Old-growth Forests of the Sierra Madre Occidental

Loss of habitat through the illegal trafficking and extraction of timber in the mixed conifer forests of the Sierra Madre Occidental is the primary reason why the Thick-billed Parrot is in danger of extinction.

In January 2017, OVIS implemented an action plan to work on conserving the remnants of old-growth forests of the Sierra Madre Occidental and, consequently, the six main nesting areas of the Thick-billed Parrot: the protected areas of Tutuaca, Papigochic and Campo Verde, Mesa de las Guacamayas within Janos Biosphere Reserve, and the conservation areas of Madera and Sierra Tarahumara. The team working on this program has 23 years of experience carrying out actions that contribute to the conservation of  old-growth forests and working with the Rhynchopsitta genus, in both Western and Oriental Sierra Madre.

The Work Plan consists of:

  • Conducting simultaneous counts in drinking water sources and mineral banks to estimate the annual parrot population size.
  • Evaluating characteristics of nesting habitat.
  • Deploying prototype satellite transmitters to determine migration routes, wintering areas and identify new habitat components such as water sources, mineral banks, roosting sites and foraging areas.
  • Providing environmental education to local communities near the nesting areas to make them aware of the plight of Thick-billed Parrot and the need to conserve the species.
  • Using a variety of mechanisms to conserve private and ejido (communal) lands.
  • Restoring forest ecosystems through soil conservation and reforestation.

Other species that are benefiting from this program include: Sierra Madre Sparrow (Xenospiza baileyi), Mexican golden trout (Oncorhynchus chrysogaster), Golden Eagle (Oncorhynchus chrysogaster), Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo), black bear (Ursus americanus), mountain lion (Puma concolor), Douglas-firs (Pseudotsuga sp), and Chihuahua spruce (Picea chihuahuana).

Since we began implementing the program, we have accomplished the following successes:

  • We identified an additional 130 trees distributed across the various protected areas of the Sierra Madre Occidental, that have been used for nesting.
  • Documented a total of six species of trees whose cavities are been used for nesting.
  • We estimated the Thick-billed Parrot population at approximately 1,800 individuals, but with only about 177 pairs breeding annually.
  • Successfully installed satellite transmitters on two individual birds with the goal of discovering their migratory routes and identifying areas where parrots spend the winter.
  • We are working with the communities and forestry management units to identify areas of high conservation value for parrots and to implement conservation and habitat restoration measures.
  • Working to install 25 new nest boxes across several breeding areas, to supplement availability of nesting cavities.

Please consider making a donation today to support these and many other activities that are critical to conserving this emblematic species of the Sierra Madre.