PhD student Univ. of British Columbia and Fundacion Felix de Azara
Location: Atlantic Forest, Argentina
Research: Breeding Ecology and Conservation of the Vulnerable Vinaceous Amazon and other Cavity-Nesting Birds in the Atlantic Forest, Argentina
|In the Atlantic forest, a subtropical biodiversity hotspot, cavity-nesting birds are threatened by loss of cavity trees, and by nest-poaching for local pets. However, little is known about what kinds of cavities these species need, or how logging affects cavity trees. 1) Through field observations, we will determine what kinds of cavities Vinaceous Amazons and other species need for nesting, and how these cavities are formed. 2) Through nest box experiments, we will determine whether nest sites are limited for these birds in selectively-logged or primary Atlantic forest, and whether nest-boxes could be used to increase nest-site availability in logged forests. 3) We will continue to involve local subsistence farmers as protagonists in conservation and research, through a new program whereby farmers help measure and help monitor cavity nests that they find on their property.
Project Update: January 2007
Here are some highlights of our fieldwork so far:
We installed eight 1-ha experimental plots in primary and logged forest, and found all potential cavities inside the plots. Overall, primary forest supported more potential cavities than logged forest. Low cavities (below 15 m) did not differ statistically in abundance between forest types. High cavities (above 15 m) were significantly more abundant in primary forest than in logged forest. There were no active cavity nests in logged plots, and just three active cavity nests in primary forest plots. Over the next months, we will measure cavities and cavity-trees in these plots, to determine the availability of cavities of different characteristics in primary and logged forest.
We searched for active cavity nests in three parks and on five farms, and confirmed a total of 31 active nests and one active roost hole of 18 species of birds. Eighteen of these nests were probably successful in fledging chicks (grown chicks seen in nest), four were presumed predated, and ten were of unknown fate. Over the next months, we will measure these cavities and cavity trees, to determine the characteristics of cavities used by different species of birds.
We checked five cavities used by Vinaceous Amazons in 2004. This year
- one had two eggs (of unknown species, possibly Vinaceous Amazon) but was abandoned at the egg stage because of flooding;
- one was taken over by feral bees;
- one had been removed by the farmer (patch of forest cleared) in 2005;
- one was available but was not used by any birds this year;
- one was active and probably fledged chicks, but was inaccessible to us.
We were shown seven additional nests identified by farmers as belonging to Vinaceous Amazons this year (Vinaceous Amazon seen entering or leaving hole):
- one had four eggs but was abandoned at the egg stage;
- two were predated and were shown to us afterward;
- three were reported predated, but were probably poached;
- one produced one chick, which we banded.
Over the next months, we will measure these nest cavities. We identified additional patches of forest where Vinaceous Amazons are probably nesting on farms, and, with the farmers' help, next spring, we will watch these forest patches for signs of Vinaceous Amazon nests.
We installed 27 nest boxes in a pilot experiment at Araucaria Provincial Park. Twelve of these boxes were used by three species of birds [Tropical Screech-Owl (n=2), Planalto Woodcreeper (n=6), and Barred Forest-Falcon (n=1)) and one species of marsupial (n=3). One of these nests (Planalto Woodcreeper) was predated at the egg stage. The Planalto Woodcreeper's nest, eggs, and chicks have not been described for science, so we are preparing a short article with the nest description. In March and April, we will install nest boxes on four of the experimental plots.
Our dissemination and outreach activities include:
- co-organizing a symposium on nest-cavity limitation at the VIII Neotropical Ornithological Congress (May 2007, Venezuela);
- co-organized a course on observation of birds in the wild, for the Park Ranger School in San Pedro (October 2006);
- reported the rediscovery of the vulnerable Black-capped Piprites in Argentina, in a scientific article (Ornitologia Neotropical, in press), local and national newspapers (October 2006);
- reported the probable extinction of the Blue-winged Macaw in Argentina, in a scientific article (El Hornero, December 2006);
- reporting on status and conservation of the Vinaceous Amazon in a scientific article (Journal of Field Ornithology, in press).
Volunteers in the field included nine local farmers and their children, 26 park ranger students, six park rangers, and one teacher, and one high school principal. These volunteers helped install plots, search for cavities, monitor nests using a pole mounted video camera, record data, install and monitor nest boxes, and measure chicks and eggs from nest boxes. Additionally, two elementary school classes (Grade 4), led by park ranger student volunteers, helped monitor nest boxes in Araucaria Provincial Park.