noisy objections!

As the chicks are now a good size we’ve begun taking blood samples from them. Many of the chicks are now 300g and look like real parrots. We’ve been waiting to do this as it just seems safer and easier when the chicks are that bit bigger and stronger. We’ve almost got around all the known nests which it good stuff. I use the samples to look at genetic variation in the population and Rowan will look at parentage but to do that we also have to catch mum and dad.

We are putting renewed efforts into catching adult birds and at the moment we are focusing on the breeding birds. For my interest focusing on these individuals isn’t entirely necessary but it is for Rowan because of the parentage stuff. It would be near impossible to target specific breeding birds once they are away from the nest so we have to do it now. Later we can target areas where we may hope to catch more individuals (whom we aren’t familiar with), which would be better for my interests.

While we have the adult birds they are rung with a unique color combination and we take a blood sample. When working on the birds we are continually checking they are ok. If either of us has any concern over the bird’s welfare we act on it immediately. That is the absolute priority.

With colour rings on individuals we can identify them with certainty when we see them again afterwards. We are also taking some body measurements, such as weight, beak size and wing length. With this information it may be possible to see if there has been a selection pressure acting on the Bonaire parrot population. Perhaps birds with ever-so-slightly larger beaks are better able to exploit the food resource on this island.

So far we ourselves have not given a major blood sample of our own but we have each now experienced the wrath of an angry amazon. I slipped up and the male of a pair well and truly got a hold of my finger last week and this week while I was holding the bird Rowan’s finger got a bit close and the bird instantly grabbed it. It is fair play really!