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Home » 2010 - Issue 1, Book & DVDs News, Issue

Book Review - Go West for Parrots! A South American Odyssey

By Marie Stafford

A definite must-read for “parrot lovers”, prospective travelers, and those arm chair travelers who would like to escape and travel vicariously through the author’s descriptive accounts of her South American birding adventures.

Over the past 30 years Rosemary Low has traveled to numerous countries, pursuing her life’s passion for parrots, and appreciation for nature.  Go West for Parrots! is filled with a wealth of information, maps, endangered threat status, and a detailed description of a South American Odyssey.

The stories she relates, and the adventures she encounters searching for parrots, are absolutely intriguing.  You can feel Rosemary’s excitement and fascination as she shares some of her most treasured moments of travel.

As a parrot lover myself, this book truly fulfilled my craving/desire to read and learn more about parrots.

However this book also opened my eyes to admire and value a wider variety of birds.  For example, it’s hard not to share the author’s enthusiasm as she recounts the performance of a male Golden-collared Manakin displaying his courtship dance to gain the attention of a potential mate.  Or the emotional impact the author felt observing the breathtaking beauty of eight to ten Cock of the Rock birds dancing at a lek in Ecuador.  Or even the intense appreciation she feels watching a small hummingbird.

The book lists helpful travel tips and updates of the advances and accomplishments of how conservation projects have helped parrots live longer, better lives in the wild.

Two Green-winged Macaws defend their valuable nesting cavity in a dead palm tree from a pair of Hyacinth Macaws attempting to steal it. Suitable nesting cavities are rare, and competition between macaws often occurs. The winners can then successfully breed for that season to produce offspring. Photo © M Stafford

From land purchases and creating Natural Park Reserves to protect habitat and safeguard the parrots;  to reintroductions of Scarlet Macaws in Costa Rica by Amigos de los Avas;  the reintroduction of Blue & Gold Macaws by Bernadette Plair in Trinidad;  to placing artificial nest boxes for the Critically Endangered Blue-throated Macaw in Bolivia.  Gladly over the years we have watched the population of Hyacinth Macaws multiply, due to the efforts of Biologist Dr Neiva Guedes, founder of Projecto Ara Azul.

There are many dedicated people, including the author, field teams and conservation organizations, we have to thank for these great successes, achievements and protection of parrots in the wild.  I urge you to read this book for yourself for more enthralling examples of conservation accomplishments.

A pair of Hyacinth Macaws in flight Photo © M Stafford

Rosemary Low also describes the plights parrots suffer due to man: deforestation, oil drilling and illegal trade.  This book touches your heart and makes you want to get involved, to make a difference for the future well-being of this planet.  Rosemary describes how even a small donation to a worthy organization can create a positive impact on the future of parrots.   She elaborates how treating yourself to a memorable eco tourism trip can benefit the parrots.  Your travel brings in money, therefore any dollars spent help the local communities.

Interesting facts:

•       Did you know that 1 in 8 of all bird species is threatened with extinction!

•       And that the West is home to more than ⅓ of all parrot species?

•       Torpid is a sort of overnight hibernation that allows the hummingbird to adjust to the ambient temperature.   Remarkably, certain species of hummingbirds can live up to the snow-line in the Andes at 16,000 ft.

•       Rosemary writes: “Contrary to popular legend, Piranhas are mainly vegetarian and use their sharp teeth for cracking palm nuts”.

•       Cera Palms are the tallest palms in the world and extremely slow-growing.  These wax palms are critically endangered, as are the Yellow-eared Parrots of Colombia who are completely dependent on the Cera Palm for feeding, roosting and breeding.

•       Colpas is the name for clay lick.

•       Clay eating is known as Geophagy.

Five Hyacinth Macaws seek cover from a rainstorm in the protective fronds of a large palm tree Photo © M Stafford

There continues to be setbacks and various situations where parrots still are being hunted and persecuted due to a total lack of enforcement of the law.   Rosemary stresses the importance of conservation and education awareness programs for the survival of the species.   This may include: school visits, motivational talks to instill pride in the communities for their local parrot, plays, puppet shows, parades, costumes, parrot posters, etc.

This book was enlightening and fun!  Like I was reading my own personal daily notes of trips I have taken with my husband, Mark - many to the same locations, so I can honestly say this highly regarded author of more than 20 books conveyed an accurate description of the places and projects she visited.

Rosemary was ahead of the times as far as eco tourism birding is concerned. A lot has changed in 30 years.  She writes: “Today’s birders don’t know how lucky they are!”.

Rosemary Low

Other recommended great reads from the author:


A Century of Parrots

Amazon Parrots

Marie Stafford has been enthusiastic about parrots for over 20 years!  Marie and her husband Mark, co-founders of Parrots International, are devoted to their family of 16 companion parrots.  It was their own parrots that sprouted their passion to initiate Parrots International.  Through their travels they realized the necessity for more conservation endeavors to maintain and preserve endangered parrot species and to protect the dwindling natural resources left on this planet.


The yearning to gain more knowledge led to observation, study and working on various PI related projects in the field - the Caribbean, Mexico and throughout South and Central America.  The most recent project involved capturing and placing radio collar transmitters, banding, taking feather samples, weighing and measuring Slender-billed Conures in Chile.


Marie’s intensity and love for nature led her to preserving life -lasting memories through her camera.  Over the years, many of her published wildlife photographs of parrots have helped raise money to support PI and deserving Projects.


Her goal for co-chairing each year’s PI Symposium is the hope that attendees will gain new insights, share and exchange knowledge and walk away with a rejuvenated enthusiasm to do more…

The upcoming 6th Annual Parrots International Symposium May 13-16, 2010 will include talks on conservation efforts and achievements, updates on ongoing projects, companion parrot care and behavior, veterinarian advances and concerns.  It will also feature video and photographs of parrots in the wild.   The past Symposiums have helped create a working forum between field teams and researchers.


Besides sharing a life of bold experiences and adventure travel with her husband Mark, Marie is also the mother of two adult children and a Dental Office Manager from 9 to 5.

blogs from the field - parrot conservation in real time