Poached parrot

Yellow-naped parrots have exquisite plumage. With emerald-green feathers and the distinctive yellow sunburst on the back of their neck, these beautiful birds adorn the trees of Central America, from Mexico to Costa Rica.

Like many amazon parrot species, yellow-naped parrots are highly intelligent and sociable. They prefer to rest and sleep in larger groups, which offers greater protection. Their favoured roosting spots are sometimes occupied by several hundred individuals, creating a glittering green-and-yellow mass among the branches.

Yellow-naped parrots are absolutely vital for the health of their forest home. They play a critical role in seed dispersal, helping to ensure that a wide variety of tree species can regenerate. As long-distance flyers, they can also help the forest to grow beyond its existing reaches, expanding it over time.

Unfortunately, evidence shows that their numbers are currently dropping rapidly.

Yellow-naped parrot facts

  • They are absolutely brilliant mimics.
  • Yellow-naped parrots are powerful flyers and can travel long distances.
  • As fruit eaters, they perform a valuable role as seed dispersers.
  • They are monogamous; once they reach maturity at two years old, they mate for life.
  • Their nest cavities are located in tree holes as high as 30m above ground level.
  • While the female parrot is incubating her eggs and tending the chicks, the male will bring back food but will not enter the nest hole.
  • Breeding pairs are territorial, and tend to keep to their own areas.
At a glance
Amazona auropalliata
Endangered
Costa RicaEl SalvadorGuatemalaHondurasMexicoNicaragua

Family:

Psittacidae

Order:

Psittaciformes

Estimated in the wild:

c.10,000

Extremely rarely, yellow-naped parrots can be a powder-blue colour.

10,000

The latest estimated global population of this parrot.

50%

The maximum survival chances of these chicks in transit when they’re captured from the wild.

Conservation story

Unfortunately the combination of intelligence and mimicry ability makes this parrot a valuable target for poachers. Rather than targeting the adults, they go for the more vulnerable eggs and chicks – which are then sold into the domestic and international pet trade.

Seizing these birds from the wild and putting them in captivity is driving them into extinction. The level of predation by pet hunters is completely unsustainable. In some locations, up to 100% of nests have been poached, with disastrous results for the local population. Even in the parrot’s main strongholds, numbers are thought to have halved in the past decade.

Furthermore, there are concerns that parasites could be affecting the parrots’ health, damaging their chances of survival even more.

Habitat loss as a result of forest clearance for agricultural expansion is exacerbating the crisis for the plummeting population. The parrot’s Red List status has steadily escalated to from Least Concern (2004) to Endangered (2017), reflecting the ongoing decline in numbers.

How FFI is helping to save the yellow-naped parrot

Fauna & Flora International (FFI) and its partners in Central America are working to save the yellow-naped parrot through the empowerment of local people.

In Nicaragua, FFI is working with a group of ornithologists (Loreros Observando y Conservando Ometepe or LOCO) on the island of Ometepe to monitor a significant population of around 1,000 individuals, making sure that the parrots are safe and that numbers remain stable. In the process we are discovering more about the birds’ behaviour, enabling us to protect them more effectively.

The project team is also working with local communities to better protect the nests. Once active nests have been identified and mapped, community-led patrols are put in place to combat poaching and help secure the parrot population.

Meanwhile, FFI and LOCO are engaging with schools and the wider community to spread the word about the threats the parrots face – particularly from the pet trade – and the impact this is having upon wild populations.

Raising awareness of the plight of the parrots, and encouraging communities to value them as part of their cultural heritage, is vital to the long-term success of the programme.

Angelica Valdivia, FFI’s Programme Manager on Ometepe, says: “FFI believes that the conservation of the species depends on increased environmental awareness among residents and effective law enforcement to deter those who are taking part in the illegal trade of parrots.”

FFI wants to establish Ometepe as a safe haven for these unique and special birds, where they are protected by the people who live closest to them. Saving the yellow-naped parrot will, in turn, help to safeguard the forest and the livelihoods of the communities who depend on it.