Parrots

Status: Endangered throughout its range, Federal Register, March 11, 1967.
The Puerto Rican parrot is bright green, about a foot in length, with red forehead, blue
primary wing feathers, and flesh-colored bill and feet. This bird feeds chiefly on wild fruits,
particularly the sierra palm (Prestoria montana), but may also consume flowers and tender
shoots. During October, when other fruits are scarce, the tabonuco fruit (Dacryodes
excelsa) becomes an important food item. Rodriguez-Vidal (1959) lists over 5O different
plants whose fruits are eaten by the parrots.
All recent observations indicate that nesting is confined almost exclusively to natural
cavities in colorado trees. The parrots clean out the interior of the cavity but they do not
add lining material. Nest height varies from about 7 to 15 meters above the ground. Birds
that have reached 3 to 4 years begin mating activities in January. Clutch size ranges from
two to four eggs. The period from laying to fledging requires about 13 weeks. Since 1973,
when an intensive management program was started, the fledging rate, based on eggs laid,
has been about 70 percent. Pre-1973 success was between 11 and 26 percent.
The captive program of the Puerto Rican parrot was initiated in 1968 by collecting parrots
already in captivity and a few from the wild. A captive flock is being maintained to increase
the sheer number of parrots; to maintain a second group of birds, particularly if there
should occur a natural catastrophe; to provide and manipulate different genetic stock for
trading with the wild flock; and to eventually provide stock to be reintroduced into the wild.
The Puerto Rican parrot is presently found only in Puerto Rico, but up until 1899 it was
also found on nearby Culebra Island, and earlier on Vieques and Mona Islands. In Puerto
Rico, the parrots were known to be in Guajataca Forest at medium elevations until 1910;
and in Rio Abajo Forest, also at medium elevations, until the 1920’s. In Carite Forest, the
parrot was found at high elevations until the 1930’s; and in the swamp at the mouth of the
Mameyes River until 1927. Since 1940, the range has been limited to the Caribbean
National Forest in extreme eastern Puerto Rico. Although the Caribbean National Forest
contains over 26,000 acres, the parrots have concentrated in a small area of some 3,000
acres in the western and west central part of the forest (Rodriguez-Vidal 1959).
At the time of Columbus, the parrot’s total population may have exceeded 100,000
individuals. In the 1950’s, the population was estimated at 200 birds; and, in 1975, reached
an all time low of 13 birds. By August, 1989, the population count of the wild flock
resulted in a minimum of 47 birds. There were five breeding pairs, although not all bred
Hurricane Hugo hit eastern Puerto Rico on September 18, 1989, severely impacting the
Caribbean National Forest. Currently, there are about 24 to 26 parrots in the wild,
including four breeding pairs, and 56 in captivity at the Luquillo Aviary.
The present habitat consists of mature rain forest located between about 1,300 and 2,700
feet in elevation. Dwarf forest at the higher elevations and second growth lowland forest
are not used. The parrots are confined to areas having the largest number of old colorado
trees (Cyrilla racemiflora), which supply nesting cavities. Historically, the parrots nested in
holes in cliffs as well, and occupied a more diversified habitat, particularly at lower
The initial decline is attributed to extensive deforestation. Contributing factors have
included widespread hunting; devastating hurricanes during 1928, 1932, and 1989; natural
predation; and the taking of parrots for pets. The extremely small size of the remaining
population makes all adverse pressures very serious. The pearly-eyed thrasher (Margarops
fuscatus), which has become much more abundant and widespread in recent years, and the
red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) are considered to be natural predators. The
pearly-eyed thrasher is also an active competitor for the limited number of suitable nesting
The Recovery Plan for the Puerto Rican Parrot, Amazona vittata, approved in April 1987
(original approval: November 30, 1982), includes the following recommendations:
Increase effective wild population at the Caribbean National Forest to a self-sustaining
Maximize production of Puerto Rican parrots in captivity for eventual release.
Protect and improve present and potential parrot habitat within the Caribbean
National Forest area and the Rio Abajo area.
Establish and maintain a second effective wild population of at least 500 birds in
Manage wild populations in the Caribbean

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