Given the large numbers in captivity around the world, it seems incredible that almost nothing is known of the lives of wild Timneh parrots (Psittacus timneh).
Little information exists on key aspects of their biology, such as nesting requirements, reproductive productivity and the status of populations.
Using remote cameras and regular patrols of nesting areas, an SOS-supported project in Guinea-Bissau has begun to fill in some important knowledge gaps and produce some unique video footage of this globally Vulnerable species.
Staff from the Institute of Biodiversity and Protected Areas in Guinea Bissau (IBAP) have been working with former parrot trappers and biologists from Portugal and IUCN Member World Parrot Trust to collect a range of data while at the same time protecting nests from poachers.
Cameras trained on nests not only act as a deterrent but have helped document breeding productivity and provided previously unseen views of the behaviour of wild parrots.
Dr. Rowan Martin, project coordinator with the World Parrot Trust told SOS: “For a species that readily breeds in captivity it is remarkable that the breeding behaviour of Timneh parrots has never been investiagted in the wild. It’s not easy to do, but little by little this project is lifting the lid on the private lives of parrots and providing insights valuable for their conservation”.
Like many other parrots, Timnehs nest in naturally occurring holes in trees. The team’s research has shown that the parrots mostly use holes in the largest of trees, some of which rise to over 50 metres.
Climbing to these dizzy heights is not for the faint-hearted and only the bravest of poachers venture into these forest giants. Fortunately for conservation, some nests are in such risky locations that they have been afforded natural protection.
Nowadays, nests are clustered in only a few areas where the tallest and oldest trees persist. New holes are formed slowly and it’s likely that the greatest density of nest holes occurs in these areas explains Rowan.
Destructive poaching practices, such as using a machete to help access chicks in nests, further reduces the number of suitable nesting holes that remain.
The existence of a small number of large and difficult to climb trees may explain why parrots have persisted within the João Viera – Poilão National Park when they are absent from neighbouring islands.
The research has indicated that ensuring safe nesting sites requires actions which tackle a combination of threats; preserving large trees, preventing poaching and providing artificial cavities in difficult to access locations.
This unique camera trap film underlines the dual benefits gained from harnessing video technologies in supporting conservation action and knowledge.
This project has just captured the first ever video of Timneh parrot breeding behaviour providing a valuable opportunity for biologists to learn more about the species in time.
For now however, who can but marvel at gaining such a privileged glimpse into the wild lives of these beautiful creatures.