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Roatán and Guanaja Islands


Conservation benefit: Protection of native parrots

Community benefit: Conservation training and gear (binoculars, field guides) for youth bird clubs

Date Approved: 02.2021


This project supports a local conservation-based tourism initiative.

This project is harnessing the energy of a home-grown birding boom among Honduran youth to save native parrots, whose populations are perilously low. It offers environmental education and skills training to youth while also protecting the parrots.

Habitat degradation and poaching for the pet trade have severely damaged the Bay Islands’ native, nonmigratory parrots. A 2020 count found only 38 yellow-naped parrots and eight yellow-lored parrots on Roatán. These populations are so low that a single tropical storm could wipe them out.

To increase parrot populations, our partner will put up nest boxes and keep an eye on nests during the breeding season. Installers use professional climbing gear to put the nest boxes high in the trees, so that poachers can’t reach them. Natural nests are protected with daily patrols from January through May. Patrols are necessary only during the nesting season because wildlife traffickers want hatchlings—birds that are young enough to be trained to speak to increase their price as pets. This approach has already been effective on Guanaja Island, where parrot numbers more than doubled in less than two years.

This project invites teens and young adults to join a club through the Bay Islands Conservation Association, the organization cofounded by Seacology Prize recipient Irma Brady. Many island young people recently became interested in birds; young birders have been hosting workshops, gathering baseline population data, and logging their data into apps. With binoculars and field guides, they go out in small groups to see parrots and other wildlife, leaning about island ecosystems, and threats to wildlife. They conduct annual population counts, which are key to knowing how well conservation efforts are working. They get not only environmental education, but also a professional skillset, opening up opportunities for work in wildlife-based tourism. Our partners will concentrate their outreach in communities that have not benefited from the tourism boom.

Project Updates

June 2022

In 2021, 15 supplemental nests were installed and two were used; there were three natural nests. The birds’ initial hesitancy about using artificial nest boxes was expected. Earlier, on Guanaja (where the program began before Seacology supported expansion to Roatán), parrots used more of the supplemental nests each year.

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February 2022

The final parrot count on Roatán for 2021 was 49 birds, a 24% increase over 2020. The Bay Islands Conservation Association and Green Island Challenge have committed to continuing the project on Roatán for the next five years, putting up the boxes for the nesting season each year.

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June 2021

This project is off to a promising start. Eight people (some from BICA Roatán, some from the Auropalliata Bird Club) have been trained in how to install parrot nest boxes and monitor nests. Four of the first 12 nest boxes installed on Roatán have active nests; no natural nests were seen this year. Ten young yellow-naped parrots have now flown free—a great result, given that no more than 40 adults have been counted on Roatán.

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