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Birdwatchers Talking Up a Storm Over Rare Parrot

May 18, 2003|From Associated Press

TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES, N.M. — A bright green parrot has become a sensation for birdwatchers and biologists in central New Mexico.

The endangered thick-billed parrot -- an endangered species not seen in the United States for decades -- has been spotted at Ted Turner's ranch near here, feasting on seeds pried out of pine cones in ranch manager Tom Waddell's yard.

"It's big," said Ken Stinnett of Las Cruces, a trained biologist who works as a stockbroker. He posted the sighting of the green parrot with a crimson forehead on an Internet birding site. "It turned into a frenzy," he said.

"Birders have flown in from all over," Waddell said. "It's like observing an extinct species."

The parrots once ranged from Mexico into the mountains of southwestern New Mexico and southeastern Arizona. But hunting and the loss of their pine forest habitat drove the birds away.

Now the species is found in Mexico's Sierra Madre Occidental mountain range. The last confirmed sighting in the United States was in southwestern New Mexico in the 1960s.

"They were vulnerable because they are a very social species," said Noel Snyder, a retired Arizona Game and Fish Department biologist. "They appear in flocks. They're very approachable -- you can get within gunshot range. And they're noisy."

No one knows how this single parrot wound up at Turner's ranch. Some think it was carried into the area by stormy weather.

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