e-Newsletter 5 (Oct.’10-May’11)

October 2010 – May 2011
Christina Zdenek’s 5th e-Newsletter

Sections below:

  • Palm Cockatoo Research Update
  • In the Media: my new World Parrot Trust blog + online interview
  • What’s Next for Me? Macaws in Peru : )
  • Conservation Tip of the e-Newsletter
  • About this e-Newsletter

Palm Cockatoo Research Update

Photo by Jennifer Zdenek

Writing, writing, and more writing. This is what I was up to for 2 1/2 months (ABOVE).
Note the various food bowls, jar of walnuts, and overall chaos on my desk. Oh, and that
box in the background was my ‘thesis-in-a-box,’ which I carried around with me at the
various places I worked on my thesis. Here’s a big thanks to my sister and her partner
for letting me live and work in their home, rent-free (well, I suppose I did weed their
13,000sq.ft. backyard every day, as a break from sitting and writing).
The good news is that I see the light at the end of the tunnel now, as in, I’m not too far
off from submission. The other good news is that upon submission, my three data
chapters will pretty well will also be ready for scientific publication, which is a megadifficult
thing to achieve and is separate from thesis-submission.
LEFT: In fact, it took five months
of grueling work for me to finally
submit my first scientific paper
for publication in a peer-edited
journal. Naturally, I had to
celebrate: I went skydiving. It
was the most un-fun, stressful,
scary thing I had ever
done…UNTIL after I jumped out
of the plane; then it was the
wildest thrill ever, and I was full
of pure joy, as you can see.
conve rte d by We b2PDFC onve rt.com
Here is the crux of my thesis:
1) Vocal complexity in a territorial, non-flocking parrot, the palm cockatoo (Probosciger
2) Gauging vocal individuality as a non-invasive technique
to identify individual wild palm cockatoos
3) Preliminary evaluation of photo-identification of palm cockatoos
And despite 4 all-nighters in 6 days (admittedly with naps during the day), I
unfortunately was not able to finish my thesis before my next endeavor. I am now in
Southwestern Peru in the Amazon rainforest as a field assistant for Macaw parrot
research (see below).
Fyi, I will include the details of my findings from my research in my newsletter after I
publish them in scientific journals. Until then, they are not considered official, so I prefer
not to state it and treat it as such.
In the Media: my new World Parrot Trust
blog + online interview
[clicking brings you to the World Parrot Trust’s website, where my blog profile can be found; blogs soon to
Feel free to check out my new blog profile with the World Parrot Trust. I will be adding
blogs to this website over the next few months, so stay tuned (if you like)! [Unlike this enewsletter,
comments can be written in that venue]. As indicated on their website, the
main aim of the World Parrot Trust is as follows: “As a leader in parrot conservation and
welfare, [they work] with parrot enthusiasts, researchers, local communities and
government leaders to encourage effective solutions that protect parrots.” So, it’s good
to be ‘part of their family,’ as they say : ).
There is also a 15-minute radio-interview about my Palm Cockatoo research, if you’d
like to listen to that. It will later also be on the World Parrot Trust website, and possibly
on the Birdlife International website.
What’s next for me? At the moment, Macaws
in Peru : )
In the Amazonian rainforest of
southeastern Peru, I find myself climbing
35m up a tree (LEFT) to determine the
breeding success of a pair of Red-andgreen
As part of the Tambopata Macaw Project, I
have been working and volunteering here
for 2 months (stories about this fun work
below). The Tambopata Macaw Project
started in 1989 (22 years and going!), and
conve rte d by We b2PDFC onve rt.com
I use ropes and ascenders to climb 35m up a tree to
check the breeding success of a pair of Macaws that
use this artificial nest. My pink bandana absorbs my
sweat so the salt does not burn my eyes.
before it came about, the world barely
knew anything about wild macaws, despite
their popularity as pets. People did not
know what to feed them in captivity, how
often they usually have babies, how many
babies they have, how long they live (we
still donÕt know this, though one in the wild
is 18 years old), what their nesting
requirements are, and how we can best
conserve them.
Project location in red, near where Peru, Bolivia, and Brazil’s borders meet. [Map courtesy of George
Olah and Google Earth]
The main objective of the project is to understand these remarkable birds better in
order to help endangered macaw species throughout South America (out of the once 17
species of Macaws in the world, 3 are extinct; 8 more are at some level of threat to
extinction). For example, after 8 years of developing the most effective artificial Macaw
nest box model, the best model is now being used to provide supplemental nesting
hollows for Macaws whose natural nesting hollows have been reduced by gold mining (a
big problem for conservation in Peru) and/or selective logging (for flooring, precious
furniture, charcoal for locals, and/or to get chicks out of the hollows to sell in the black
market pet trade).
To me, this aspect of the Tambopata Macaw Project epitomizes how research can help
to conserve species. Jane GoodallÕs 50 years (!) of research with the Tanzanian
Chimpanzees in Gombe, Africa is another good example, though this project was
different in that it achieved conservation mainly through public awareness.
conve rte d by We b2PDFC onve rt.com
[Photo by: Silas Goodlet]
ABOVE: I measure the length of a 94-day old Scarlet Macaw chick. Other
measurements we take are Tarsus length (leg bone), beak length, wing length, and
Why do we take these measurements? Well, it’s sort of a long story, but I’ll try to keep it
short. One reason is to understand what is ‘normal’ for Macaw chick growth so that any
captive breeding program that aims to release birds into the wild (to make up for
negative human impact elsewhere) can make adjustments when things are not normal.
Another reason is because, from measurements data (and photos) of chicks with known
egg-laying dates (their age is known), we can then leverage this knowledge to
determine the age of chicks whose egg-laying date is unknown. The applications of this
knowledge are many, but here are two: 1) if a chick is confiscated from the illegal pet
trade and authorities attempt to feed it until it can fly, they can feed it the right ratios of
food that its parents would have at that stage (parents feed them different ratios of
things at different ages), and 2) If a chick is found badly injured in the nest (maybe from
a fight with a neighboring Macaw), researchers can intervene by taking the chick and,
by knowing its age, can know what to feed it until it flies and becomes a wild Macaw

1 Comment

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