REGUA received a telephone call from the local Forestry Police asking if it would be possible to release 170 wild Buffy-fronted Seedeaters Sporophila frontalis on reserve land. These birds had been found in cages in a house in the Nova Friburgo area. As the species are within range we of course agreed. The release site was decided on – an area near the wetlands, where there is plenty of cover for the birds to shelter in and diverse food sources for them, but also it has easy access for the vehicles and attending people.
On 20 July, visitors from the lodge attended and children from a local school also arrived so that the release could be used as an educational example. Short presentations were given to the children by both the Municipal Secretary of the Environment and the police officers, explaining why it is wrong to take birds from the wild, put them in cages and keep them in their own homes, and why it was such a positive event to be able to release them back into the wild. The children were captivated and listened carefully to all that was said.
Four cages were carefully taken from the vehicle and the children were invited to remove the covers. As soon as the seedeaters saw daylight and their surroundings they started to call and flap excitedly. A few escaped from gaps in the cages and sat in nearby trees calling which only served to excite the others more.
The children opened the cages and squealed in delight as these small birds flew off to freedom. Some of the birds needed a little encouragement, and Mauricio (REGUA’s Nursery Manager who had helped with the operation throughout) gently turned some of the cages on their side so the birds would find the exits easier. After a few minutes all had been released and appeared to disperse successfully.
The opportunity to release the birds safely and to ensure that local children were involved fulfils REGUA’s conservation and education objectives of ensuring the protection of all species found in the upper Guapiaçu Valley as per its mission.
Obviously releasing species is a highly contentious subject because of the health of the birds and the risk of spreading disease, but as these birds had only been in captivity for two days – having been caught in mist nets – the priority was to get them back into the wild as soon as possible. It was good to see the birds adapt well to their new surroundings.
Sporophila Frontalis‘ conservation status is Vulnerable. They are well know for their migratory behaviour. They feed on bamboo seeds which they follow as the flowering and fruiting occurs at different periods from the south to the centre of the country, mostly in the Atlantic Rainforest. A highly prized caged birds, these species are in demand and caught frequently in large numbers because of their flocking habits. We hope that their return to the forest will only be an example of more successful releases in the future.