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Saturday, February 15, 2014

Hummingbirds III: Rufous-tailed Hummingbird chicks

Some things that happen in nature fill us with wonder. A newly born animal can be especially wondrous. Another spectacular natural being is the hummingbird, really any and all of them are magical. This week, Rufous-tailed Hummingbirds (Amazilia tzacatl) hatched at The Mountain School, giving us a beautiful gift and an opportunity to document their nesting characteristics, as well.
Rufous-tailed Hummingbird
Tropical hummingbirds typically have two eggs. Both eggs in this Rufous-tailed Hummingbird nest hatched successfully, and were approximately one day old at the time of this photo. Photo Jeffrey McCrary. 
Hummingbirds have very small eggs, hence their chicks are inconceivably small. They are also very weak and fragile, so much so that it seems improbable that they would even accept food. These chicks really didn't even seem alive, but they were receiving food and attention constantly. FUNDECI/GAIA intern Pauline Pearse, with plenty of experience at handling chicks on nest, reviewed the chicks carefully, then returned them to their abode.
Amazilia tzacatl
The chicks are being attended on a nest along a path at The Mountain School. The nest is only 1.2 m above ground, but deep in the vegetation and difficult to see. Photo Pauline Pearse.
Two Rufous-tailed Hummingbird nests were located, and both clutches hatched at the same time. Their small cups were located near walkways with considerable foot traffic around, both in tiny cups with lots of spider web and fine material. One of the nests contained thin strips of plastic.
hummingbird chick
Pauline Pearse holds the two hummingbird chicks (Amazilia tzacatl) approximately one day after hatching. Photo Jeffrey McCrary. 
The backs of the chicks were covered with sparse, reddish hairs, and no feathers were evident yet. Although both were small, one was considerably larger than the other, perhaps having hatched first and gotten a head start on feeding. Moss and lichens decorated the exteriors of both nests.
Amazilia tzacatl
Rufous-tailed Hummingbird nest with day-old chicks in an ornamental plant. Photo Jeffrey McCrary.
Another nest was found in plain view, at 1.8 m above the ground on a cedar (Cupressus lusitanica) hedge along a walkway next to the communal kitchen. The chicks were also healthy and their care seemed to be vigorous.

The FUNDECI staff discussed that evening, the different threats to the nests, mainly predators which would eat the chicks, unwitting workers involved in yard maintenance, and even children who may not respect the fragility of these marvelous nests and chicks. This was perceived as an excellent educational opportunity for the children of the farm workers living in the Casas Ecologicas.

Amazilia tzacatl
Rufous-tailed Hummingbird sitting on nest with two recently-hatched chicks. Photo Pauline Pearse.
These nests were discovered while we were engaged in another study in the area, a typical example of the serendipity that results from good work in a dedicated fashion. We left the nests to be observed another day.

We were appreciative to get the opportunity to see this bird nest at The Mountain School, in Matagalpa where it is common. This species is rare in Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve.

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Tropical Kingbird
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Friday, February 7, 2014

Bird Monitoring Laguna de Apoyo 2014

Our intern Pauline Pearse took some photos of the latest round of bird monitoring in Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve. We are now in our fifth year of MARENA-sponsored research on birds in this protected area. Here we share a few of them with you, to give you an idea of the esthetic value of the forest of this protected area. We hope you enjoy them. 

Summer Tanager
Summer Tanager, Piranga rubra, male. Photo Pauline Pearse.

Birds Nicaragua
Grey-headed Tanager, Eucometes penecillata. Photo Pauline Pearse.

Grey-headed Tanager
Grey-headed Tanager, Eucometes penecillata. Photo Pauline Pearse.

birds in Nicaragua
Banded Wren, Thryothorus pleurostictus. Photo Pauline Pearse.

Swainson's Thrush
Swainson's Thrush, Catharus ustulatus. Photo Pauline Pearse.

birds in Nicaragua
Immature Long-tailed Manakin, Chiroxiphia linearis. Photo Pauline Pearse.
Here are represented both migratory and resident birds which are all typical of the Tropical Dry Forest habitats of the Pacific region of Nicaragua.
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Monday, February 3, 2014

Illegal traffic in Nicaraguan wildlife IV

Wildlife in Nicaragua are facing two very critical issues. The first is that forests are disappearing rapidly, as the country prospers and develops more. Enforcement of the protection of natural areas is a big challenge to the government, which does not grow at the same pace as the economic forces behind deforestation and habitat destruction of all kinds.
But for many wild animals in Nicaragua, the greatest challenge to their continued existence in the wild is the pet trade. It is simply illegal to buy or sell many animals, or to exhibit them publicly, yet they are found daily in public places on display in restaurants and hotels, or along the road for sale. Again, authorities have little capacity to respond to this type of crime.
One of the most egregious groups of violators of the rights of protected wild animals is found along the Panamerican Highway at Moyua. Here are some images of animals for sale, openly on display.

pet trade
This young man is holding a Scarlet Macaw (Ara macao) for sale along the Panamerican Highway at Moyua. Photo Maggie Folkesson.
All day long, people drive by these folks with animals for sale, offering Nicaragua's natural heritage on a stick as if the macaw were fast food. Although people may be offended by the spectacle of these animals for sale, few do anything, because people may not feel capable of doing anything about such crimes.
This view shows even more clearly the Scarlet Macaw for sale along the Panamerican Highway in Nicaragua. Photo Maggie Folkesson. 
Among the animals which has suffered the most from the pet trade in Nicaragua is the Scarlet Macaw (Ara macao). This majestic animal once filled the skies with color and sound, flying in groups above the treeline and even in cities. Managua had Scarlet Macaws visit daily until they were all captured from their roosts in the Chiltepe Peninsula in 1983. A handful of these birds fly freely in the Cosiguina Peninsula, in the northwest corner of the country, their nests most likely protected from nest raiders by the steep slopes of the crater interior of the Volcano Cosiguina.
pet trade
There were two Scarlet Macaws on display this day at this site. Photo Maggie Folkesson.
FUNDECI/GAIA postdoctoral scientist Maggie Folkesson documented the wildlife on sale illegally in this location recently. Not only were there Scarlet Macaws, there were also several other species, most notably Yellow-naped Parrots (Amazona auropalliata), and White-faced Capuchin Monkeys (Cebus capuchinus). The woman in the photo below is holding one of each on display. 

pet trade
White-faced Capuchin Monkey and Yellow-naped Parrot for sale. Photo Maggie Folkesson.
Monkeys and macaws present many problems as pets, so it is typical that people who purchase them regret their actions later. Furthermore, their promotion of the illegal traffic in wild animals helps to empty the forests of wild animals, which is the principal reason Scarlet Macaws are no longer seen throughout most of Nicaragua.
The Yellow-naped Amazon is a common bird in the pet trade, but its status on the CITES list was recently adjusted to Appendix II, which means that it is not permitted for international commerce except within the context of an approved, successful captive breeding program, which does not exist in Nicaragua. Its range in Nicaragua is throughout the tropical dry forests of the Pacific side and some of the humid tropical forests on the Caribbean side of the country.
A new initiative is needed to stop the pet trade. What do you suggest?

pet trade
Here is a clear photo of a Yellow-naped Amazon parrot and a White-faced Capuchin Monkey for sale in Moyua. Their sale is illegal in Nicaragua. Photo Maggie Folkesson..
All of these animals are prohibited from sale in Nicaragua, although as anyone an see, the law is little respected. We share these photos in the hope that people will react. Do you want to see wild animals in the forests of Nicaragua? Then do something to stop the illegal traffic in wild animals.
pet trade
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Saturday, February 1, 2014

Conservation Science - Birds in Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve, Nicaragua

Although many people only think of Laguna de Apoyo as a place to swim or to build a house, fascinating wildlife can still be found in its forests. Our bird monitoring program, managed by the biologist Jeffrey McCrary in coordination with the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources (MARENA), is now in its fifth year, is intended to demonstrate what is important about this forest as a natural area. We have been very successful in identifying some of the more important places as bird habitat in the Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve. In one of the sites we study, a pair of Pale-billed Woodpeckers (Campephylus guatemalensis) is regularly seen. Here is a picture of the female, taken by the FUNDECI/GAIA intern Pauline Pearse.
Jeffrey McCrary
Female Pale-billed Woodpecker in Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve, Nicaragua. Photo Pauline Pearse.
Our list of birds documented inside Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve now reaches well over 225 species. Although we are surveying only a small fraction of the 2500 hectares of land, well over a quarter of all the birds documented in Nicaragua have appeared here. We continue to press upon the authorities at MARENA and community to enforce policies against hunting, wood extraction, building and other land uses which destroy the habitats for birds like the Pale-billed Woodpecker. For instance, this bird is not found in the less mature forests on the north side of the lake, but rather only where there is a greater amount of intact, mature forest, in the southwest corner of the reserve. There are not so many places in Nicaragua where this glorious bird can be seen easily, so we are always happy to get a glimpse.
Jeffrey McCrary
This juvenile Grey Hawk (Buteo nitidus) is a typical sighting in Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve. Photo Pauline Pearse.
The documentation of biodiversity and the environmental effects on it by human activity requires detailed work, much of which is performed by the conservation science interns at FUNDECI/GAIA. Their assistance in our long-term bird studies is essential to understanding how an area so heavily used by humans can retain its qualities as a natural area for wildlife.
Jeffrey McCrary
Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve is home for many birds, including the colonial nesting Montezuma Oropendola (Psaracolius montezuma). Photo Belen Camino.
We recognize that the threats are palpable to these wild animals. For instance, on two occasions, the Montezuma Oropendola (Psaracolius montezuma) colonies in the area have been affected by landowners destroying their nesting colonies. In many areas where houses are found, large trees that would attract the birds are downed, limiting the potential habitat for these and many other birds.
conservation science intern
FUNDECI/GAIA conservation science intern, Ruben Pelckmanns, at work on a study of the motmots. Photo Pablo Somarriba.
We are continuing to gather information on the wildlife of the area, with the aid of visiting scientists, interns and volunteers. Our studies have recently been widened to consider nest sites, in which two of our conservation science interns have participated. We invite interested people to contact us and participate in the study and protection of this special natural area.
Jeffrey McCrary
Migratory birds such at the Summer Tanager (Piranga rubra) are important components of the birdlife in Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve. Photo Onno Bierman.
conservation science internships
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