Today we journey to the Valle Department of Southern Honduras. We wind through sandy beaches and mangrove canals to get to where the last yellow-naped amazons are on the Pacific coast of Honduras. We have just finished two parrot counts over the last 24 hours, and on our way out we visit families with homed parrots.
One of first stops is Tio's (Uncle's House). We interrupt his television soccer game, which he doesn't seem to mind as he walks us to a sparsely furnished kitchen where there are 3 parrots; 1 orange-fronted parakeet in a cage on the floor, and two yellow-naped amazons perched atop a cage. Tio tells me that they eat everything that the humans do. He can handle the larger parrots, even though they also both have unclipped wings, which seems to be true for the other parrots we visit in this region; instead parrots are kept in cages. Both of these birds, which he has had for 13 years, can fly around the house, and everyone once in a while get out. One of the amazons has a damaged foot from when he got out before and got caught in a hammock. One of the toes is frozen and necrotic. "I tried to cut the damaged toe off one day but it bled too much," Tio told me.
"Because his foot doesn't work too well he can't mount the female and have chicks." I look around at the environment and suspect that there are other reasons why the birds might not be reproducing, such as the pair actually being two males or two females. Most homes I visit assure me that they know the sexes of the birds; They tell me that males are supposedly larger, brighter, and more vocal.
I asked Tio why he had parrots and he says it is because of tradition, "Todos los tienen" (Everyone has them). I then asked what he liked about having birds. He paused for several seconds and then said, "My wife likes them." I ask Tio if I can give advice on caring for the birds and he agrees: we speak about diet, the dangers of keeping parrots in a kitchen, and how they need toys, cleanliness, and potable water.
After leaving Tio's home my biologist companions suggest that perhaps it is the women who drive the illegal wildlife trade here. "They want company in the kitchen. The men like to give the parrots as presents to their wives, parents, and children." There must be a lot of gifts given here because parrots are in many homes. No wonder we counted so few this morning.