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2006 Mexico Road Atlas "Por las carreteras de México" by Guia RojiConservation Triumph for the Thick-billed Parrot

Ernesto C. Enkerlin Hoeflich

24 January 2000


22 June 2006: Studies of Thick-billed Parrots in Madera, Chihuahua, have found the species to be a gregarious nester. 30% of nesting attempts involved nesting pairs sharing nest trees, with a maximum of three nests per tree. See Tiberio C. Monterrubio-Rico et al., Gregarious Nesting Behavior of Thick-billed Parrots (Rhychopsitta pachyrhyncha) in Aspen Stands. Wilson Journal of Ornithology 118(2): 237-243 (June 2006).

2 May 2005: Report by Doug Rhodes on the Mexico-Birding Yahoo Group of a flock of 25-30 Thick-billed Parrots in Copper Canyon on the road into Huicorachi about 0.5 km from town. Relocated in the morning of 3 May descending into Arroyo Hondo and at about 2:30 pm above the Arroyo Hondo Bridge. "Doña Natividad Urias Delgado, a Tarahumara friend who lives in Huicorachi, told me that these parrots are usually seen in April and May leaving by early June when another species (Lilac-crowned?) comes out of the Canyon to nest."

Itinerary for the WFO field trip to the Cebadillos Thick-billed Parrot Reserve by, 27-31 July 2003. Trip report by Ted Floyd -- more than 50 Thick-billed Parrots were observed.

Efforts to Preserve the Thick-billed Parrot in Northwestern Mexico by Tiberio Monterrubio, Ph.D. 74% of the nests studied were at Cebadillas and Madera.

Voices of the Sierra Tarahumara: Documentary film directed by Felix Gehm and Robert Brewster. "A World Bank forestry project in Mexico carves logging roads into Raramuri (or Tarahumara) lands in the mountainous state of Chihuahua, home of the region's last remaining old-growth forest. This is a story of communities in struggle against powerful drug lords and external economic interests that threaten their way of life and the courageous leaders who seek alternatives."

Ecology Fund - Thick-billed Parrot project with PronaturaEXTRA: To cause corporate sponsors' donation of funds to purchase 33 square feet of land for this project, visit the Ecology Fund website. You may trigger one donation per day. The average cost to sponsors is about $31 per acre protected. Further information.

Update: In April 2000, personnel from InkaNatura Travel visited the area and saw 14 Thick-billed Parrots. More than 800 recently active nests have been counted in the vicinity. For a photo gallery and more information, see the Expedition Photography website.

Update: From the Sky Alliance Newsletter:

Mexican Ejido prepares for ecotourism

by Kim Vacariu, Southwest Representative, The Wildlands Project

It won't be long until ecotourism will begin to assist the residents of Ejido Cebadillas in northern Mexico. The Wildlands Project reports that the 6,000-acre conservation agreement the group reached last year with the ejido is now being implemented, with the construction of three cabins designated for ecotourists on schedule for completion sometime in 2002.

The income from ecotourism at Ejido Cebadillas is intended to help replace revenues that the agricultural cooperative would have received from a logging contract that was cancelled in favor of a conservation lease signed with the Wildlands Project and Pronatura. The lease will safeguard the land, critical as nesting habitat for nearly half of the remaining Thick-billed Parrot population in Mexico, for 15 years. An ecotourism protocol, designed to protect the natural and cultural values of the ejido, will provide information and guidelines for future visitors.

The land at Ejido Cebadillas has been identified as a key component of a future wildlands network for northern Mexico that will eventually connect with the 10.5-million- acre Sky Islands Wildlands Network in southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico. To assist with this process, the Wildlands Project recently hired a new Mexico Representative, Manuel Bujanda Rico, who will be located in Chihuahua City, Chihuahua. For more information on ecotourism at Ejido Cebadillas, contact Kim Vacariu, Wildlands Project Southwest Representative, at 520-884-0875, or

Juvenile Thick-billed Parrot, Rhynchopsitta pachyrhynchaAfter two years of delicate negotiations, an agreement was signed to protect the most important nesting area known for the Thick-billed Parrot, Rhynchopsitta pachyrhyncha. The Thick-billed Parrot is an endangered species endemic to the Sierra Madre Occidental of Mexico and the sky-islands that extend into the southwest US in New Mexico and Arizona.

Work conducted over the last five years in a collaborative project between Wildlife Preservation Trust International (WPTI) and Monterrey Tech (ITESM), with support from a number of institutions, had identified this area as the most important nesting site with over 100 nests possibly representing around 10% of the total breeding population of the species. The site, comprising over 4000 acres of a very diverse and beautiful forest and although not strictly old growth, had remained relatively undisturbed, unlike 98.5% of the Sierra Madre which has been logged. It was targeted for logging in 2002.

The agreement calls for a 15-year moratorium on any cutting of timber in the  area, Bisaloachic (or Cebadillas) which represents 10% of the timber potential of the 40,000 acre Ejido Tutuaca, a rural forest cooperative. To offset in part the losses in timber potential a number of organizations notably The Wildlands Project, Pronatura (Noreste) and Naturalia will provide the community with a number of incentives including a "rent payment" representing over time 50% of the net value of timber that will not be harvested. These organizations, together with WPTI and ITESM, will continue monitoring and provide community services including consultants to obtain forest certification in their remaining forest, promotion of ecotourism and participatory rural development. The importance of this strategy lies in making the pristine forest worth much more in the long run to the ejido than timber such that once the 15-year agreement expires they will continue protection based on self-interest and pride.

It is important to consider that the community is composed primarily of very poor foresters/peasants who in the short term have to give up about 6% of their expected annual income to make the deal happen. They do this on the  hope that the offer of conservationist for a better future will come true  and will shortly offset this short term sacrifice. Over the life of the binding agreement they will make sure that conservation values on the land area maintained and participate with conservationists in all necessary work to achieve this.

The negotiation itself that day was quite intense. The turning point was when the most important community leader, a man in his thirties who opposed our offer, noted: "If you want a deal give us more money and give it quick, I won t be around in fifteen years to see what happened". To  this, one of the elderly community members, a woman in her seventies responded: "Look I am quite older that you and will certainly not be around here in fifteen years but my children and grand children will. They will benefit from this and we want it to happen. "The crowd cheered. Another women noted, "give him what he wants, he can take it from our part and lets  agree on conservation of Bisaloachic". On the way back to Chihuahua City the forester that supervises the ejido told me that in all his years, over 20, working with Tutuaca and many assembly meetings he had never seen women participate until that day. I never thought you could convince them, he  said. In the end everyone but one agreed on the plan, including the young leader. 

Now, even before the first material results of the agreement reach Tutuaca, they are already different because they have hope for the future in alliance with conservation. This will be formally announced at a "fiesta"  in the summer. When the sun set on 22 January, 2000 the horizon looked brighter for man and parrot in the Sierra Madre.

Ernesto C. Enkerlin-Hoeflich

Centro de Calidad Ambiental Profesor, Depto. de Recursos Naturales

Tecnológico de Monterrey Investigador, Centro de Calidad Ambiental
Garza Sada #2501 Sur Director, Pronatura Noreste Monterrey, N.L. 64849 Programa México, Wildlife Preservation Trust Int. MEXICO

Telefonos: 011-52(8)328-4032 o 387-5814
FAX: 011-52(8) 387-5815 y (8)359-6280

25 June 2004: Mexican judge releases two jailed Indian antilogging activists. (AP). They're out after a year in jail only because of international pressure on the corrupt Mexican government.

7 February 2000 press release by The Wildlands Project [Another press release]

Ejido Cebadillas, Imperiled Parrots, and an Historic Conservation Partnership, by Allan McDonnell and Kim Vacariu. Wild Earth (Spring 2000). Cooperative Conservation Wildlands Project Efforts in the
Sierra Madre Occidental, by Rurik List, Oscar Moctezuma, and Carlos Martinez del Rio.
Wild Earth (Spring 2000).

14 Parrots observed during April 2000 Trip: Expedition Photography in Search of the Thick-billed Parrot.

[JWW comments: Congratulations, Ernesto, and congratulations to everyone else who has worked on this important conservation project. A lifetime birding highlight was watching a flock of this bird's sibling species, the Maroon-fronted Parrot, R. terrisi, at close focus, feeding on pine cones, calling and flying about above Cola de Caballo, Monterrey, NL, México in 1993. I hope to visit the Thick-billed conservation project, and would encourage others to go see these magnificent birds. (What a place for a Christmas bird count!) Logistical details eventually will be posted to WorldTwitch. If only such a project could have been undertaken 50 years ago to preserve the Imperial Woodpecker for a few additional years! Unfortunately, too much parrot conservation money continues to be spent on misguided captive breeding and release programs that primarily benefit politicians, zoos and underemployed biologists.]

Copyright © 1992-2012 John Wall