Written by Michael Keys Tuesday, 15 November 2011 18:44
I'm a wildlife biologist. At my day job, I work for a public land management agency in Florida’s Big Bend region on the Gulf coast. One of the endangered species that I work with is the Red-cockaded woodpecker (RCW). I'm also a traveling biologist who helps landowners throughout the range of the Red-cockaded Woodpecker recover populations of this amazing little bird. This venture gets me out into the field conducting on-the-ground conservation projects focused on this rare woodpecker species and southern pine forests in general. A cornerstone of my work with the RCW is installing artificial nest cavities in high up in live pine trees. A thousand miles south of here, another critically endangered bird also lives in cavities in pine trees. It will benefit from the same type of artificial cavities as the RCW.
The Yellow-headed Parrot (YHP) has bright beautiful plumage and incredible abilities to mimic human speech. Sadly, these traits are also the leading causes of the species’ endangered status. The Belizean Yellow-headed Parrot (Amazona oratrix belizensis) has been experiencing severe population declines since at least the mid 1970s when poachers began aggressively pursuing them for the illegal pet trade. The illegal harvest of parrot chicks and habitat loss of open pine savannas has left less than 7,000 YHPs in the wild today according to Bird Life International. Extinction in our lifetime is a real possibility for this species. The fascinating thing is that the YHP lives in cavities in Caribbean pine trees in habitats that are amazingly similar to our longleaf and slash pine forests of Florida where the Red-Cockaded Woodpecker makes its home.
No one has ever tried this before, but we believe cavity installation techniques similar to what has worked for the Red-cockaded woodpecker can be employed to provide safe nesting habitat for the much rarer Yellow-headed Parrot. In fact, poaching is the number one problem for all species of Amazon parrots, and creation of artificial cavities high in the native Caribbean pines requires specialized climbing gear that the average poacher will not have.
Our plan is to make nest cavities above the reach of bird grabbers and give these birds a fighting chance to reproduce in the wild.
Our goal is to contribute to the survival of Yellow-Headed Parrot through direct conservation action, research and community participation with partnerships in Belize. This project – the RCW-YHP Project - will be managed by a partnership of staff who work at TIDE, Belize (Toledo Institute for Development and Environment), Steve Morrison (an employee of The Nature Conservancy in Central Florida) and myself, Michael Keys.
My funding plan is simple, but, I can't completely self-finance my way back and forth to remote Belize savannas (pictured at right) with boxes of equipment and supplies. I have the resources, tools of the trade and committed conservation partners to initiate a pilot project and test the theory that artificial cavity creation will greatly benefit the YHP. I simply need funds to cover the costs associated with travel, creation of nest boxes and shipping of materials to/from Belize to start construction. My goal is to raise enough money (approx. $2,500) to cover the costs of an initial expedition in January 2012 and a follow-up trip within the year to assess results, refine techniques and continue with installations of nest boxes.
All funds will go directly to support creation of artificial nest cavities in Payne’s Creek National Park, Toledo District, Belize. This project relies on donations to cover the costs of travel and shipping supplies, construction of the nest boxes and equipment such as chain saws and ladders used to install cavities.
Gifts of any size are appreciated. While this is a not-for-profit venture, donations are not currently tax-deductible.
If our financial goal is exceeded, surplus funds will be devoted to increasing monitoring of the success of the the project and expansion to other sites in Belize where the YHP still is found.
Sponsorship Levels (substitutions allowed for sponsors wishing an appreciation gift commensurate with lesser value donations)
Egg-in-Nest - $10-24: a personalized digital postcard taken in the Belizean pine savannas on the first expedition to install cavities in January 2012.
Fluffy Nestling - $25-74: a personalized digital postcard as above plus links to helmet-cam video taken during cavity construction.
Happy Fledgling - $75-99: an original North Florida Wildlife logo t-shirt on 100% organic cotton (please email size).
Big Bird – over $100: a printed and matted one-of-a-kind photograph taken in the Belizean pine savannas on the first expedition to install cavities in January 2012 near Punta Gorda, Belize.
Donate securely through PayPal either with your credit card or PayPal account.
Please click here to view my one-page flyer advertising this exciting conservation opportunity, and visit my blog which contains secure donation links at: http://www.northfloridawildlife.blogspot.com; or contribute to the cause directly through this PayPal link:
Please feel free to distribute this message within your organization to any conservation-minded contacts you believe might be receptive to this request.
North Florida Wildlife
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