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Indigo-winged Parrot found…

Student Award winners rediscover Indigo-winged Parrot in Colombia…

Indigo-winged parrots, considered one of the world`s rarest birds, have been rediscovered in central Colombia this July by a team of young ornithologists who won a Gold Award in this year`s BP Conservation Programme ? a partnership of BP, BirdLife International and Fauna and Flora International. This is the first concrete evidence of the continued existence of the species for 91 years. Colombians Jorge Velasquez and Alonso Quevedo discovered a flock of fourteen parrots on 28 July 2002 as they climbed to 3,000 metres exploring the highest Andean volcano in central Colombia.The Indigo-winged or Fuertes*`s parrot (Hapalopsittaca fuertesi) was first discovered in the Central Andes mountain range in 1911, but nothing is known of the parrots` breeding and feeding ecology. It is considered to be very rare by BirdLife International and is classified as Critically Endangered. Jorge Velasquez, 20, leader of the Proyecto Hapalopsittaca, recalled how after months of unsuccessful searches in the Andean montane forests, he and Alonso Quevedo heard the parrots for the first time: Suddenly, a parrot`s sharp cry pierced the gloom of the cloudy forest, and was immediately joined by a chorus of other birds in the mist. The ghostly silhouettes of fourteen parrots spiralled downwards to alight in the trees nearby. In those few seconds, brilliant flashes of emerald greens, cobalt blues and scarlet reds flashed before us and we thought we were witnessing a miracle from heaven, as one of the world`s rarest birds descended before our very eyes.Dr Robert Prys-Jones, Head of The Natural History Museum`s Bird Group in London, who has been advising the team and working with threatened birds in Colombia for twelve years said: This is a remarkable find ? Jorge and his team have found perhaps the last flock of surviving indigo-winged parrots, making it one of the greatest wildlife discoveries in Colombia to date. Our hope for the species was dwindling and we were concerned that this spectacular parrot was lost forever.Jorge Velasquez, from Colombia`s National University in Bogot?, took up the challenge with his six-strong research team to search for the Indigo-winged parrot, following a series of preliminary unsuccessful searches in the Colombian Andes in 2000. Jorge Velasquez was presented with a BP Conservation Programme Gold Award by Baroness Barbara Young, the Chairman of the Environment Agency and Vice-President of BirdLife International and Fauna and Flora International, at a ceremony held in London on 19 April this year. Winning the award and ?7,500 from the 2002 BP Conservation Programme allowed the team to intensify their research efforts to locate the Indigo-winged parrot. Marianne Dunn, Manager of the BP Conservation Programme said: On the eve of the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, this is an exciting discovery in one of the most important areas of global biodiversity. Without the team`s determination, the survival of one of the world`s rarest parrots is at risk of global extinction and this small population cannot be considered secure. It is clear that these parrots are fighting for survival, precariously holding on to the last fragments of the forest. Rich in biodiversity and yet severely understudied, the little forest that remains is severely threatened by forest clearance for firewood, agriculture, road construction and cattle grazing.Since their first sighting, the Project team has taken detailed notes, photographs, video footage and sound-recordings to learn more about the ecology and biology of the species, including the first-ever photographs and video footage. The team`s next steps are to help develop a conservation action plan to identify the most effective way to preserve this flagship species and conserve its habitat as recommended by BirdLife International in 2002 and the Global Parrot Action Plan (2000-2004). Celebrating its 18th year in 2003, the BP Conservation Programme is the result of a long-term partnership between conservation organisations BirdLife International and Fauna & Flora International, and BP. Since the programme started in 1985, it has supported a total of 194 projects involving over 2000 people in 60 countries.Student teams from around the world can enter the 2003 BP Conservation Programme Awards to secure funding, training and on-going support for the field research and practical conservation projects that they are planning - the closing date for applications for the 2003 BP Conservation Programme Awards is 31 October 2002.Courtesy of World Birdwatch and BirdLife International.* Louis Agassiz Fuertes (1874-1929) was an ornithologist and a painter of birds. He showed great interest and skill from a very early age. He met Elliott Coues in 1894 and showed him some of his paintings and was greatly encouraged by Coues` comments on his work and they seem to have finally decided him to concentrate on birds and the painting of them as a career. He went on collecting trips to Florida in 1898, Alaska 1899 in, Texas and New Mexico in 1901. In addition to travels within the USA, he also visited the Bahamas, Canada (both the prairies and the Rockies), Yucatan and Eastern Mexico, Jamaica, - all before the outbreak of World War I, and, subsequently, Abyssinia in 1926 with W H Osgood. He lectured on ornithology at Cornell University between 1923 and 1927. Chapman described the Parrot in 1912.

4th July 2014