The Puerto Rican parrot, also known as the Puerto Rican Amazon (Amazona vittata), is one of the rarest birds on earth. It is the only native parrot in Puerto Rico (the only place where they live in the wild). According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, only 34-40 remain in the wild and 143 are in captivity. Below are interesting facts about the endangered Puerto Rican parrot.
The overall color of these beautiful birds is a brilliant emerald green. Above the beak are red feathers, around the eyes are white, and underneath the wings are bright blue feathers. They are relatively small, about 11 inches in length and about 10 ounces in weight. Male and female parrots look exactly alike. In fact, the only way to distinguish between the two is through DNA testing or by observing their behavior during breeding season.
Puerto Rican parrots live in the forest and can mostly be found in the tree canopy. Loss of habitat by deforestation is the main reason for them becoming endangered.
Their diet consists mainly of wild fruits. They will also eat leaves, bark, nectar, flowers, and seeds.
Sexual maturity is reached at about 4 years of age. Puerto Rican parrots will mate for life. They reproduce once a year. Breeding takes place between the months of February and July. The female lays 3-4 eggs and incubates them for 24-28 days. After the eggs hatch, the chicks will fledge in 60-65 days.
These parrots nest in large, deep tree cavities. According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife, “Since 2001, all known nesting in the wild has occurred in artificial cavities.”
Besides deforestation, other contributing factors for a decline in population include natural predation, hunting for food, cage-bird trade, pest control, and hurricanes.
The following are Puerto Rican parrot facts regarding their numbers in the wild:
- In 1493, there were over 100,000.
- In the 1950s, only a couple of hundred remained.
- In 1975, there was an all-time low of 13.
- In 1989, the numbers were up to at least 47 but half of them were lost after Hurricane Hugo passed through.
They were placed on the endangered list in 1967 and although they have been saved from extinction, they are still considered critically endangered. Major interventions to increase their numbers include captive breeding and reintroduction. Small lightweight radios are placed around the necks of released parrots. This allows them to be monitored for 9 months (until the battery dies) so researchers can gather information on their survival and habitat preferences. Other interventions include artificial nest sites and control of nest competitors and predators.
If the recovery objective is met, Puerto Rican parrots will be down listed to threatened (instead of endangered) by the year 2020.
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service: Puerto Rican Parrot - https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pubs/facts/PR_parrot_QA.pdf
Bird Life International: Puerto Rican Amazon - https://www.birdlife.org/datazone/search/species_search.html?action=SpcHTMDetails.asp&sid=1666&m=0
The Spectacular Puerto Rican Parrot - https://www.puertorico.com/wildlife/parrot/