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Saving the Red-browed Amazon

Parrots magazine 150th issuePauline James talks to one of Britain’s most successful and respected aviculturalists

Bob and Pat Mann’s contribution to parrot breeding has been enormous, and has had a huge impact on captive breeding programmes, worldwide. Due to their successes over a 30-year period, they have been able to supply rare birds to many of the most important collections in the world, and have undoubtedly helped to save critically endangered species in the wild, from disappearing altogether in captivity.

One such parrot is the Red-browed, Red-topped, Red-crowned or Blue-cheeked Amazon (Amazona rhodocorytha), which comes from the lowland rainforests of south-eastern Brazil. It is now, one of the rarest neotropical parrots in the wild, and although it has been officially listed under CITES I, as ‘endangered,’ since 1970, its population is continuing to decline.

In 2005, BirdLife International estimated that the population was down to 845, but a recent count by The International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), suggested that there are now no more than 250 individuals left in the wild.

Unfortunately, this species has been further condemned to desperate status levels by breeders finding them notoriously reluctant and difficult to breed. Compatibility problems, along with pairs failing to reach full breeding condition, were thought to play a large part in the Amazons refusing to nest. Even, when pairs were coaxed to breed, very often the female would peak, a week or two before the male, invariably leading to infertile eggs.

But, Bob and Pat have had no such problems, and successfully bred from their first pair of Red-browed Amazons at their first attempt, within weeks of acquiring them, and from there went from strength to strength, continuing to produce youngsters of this species for 20 years. In fact, they have probably had more success with this Amazon than any other collection in Europe. In total, Bob bred an impressive 81 youngsters, from six different breeding pairs and he tells me that in all that time he only ever had a handful of infertile eggs laid.

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