One of the advantages to living on the Mexican border is that we occasionally get to cross it. Our latest favorite destination is Madera, Chihuahua, home of the world's largest remaining flock of endangered Thick-billed Parrots.I first visited Madera in September 2002 at the invitation of colleague Noel Snyder, who was a major player in the ultimately unsuccessful attempt to reintroduce the species into Arizona. When I got home, Tom asked, "So, how was the trip?" I replied by showing him dozens of photos of parrots, nesting Eared Quetzals, and much more. His next words, once he caught his breath, were, "When do we leave?" Two weeks later we were back in Madera and already planning tours through SABO with the parrots and Eared Quetzals ("Ps & Qs") as the headliners.
One of our traveling companions on last July's tour was conservation biologist, author, and Princeton University professor David S. Wilcove (fourth from the right in the photo at left). David's encounters with the guacamayas, as Aldo Leopold called them, inspired him to write a thoughful article on the species' past, present, and future for the Winter 2008 issue of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's magazine, Living Bird.
The best news in this article for the parrots and those of us who love them is that the American Bird Conservancy and ProNatura have been hard at work negotiating protection for their most important nesting areas. With on-the-ground conservation efforts and the added economic incentives of ecotourism, there may hope for the future of these gaudy, raucous treasures of the Sierra Madre. --SW