Great Green Macaws
About Our Project
BRI’s Great Green Macaw Release Project in Honduras
Parrots are one of the most endangered groups of birds globally due to a mixture of capture for illegal trade and habitat loss (Olah et al. 2016, Berkunsky et al. 2017). As a result, over 50 threatened species have been identified as potentially benefitting from captive breed and release programs (IUCN 2021). Fortunately, the science of parrot releases has improved in the past 20 years, but progress has been slow and there is still much we need to learn about the best ways to prepare parrots for release into the wild (Brightsmith et al. 2005, White et al. 2012, White et al. 2021, Woodman et al. 2021).
Among private parrot owners, there is a well-established system for preparing hand raised pet parrots to fly in outdoor environments, known as free-flight training. These free-flight techniques teach parrots to avoid predators, form cohesive flocks, and forage for food. As a result, they have great potential for preparing parrots for reintroduction in to the wild (Woodman et al. 2021). However, this technique has not been tested for releasing birds back in to their native ranges. Showing the conservation community that hand raised parrots can make strong contributions to conservation projects is an important step for both conservation and aviculture and may help bridge the gap between these two important fields.
We plan to breed and release great green macaws (also known as Buffon’s macaws) in Honduras in an area (to be determined) where the birds have locally gone extinct (extirpated).
To do this we plan to use trained birds to train release candidates using what we have learned from flying parrots as pets and educational shows over the past 30 years.
The goals of the project are to:
- Encourage captive breeding of great green macaws in Honduras.
- Gather data and evaluate optimal locations for releasing great green in Honduras.
- Acquire available birds and set them up for breeding.
- Obtain government permits to conduct release project with great green macaws in Honduras.
- Show how the training strategies and methods used for training pet birds to fly, navigate and avoid predators can be used to improve survival and reproduction of parrots released in to the wild.
- Develop/expand BRI’s method for creating a “core flock” of released macaws in a site where there currently are no wild birds.
- Demonstrate how captive raised birds from the pet trade can be utilized for conservation.
- Plant trees in critical areas for future food and nesting.
Alejandro Flores flies great green macaws and is breeding great green macaws as a private citizen in Tacoa, Honduras. He completed Chris Biro’s free-flight training in 2017. Through his free-flight experience he has become enthusiastic about using free-flight trained parrots for conservation of the great green and scarlet macaws. He has set up a non-profit organization for breeding endangered parrots in Honduras. He is a pharmacist by profession.
Chris Biro is a professional animal trainer who has been training and flying parrots since 1993. He is a pioneer in the field of teaching others how to free-fly their birds, with over 450 students in over 35 countries. He has spoken on free-flight training at the American Federation of Aviculture (AFA) Conference, National Parrot Rescue & Preservation Foundation (NPRPF), International Association of Avian Trainers and Educators (IAATE) Conference, and Parrots International Symposium. He has also presented seminars in France (2009), Portugal (2009), the Netherlands (2010 & 2018) and Brazil (2019). He is currently working on a book about behavior and parrot free-flight.
Donald Brightsmith, PhD. is a leading parrot conservation biologist with nearly 30 years of experience studying wild parrots in Peru and other areas of Latin America. He has a BS in Natural Resources from Cornell University, an MS in Wildlife Ecology from University of Arizona and a PhD in Zoology from Duke University. He is an Assistant Professor in the Schubot Avian Health Center and Department of Veterinary Pathobiology at Texas A&M University and a Fellow of the American Ornithological Society. He has also published over 70 scientific articles on a wide variety of parrot related topics including reintroduction, ecology, conservation, reproduction, clay lick use, genetics, behavioral training, and nutrition.
Humberto Mendes, PhD. is a former entomologist with over 20 years’ experience in natural sciences describing over a hundred new species. He holds a PhD in Zoology from the University of Bergen (Norway), and an MS and PhD in Entomology from the University of São Paulo. He is a lifelong parrot owner and has been dedicated to free-flight training since 2017. In 2018, he started a group with undergraduate students to study the major factors involved in the process of free-flight training.
How you can help
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Updates on the Great Green Macaw Project
Progress toward the Great Green Macaw Project to date: We have one producing pair of great green macaws in Honduras in the care of Alejandro Flores. Due to the eggs being broken by the pair, BRI has supplied one INCA incubator and brooder to support the breeding great...
Berkunsky, I., P. Quillfeldt, D. J. Brightsmith, M. C. Abbud, J. M. R. E. Aguilar, U. Alemán-Zelaya, R. M. Aramburú, A. Arce Arias, R. Balas McNab, T. J. S. Balsby, J. M. Barredo Barberena, S. R. Beissinger, M. Rosales, K. S. Berg, C. A. Bianchi, E. Blanco, A. Bodrati, C. Bonilla-Ruz, E. Botero-Delgadillo, S. B. Canavelli, R. Caparroz, R. E. Cepeda, O. Chassot, C. Cinta-Magallón, K. L. Cockle, G. Daniele, C. B. de Araujo, A. E. de Barbosa, L. N. de Moura, H. Del Castillo, S. Díaz, J. A. Díaz-Luque, L. Douglas, A. Figueroa Rodríguez, R. A. García-Anleu, J. D. Gilardi, P. G. Grilli, J. C. Guix, M. Hernández, A. Hernández-Muñoz, F. Hiraldo, E. Horstman, R. Ibarra Portillo, J. P. Isacch, J. E. Jiménez, L. Joyner, M. Juarez, F. P. Kacoliris, V. T. Kanaan, L. Klemann-Júnior, S. C. Latta, A. T. K. Lee, A. Lesterhuis, M. Lezama-López, C. Lugarini, G. Marateo, C. B. Marinelli, J. Martínez, M. S. McReynolds, C. R. Mejia Urbina, G. Monge-Arias, T. C. Monterrubio-Rico, A. P. Nunes, F. Nunes, C. Olaciregui, J. Ortega-Arguelles, E. Pacifico, L. Pagano, N. Politi, G. Ponce-Santizo, H. O. Portillo Reyes, N. P. Prestes, F. Presti, K. Renton, G. Reyes-Macedo, E. Ringler, L. Rivera, A. Rodríguez-Ferraro, A. M. Rojas-Valverde, R. E. Rojas-Llanos, Y. G. Rubio-Rocha, A. B. S. Saidenberg, A. Salinas-Melgoza, V. Sanz, H. M. Schaefer, P. Scherer-Neto, G. H. F. Seixas, P. Serafini, L. F. Silveira, E. A. B. Sipinski, M. Somenzari, D. Susanibar, J. L. Tella, C. Torres-Sovero, C. Trofino-alasco, R. Vargas-Rodríguez, L. D. Vázquez-Reyes, T. H. White Jr, S. Williams, R. Zarza, and J. F. Masello. 2017. Current threats faced by Neotropical parrot populations. Biological Conservation 214:278-287.
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macao) in Peru and Costa Rica. Biological Conservation 121:465-472.
IUCN. 2021. Red List of Threatened Species.
Olah, G., S. H. M. Butchart, A. Symes, I. M. Guzmán, R. Cunningham, D. J. Brightsmith, and R. Heinsohn.
2016. Ecological and socio-economic factors affecting extinction risk in parrots. Biodiversity and Conservation 25:205-223.
White, T. H., W. Abreu, G. Benitez, A. Jhonson, M. Lopez, L. Ramirez, I. Rodriguez, M. Toledo, P. Torres, and J. Velez. 2021. Minimizing Potential Allee Effects in Psittacine Reintroductions: An Example from Puerto Rico. 13:13.
White, T. H., N. J. Collar, R. J. Moorhouse, V. Sanz, E. D. Stolen, and D. J. Brightsmith. 2012. Psittacine reintroductions: common denominators of success. Biological Conservation 148:106-115.
Woodman, C., C. Biro, and D. J. Brightsmith. 2021. Parrot Free-Flight as a Conservation Tool. 13:254.
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