Many parrots join a bunch of their congeners at night and huddle up to roost. These species are known as communal roosting parrots. Examples are many of the Amazona and Aratinga species and of course the Ring-necked parakeets (Psittacula krameri). Whole populations from extensive areas conveniently come together for us to count. They are best counted with a team of people. Here are the basic steps you want to go trough for a successful count.
- Where do I go? – You have to know the exact roosting site where the parrots join every evening to sleep. If you don’t know this site, you can ask local birders or you can offer a short article to the local press. This will be the first step. Following some sleep migrating birds to their roost site can also help.
- When do I have to be there? – Be at the roost site before the birds arrive at dusk. If you don’t have an idea when they may arrive please be there one hour before sunset.
- What do I need? – You need a writing pad, pencil, watch (for the time of arrival), for counting you usually don’t need binoculars, but of course they are of good help in for identification purposes; One or two persons may serve as writers. In this case several people may count the parrots without interruption. Having several teams covering their own part of the incoming birds is usually very practical. For example one team count birds arriving from the north the other from the South.
- How do I count? – It’s not too difficult. Try to estimate the flock size of birds which come into the roost area (1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100). Make sure that you don’t count birds twice. Before you start counting you may watch the scene some days before. Sometimes parrots only come in from one direction, so you can avoid double counts. You can note birds per minute. The most interesting thing for us is the sum of birds, but also arrival times may be interesting (when is the time of the biggest flocks) as well as behavior at the roost sites (predator, mating, food sources etc.). Also note the time of sundown of that day
What may be difficult, is if you cannot see the whole area where birds fly in, sometimes houses or trees hide the parrots coming in. Try to find the best location, so that you can count as many birds as possible. Counting with a team can resolve many of these issues.
Rain and storm should not be present during the roost count. Use an evening with good weather conditions. Hopefully you will find such a day in January.
People often ask you what you are doing with binoculars at the park. It’s good to get into contact with them as they may serve as a source of information about the parrots. But please make sure they don’t interrupt your count.
The parrots are not there. This would be the worst case. Parrots may shift their roosting sites. In this case you should start again with step 1.
Non-communal roosters are not counted at the evening. They spend their nights in family parties on or close to their nests. For example monk parakeets (Myiopsitta monachus) and Peach-faced lovebirds (Agapornis roseicollis)
Try to find as many nests or occupied tree holes as you can. Every count is an estimate, not an exact number of individuals of one population. For monk parakeets not every nest chamber may be occupied. Tell us what you counted, so we can compare your results with those of your colleagues. What we are after is a consisted count that will tell us in coming years if the population has grown, remained equal or diminished.
Alexandrine parakeets (Psittacula eupatria) sometimes roosts communally, but sometimes do not so. Try to find the occupied tree holes or try to estimate the number of birds at one breeding location. Any number will be better than no number at all.
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