Posted: December 14, 2010, 2:00 p.m. PST
Nanday conures are one of many parrot species that live in environments outside their native range.
Pet bird owners and birders can join together for the first World Parrot Count in January 2011. Roelant Jonker of CML Leiden University in the Netherlands and Michael Braun of Heidelberg University of Germany have organized, along with the extra-tropical department of the parrot researchers group of the International Ornithological Union (IOU), the first global parrot count. The main focus of the study is parrots, which have been introduced by man to non-native locations. Since the 1960s, several parrot species have established viable breeding populations, especially in the Northern Hemisphere. The researchers would like to find out how many species there are and if those populations are of conservation importance.
According to the Leiden University website: “Everybody who is interested in the study and who is able to make a parrot roost count in the evening is invited to take part. Therefore it is necessary to know the places where the parrots roost at night. It is important to find that place, the exact roosting trees and a good position for counting them. For scientific reasons, we are not only interested in the number of parrots, but also the key factors of the roosting sites like tree species or the habitat structures (trees, forests, buildings, streets etc). It is best to find some birding friends to help, which will not only make the count more accurate ... If we continue these surveys for several years we can get good and reliable data that shows how fast an introduced parrot population may grow, and which key factors are needed for successful establishment. We can use this data for re-introduction programs of threatened species, which will become a major parrot research field for the future."
BirdChannel.com interviewed Braun for more information on the World Parrot Count.
How did the World Parrot Count idea originate?
The idea arose within the team of the "extra-tropical" department of the Psittacine (Parrots) Researchers Group of the International Ornithological Union (IOU) for creating a worldwide parrot network.
What inspired this count?
There is a huge increase in populations of introduced parrots, especially in the Northern hemisphere. The last native parrot species in the temperate zone of North America was the Carolina parakeet, which unfortunately became extinct in the year 1918. This species was once common and not hard to breed and— even in Germany — there was a free living and breeding population of about 20 birds, which all were shot by an owner of a tavern. The Carolina parakeet could have been saved nowadays, but the time has passed. Now the time is ripe for preventing such a fate for other species wherever possible. One option ia the (mostly non-intentionally) introduced parrot populations in cities. Even highly endangered species like the double yellow-headed Amazon (Amazona oratrix) are present in feral populations. We should save the species first in their natural habitat. If this is difficult or impossible, it could be a conservation task to have backup populations scattered in other parts of the world.
What is your background in parrot research?
I'm studying the breeding biology of ring-necked parakeets (Psittacula krameri) of a feral population in Heidelberg, Germany for 7 years now. My second research interest is molecular genetics of parrots. I'm working on the evolution and taxonomy of parrots.
Have you received a good response from the avian community for the count?
The response is just great, especially in the U.S., but of course the more people that count, the more reliable the results will be. We are still looking for new people.
How will this study benefit the naturalized parrots of the world?
The results should be a benefit to parrot conservation of both endangered and common species, not only for naturalized ones. The naturalized parrots are much easier to study, as they are living close to humans. That's the reason we are focusing on them.
To find out more information, go to the Leiden University website.
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