Archived 2011-2012 topics: Yellow-naped Amazon (Amazona auropalliata): is it eligible for uplisting?

Initial deadline for comments: 31 January 2012 [note that this has been moved back by about two months].

BirdLife species factsheet for Yellow-naped Amazon

Yellow-naped Amazon Amazona auropalliata is found in Middle America, along the Pacific slope of the isthmus in southern Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua and north-western Costa Rica, and the Caribbean slope in eastern Honduras and north-eastern Nicaragua. It inhabits semi-arid woodland, arid scrub and savannas, mangroves, clearings in deciduous forest, Pacific swamp-forest, evergreen gallery forest and sometimes secondary growth in agricultural landscapes (Juniper and Parr 1998, R. Bjork in litt. 2011). It is currently listed as Least Concern, as it was not thought to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under any of the IUCN criteria.

This species has a large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence of less than 20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline was not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (at least a 30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size may be moderately small to large, but it is not believed to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (fewer than 10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be at least 10% over ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure).

The species is regarded as declining, probably throughout its range, owing to habitat loss and degradation, driven primarily by the expansion of agriculture, and capture for local and international trade (Juniper and Parr 1998, Anon. 2008). An estimated population decline of c.50% from c.1980 to 2000 has been reported (Anon. 2008), although this requires confirmation. Deforestation has been a prevalent threat in all range states (Grijalva 2008). For example, mangrove forests in the Gulf of Fonseca region are being cleared for the development of aquaculture and extraction of firewood and timber (Grijalva 2008). In Honduras, the species has been recorded as being c.93% less common in modified habitats, such as cultivation, compared to broadleaved forest (Wiedenfeld 1993).

This species is considered one of the most sought-after psittacines in the Central American pet trade (Wiedenfeld 1993, R. Bjork in litt. 2011), owing to the species’s vocal capabilities (Wiedenfeld 1993, J. Gilardi in litt. 2011). During the 1990s, close to 100% of known nests in southern Guatemala were subject to poaching (L. Joyner in litt. 2011). In south-western El Salvador the species also suffers heavy nest-poaching, as well as a high rate of cavity infestation by Africanised Bees (R. Bjork in litt. 2011). It has been reported that each year c.5,000 young A. auropalliata are smuggled out of La Mosquitia region, Honduras (per O. Andino in litt. 2011), although this has not been verified. Such numbers would not be unrealistic given that, on average, 8,388 birds were recorded in export from Honduras each year in the period 1987-1989 (Wiedenfeld 1993). The numbers of this species that are recorded in export from Nicaragua appear to be decreasing (Lezama et al. 2004); however, nest poaching is still high and thought to affect over 50% of nests in Rivas department (M. Lezama in litt. 2011). In Costa Rica, roughly a third of nests were raided in one study, accounting for c.85% of the all nest failures observed (Wright et al. 2001, Grijalva 2008), although in one study conducted near Liberia in north-western Costa Rica, up to 100% of the nests located by researchers at study sites had been poached (A. Salinas in litt. 2011). It is thought that twice as many are taken from the wild than are recorded in export, based on a mortality rate of 54% during capture and transit (Pérez and Zúñiga 1998 in Grijalva 2008), although a survival rate of 1 in 3 or 4 has also been reported (per O. Andino in litt. 2011). Anthropogenic threats are thought to exacerbate the effects of poor rates of recruitment to the breeding population (Grijalva 2008).

Preliminary surveys and observations suggest that the population in southern Guatemala has plummeted since the 1990s (L. Joyner in litt. 2011). The comparison of counts at one roost in 1993-1995 and 2009-2011 show that the numbers of birds using it have declined by c.90%, although the possibility that there is now a new roost site in the area has not been eliminated (L. Joyner in litt. 2011). The species is listed as Endangered at the national level in El Salvador due to large reductions in its range and population (MARN 2009). Interviews with local elders in south-western El Salvador provide anecdotal evidence that the species has undergone a significant decline over the past 50-60 years (R. Bjork in litt. 2011). In the early 1990s, the population in Gracias a Dios, Honduras, was estimated at c.123,000 birds; however, by this time the species had been nearly extirpated from Choluteca and El Valle (Wiedenfeld 1993). Surveys in Nicaragua indicate a steep decline in the species’s abundance between 1994-1995 and 2004 (Lezama et al. 2004), and locals in some areas report that the species has disappeared from the vicinity of human settlements (Grijalva 2008). The population in Costa Rica also appears to be in decline (T. Wright in litt. 2011). Although this population is regarded as one of the most secure, local people report that the species has declined over the last 30-40 years (A. Salinas in litt. 2011).

The severity and prevalence of threats to this species suggest that it has declined at a rate of at least 30% since 1975, i.e. the past three generations, estimated by BirdLife to be c.37 years (based on an estimated generation length of c.12.3 years), potentially qualifying the species for uplisting to Vulnerable under criterion A (reduction of 30-49% over ten years or three generations, whichever is longer). A rate of decline suspected to be at least 50% over the same time frame would probably qualify the species as Endangered (50-79% decline). A suspected decline exceeding 80% over the same time period would likely qualify the species for uplisting to Critically Endangered. The same rate thresholds apply to declines projected over the next three generations (2012-2049: criterion A3) and a three-generation period stretching from the past to the future (e.g. 1993-2030: criterion A4).

Comments are invited on the potential uplisting of this species to Vulnerable, and further information is requested on the severity of threats and likely rate of decline over the last 37 years and projected rate of decline over the next 37 years. The submission of survey data from various parts of the species’s range would greatly assist in the estimation of the total population size, ideally as the number of mature individuals (those actually breeding and capable of breeding), as its population is currently presumed to greatly exceed 10,000 mature individuals.


Anon. (2008) Yellow-naped Parrots under threat in Nicaragua. Cyanopsitta 91: 14-15.

Grijalva, A. E. A. (2008) Monitoreo de la “lora nuca amarilla” (Amazona aurocapilliata) como especie clave y estabecimiento de sitios importantes para su conservación en el area de conservación Bahía de Jiquilisco, Usulután. San Salvador, El Salvador: Miniterio de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales.

Juniper, T. and Parr, M. (1998) Parrots: a guide to the parrots of the world. Robertsbridge, UK: Pica Press.

Lezama, M., Vilchez, S., Mayorga M. and Castellón, R. (2004) Monitoreo de Psitácidos, 2004 – Estado Actual y Conservación. Managua, Nicaragua: Univesidad Centroamericana.

MARN (2009) Acuerdo No. 36. – Listado oficial de especies de vida silvestre amenazadas o en peligro de extinción. Diario Oficial de El Salvador 383, 103. San Salvador: Ministerio de Gobernación.

Wiedenfeld, D. A. (1993) Status and management of Psittacines in northeastern Honduras. Unpublished report to CITES Secretariat, COHDEFOR and TRAFFIC, USA.

Wright et al. (2001) Nest Poaching in Neotropical Parrots. Cons. Biol. 15: 710-720.

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2 Responses to Archived 2011-2012 topics: Yellow-naped Amazon (Amazona auropalliata): is it eligible for uplisting?

  1. Vulnerable – possibly endangered
    In the last year we have been doing monthly counts at the roost site where we have figures from the 1990s. Several of these counts only have 2-3 birds when we used to have up to 250. I cannot extrapolate from this one roost area, however, based on what we are seeing in general and given the nearly 100% poaching rate in this area in the 1990s (and we have evidence that it is just as great now) and the tremendous loss of habitat due to sugar cane crops, I suspect that this species in Guatemala has plummeting populations in the lat 15 years – easily over the 50% reduction – just in 15 years.

  2. I would like to share my experience with Amazona auropalliata in two places of Nicaragua


    Between 24 and August 25, 2011 I had the opportunity to visit the Volcano Natural Reserve Cosihuina. On that occasion I accompanied Mr. Oscar Ivan Arroliga, Fundación Amigos del Río San Juan (FOUND), and James Gilardi (Director of the World Parrot Trust). The purpose of the trip was to find individuals of Ara macao cyanoptera and Amazona auropalliata. At that time the area was being handled by the LIDER institution, institution to which he gave management of the area through MARENA. (Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Nicaragua).

    We arrived at the north of Punta Salvia, where we toured the dry forest for almost 4.5 hours (15:00 to 19:30). From a high point where we had good view of the Valley recorded the number of sightings. We detected between 8-11 pairs of Amazona auropalliata and 3 pairs of adult Ara macao cyanoptera.

    On August 25 at 6:30 am, en route to Punta Potosi Salvia from the vehicle detected a total of 5 pairs of Amazona auropalliata. On the way to Potosi we stopped at the home of the Rangers, who in an interview told us that the trafficking of birds in the area was high, and both Ara macao as Amazona auropalliata were targets of poachers. The same ranger told us that he had poached Ara macao nests in the area and complained of “competition” among robbers of nests, and there were times he reached the nest and the chicks had been stolen by another poacher. Apparently traffic is directed to El Salvador. I think that Cosihuina is a key site for research, given its designation as a Nature Reserve.

    Morgan’s Rock

    Between 26 and August 27, 2011 I visited Hacienda & Ecolodge Morgan’s Rock, in San Juan del Sur on the Pacific coast of Nicaragua near the border of Costa Rica. This property that has one of the best remaining patches (1.800 ha) of tropical dry forest. On that occasion I was accompanied by Rosa Elena Zegarra and James Gilardi (Director of the World Parrot Trust). The reason for the visit was to assess the site as potential site for reintroduction of Ara macao cyanoptera. In several hours one afternoon and for about five hours on horseback the following morning, we had the opportunity to observe the population of Amazona auropalliata. Only 2 pairs of Amazona auropalliata were seen or heard throughout the area.

    Although the visits in both places were brief, it is noteworthy that we were in suitable habitat for the species and unfortunately both detections were very low. At both sites poaching is likely common, at least based upon the comments made by local people.

    I believe that the status of both species (Amazona auropalliata and Ara macao cyanoptera) is worrying and urge a reassessment of the status of both populations in Nicaragua.

    Aquí mi experiencia con Amazona auropalliata en dos lugares de Nicaragua:


    El 24 y 25 de agosto 2011 tuve la oportunidad de visitar la Reserva Natural Volcán de Cosihuina, en el Departamento de Chinandega. En esta ocasión me acompañaban el señor Oscar Iván Arroliga, de la Fundación Amigos del Río San Juan (FUNDAR), y el señor James Gilardi (Director del World Parrot Trust). El objetivo del viaje era la búsqueda de individuos de Ara macao cyanoptera y Amazona auropalliata. En ese momento el área estaba a cargo de la institución LIDER, institución que tenía el manejo del área a través del MARENA. (Ministerio de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Nicaragua).

    Llegamos al norte de Punta Salvia, donde recorrió el bosque seco acompañados de guías locales durante 4,5 horas (15:00-19:30). Desde un punto alto donde teníamos buena vista del valle se registró el número de avistamientos. Detectamos entre 8-11 pares de Amazona auropalliata y 3 pares de adultos de Ara macao cyanoptera.

    El 25 de agosto a las 6:30 am, en auto desde Punta la Salvia a Potosí se detectó desde el vehículo un total de 5 pares de Amazona auropalliata. En el camino a Potosí, nos detuvimos en la casa de los Guardabosques. Pudimos conversar con uno de ellos y nos dijo que el tráfico de aves en la zona era alto, y tanto Ara macao como Amazona auropalliata eran blanco de los cazadores furtivos. El guardabosques mismo nos dijo que había saqueado nidos de Ara macao en el área y se quejó de la “competencia” entre los ladrones de nidos, ya que había momentos en que llegaba al nido y los pollos habían sido robados por otro cazador furtivo. Al parecer, el tráfico de aves se dirige a El Salvador. Creo que Cosihuina es un sitio clave para la investigación de las poblaciones de ambas especies, dada su designación como Reserva Natural.

    Morgan´s Rock

    El 26 y 27 de agosto 2011 visité La Hacienda Ecolodge Morgan´s Rock, situada en San Juan del Sur en la costa Pacífica de Nicaragua cerca de la frontera con Costa Rica. Esta propiedad tiene uno de los mejores parches restantes de bosque seco tropical (1.800 ha). En esa ocasión, estuvo acompañado por Rosa Elena Zegarra y James Gilardi (Director de World Parrot Trust). El motivo de la visita fue evaluar el sitio como sitio potencial para la reintroducción de Ara macao cyanoptera. En varias horas durante la tarde del primer día y durante unas cinco horas a caballo a la mañana siguiente tuvimos la oportunidad de observar la población de Amazona auropalliata en el lugar. Sólo dos pares de Amazona auropalliata fueron vistos y oídos en todo el área.

    A pesar de que las visitas en ambos lugares fueron breves, hay que destacar que en ambos lugares estábamos en un hábitat adecuado para la especie y, lamentablemente, ambas detecciones fueron muy bajas. En ambos sitios es probable que la caza furtiva sea común, al menos basándonos en los comentarios hechos por la población local.

    Yo creo que la situación de ambas especies (Amazona auropalliata y Ara macao cyanoptera) es preocupante e insta a una reevaluación de sus status.

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