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Mexico: In Search of the Thick-billed parrot

November 2, 2009

A hundred years ago, huge flocks of Thick-billed parrots filled the skies in the American Southwest on their yearly migrations from Mexico to the north, where they nested in the piñon forests of Arizona and New Mexico.

Hunters found great sport shooting them out of the sky, sometimes for food and sometimes for their feathers, but more often for their own puerile amusement. Today, these parrots are never seen north of the Rio Grande.

Areas of pristine old growth forest habitat still exist in the Mexican state of Chihuahua, high in the Sierra Madre Occidental, where the parrots come every spring to nest. Only a few hours drive from the city of Chihuahua visitors can experience the delight of their songs in the early morning as they leave their nests to search for food. North America map

Mexico map

Pinon Forest
Piñon Forest – Prime Thick-billed Parrot habitat
The juniper and pine forests of Chihuahua are disappearing at an alarming rate due to illegal logging, but efforts are being made to work with local ejidos (communally-owned farmlands) to initiate birding and eco-tourism into the area. Such projects would provide a lucrative alternative to logging of the forests, and perhaps may one day contribute to the salvation of some of the last examples of this virgin habitat.
Pinon Forest

Pinon Forest

Ranch in Northern Mexico just south of Ciudad Juarez
Pinon Forest Homestead
Forest Homestead

Rock formations

Mysterious dolmen-like formations. Here the Thick-billed parrots drink water from tiny pools in the rocks.

Rock formations

Ben Brown
Dr. Ben Brown of the University of Texas at El Paso, talking with local people from a Sierra Madre ejido. Dr. Brown works with the Chihuahua Tourist Board, and is hoping to implement eco-tourism projects into the area.

Note from Kit: This piece originally appeared in and was produced with the assistance of Davarian Hall.


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