Echo Bonaire is an amazing parrot sanctuary that is working towards conserving the endangered Yellow-shouldered Amazon Parrot. Through conservation management, research, and restoration of their habitat they hope to increase the population.
This sounded like something I had to see so I organized a girls day out which started with lunch at Between 2 Buns and then a road trip to Echo Bonaire. Our group consisted of Marilyn (from “Cardera“), Cindy (“Tranquility“), Jane (“Cheetah II”) and I.
The trip to the sanctuary is 35 minutes from downtown Kralendijk where our boats are located. Marilyn took us along the beautiful coast line across windy roads and over a few hills. When we arrived, we were very surprised to find over 20 people waiting to go on the tour. Matt and I had tried to take the tour the previous week, but a freak wind/rain storm came upon us just as we were heading out. We decided to skip the tour thinking the birds wouldn’t want to be out in that weather either.
Our tour guide, Rose, spoke several languages to her guests and was very knowledgeable, professional, and kind. She is a student volunteer who lives in the volunteer quarters on the property which are pretty rustic with no running water or electricity.
There are 7500 Yellow-Shouldered Amazon Parrots in the world and about 800-1000 live in Bonaire at any given time.
One of Echo’s primary goals is reforestation which is important to preserving these birds. The tour started at the nursery where several green houses host native plants and trees that are preferred by the parrots.
Their goal is to plant 2000 native trees across 7 hectares (7.4 acres). They have established three hectares and have planted over 400 trees. The hectares are created to keep the donkeys, goats, and pigs out in order to give the native trees a chance to grow. There are 50 species of trees native to Bonaire and they have been able to replant 45 of them. Each tree is planted by hand and watered, by hand, once a week during the dry season.
Volunteers retrieve hurt birds and bring them to Echo where they are kept isolated for a few days for observation. Once they are eating and healing they are put in the “Release Aviary.” There the birds are observed with other parrots for three days. The other parrots will “test” the new bird – kind of like a new kid in school.
Most parrots come in with a broken wing (at the shoulder) which is very hard to care for and heal. It can take well over a year for the bird to relearn how to fly again.
In order for a parrot to be released, they must know how to fly and they have to be afraid of people. They are trying aversion programs to desensitize the parrots to humans.
The tour was a walking tour through a portion of their property, over a small trail covered with prickles and cacti. But Rose brought us to a beautiful overlook of Lake Grotto which was incredibly beautiful.
Parrots can live for 30-60 years and are most vocal at sunrise and sunset. Rose informed us that as the sun is setting the parrots congregate together and ask questions.
What do the parrots talk about:
- How was your day?
- Where did you find food?
- Where are you going tomorrow?
They do the same thing first thing in the morning as the sun is rising.
Echo Bonaire is subsidized by Bonaire, the Netherlands, and tourists. They also just started selling their trees to locals to help spread their reforestation efforts.
These two birds were found being smuggled into the country by a tourist at the airport.
These two beautiful macaws were donated by a family on the island when the owner passed away. One was really depressed and picked his feathers out which will never grow back. But they were both so pretty and friendly. These macaws can live up to 135 years.
As we were nearing the end of our tour, we came to a small opening surrounded by trees. The sun was setting and just as Rose said, the parrots started communicating with each other and asking all sorts of questions. It was so musical.