Thick-Billed Parrots in the Chiricahua Mountains

Thick-Billed Parrots in the Chiricahua Mountains

Thick-billed parrots (Rhynchopsitta pachyrhyncha) once numerous in Southeast Arizona, particularly the Chiricahua Mountains, disappeared by 1938 due to hunting pressure and extensive cutting of the mountain forests.
The thick-billed parrot is not a bird of tropical vegetation, but of pine and deciduous woodlands.  In 1986 a re-introduction of the thick-billed parrot to Arizona by the Arizona Game and Fish Department, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Forest Service had limited success due to the rarity of wild thick-bills to teach those raised in captivity survival skills.  The program still continues today.

Field research included a trip to the Chiricahua Mountains and an interview with Helen Snyder, a biologist who along with her husband, Noel, were key to the release program in the Chiricahuas.  Many hours were spent sketching, recording field notes on behaviors and photographing at the Phoenix Zoo, one of the breeding sites for the program.

In Thick-Billed Parrots of the Chiricahuas, the parrots, young and adult, are exhibiting natural behaviors.  Two are searching the sky for their most feared predator, the goshawk.  One young parrot is eating on a Chihuahua pinecone, while two parrots are preening.  They are high in a Chihuahua pine tree, in The Chiricahua National Monument.

With the continued efforts of the re-introduction program, this scene will become a reality.

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