La Ensenada Ready for Parrot Roosts

Christine Dahlin, PhD

posted June 08, 2016

A well-camouflaged - and quite large - caterpillar.

Pitt-Johnstown assistant professor Christine Dahlin, PhD, is travelling this summer through Central America, specifically Costa Rica and Nicaragua, to study communication in yellow-naped amazon parrots.

We have now crossed a bridge over a small expanse of ocean into the Nicoya peninsula. So far we have successfully recorded at four previous sites and one new one, La Ensenada Lodge, which happened to be at a resort-style horse ranch with views of the coast and howler monkeys over the cabin (drat!).

 howler monkeys

Among the sights of Costa Rica are a family of howler monkeys (above) and a very large tarantula (below).


La Ensenada proved to be very interesting, since we found fantastic yellow-nape habitat and a few scattered parrots, but no evidence of a roost anywhere. The parrots here appear to have dwindled away to almost nothing, likely due to excessive poaching. This area may prove ripe for re-introduction in the future.

From La Ensenada we moved to Tobago, a farm site we have recorded at very successfully in the past. The lodging here again was a great change from Benicio’s house (our first home). Air conditioning, hot showers, what a luxury! Three fawns played behind the cabins and agoutis (chubby, rabbit like herbivores without tails and rotund little butts) ambled about the property, making it difficult for me to walk anywhere without my camera.

We stopped in Caṅas that day for errands and laundry, but only had success with the errands at a Maxi-Pali, which we are fondly referring to as Maxi-Pad. Imagine a Costa Rica version of Wal-Mart! Soon we’ll have to start hand-washing our clothes if we don’t locate a laundromat, so we’re hoping for success in another town.

That night we hit gold at Toboga, recording more than enough birds despite a reluctant security guard refusing to allow us on one of the properties. Our roost count indicates that that the population at this site is down though.

We don’t know if the birds have decided to roost elsewhere or if the population is declining. Either way, it was not a good sign. Despite that, we enjoyed being surrounded by vigorously duetting parrots who exchanged many calls between the tree-tops. We fell into bed exhausted after another successful 14 hour day.

The culture of Costa Rica is also really captivating. The colors of the houses, student uniforms, and signs on the bodegas (stores) reflect the vibrant colors of the flowers and birds. Turquoise, orange and yellow are favorites, and makes it hard to feel unhappy.

I would love to package it up and bring home the hues to Pennsylvania. 

Note: Dr. Dahlin's study and trip are funded by a grant from the Central Research Development Fund (CRDF),through the University of Pittsburgh.