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Yellow-shouldered Amazon

 (Amazona barbadensis)
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© Sam Williams

Project Status: Active | 2002 - current


ECHO (Bonarie), RARE, University of Missouri-St. Louis

Nest poaching and habitat alternation affect wild populations

With an estimated wild population in the low thousands the Yellow-shouldered Amazon (Amazona barbadensis) is Vulnerable in the wild. On the island of Bonaire however, the population is growing.

WPT conservation actions: Beginning in 2002 WPT began supporting a series of projects, both conservation and research-oriented, to help save the Yellow-shouldered Amazon on Bonaire and in Venezuela.

Progress: More than a decade ago WPT was contacted by Paul Butler at RARE asking for help with a ringing and amnesty initiative to protect the birds on the island of Bonaire, just off the coast of Venezuela. On July 1, 2002 this campaign began, together with its population and local nature and environment conservancy organisations, with an event at one of the primary schools. The Councillor of Environmental Affairs participated in a symbolic banding of the first Yellow-shouldered Amazon, or Lora, as it is locally called. WPT provided a supply of discounted bands, and over 600 pet parrots were banded.

WPT has also supported Dr. Sam Williams and Dr. Rowan Martin, and the formation of Echo, a non-governmental organization founded for the purpose of saving the species. The project's work for the Yellow-shouldered Amazon over the last decade has included: 

  • Conducting research and surveys on population and habitat use
  • Rescuing, rehabilitating and releasing parrots caught in the bird trade
  • Protecting and restoring vital habitat for nesting and foraging
  • Creating an education campaign
  • Managing nesting sites
  • Continuing research into breeding ecology
  • Introducing sustainable tourism

In August 2011, WPT funded the rescue of a number of Lora and other chicks when they were confiscated and sent to Echo, where they were hand-raised in preparation for release back into the wild.  WPT also backed the work of Adriana Rodríguez-Ferraro, of the Dept. of Biology, University of Missouri-St. Louis – ‘The Conservation genetics of the Yellow-shouldered Parrot’, in Venezuela.

Population numbers of Yellow-shouldered Amazons on Bonaire have been increasing for the last decade. Between 1980 and 2000 the yearly population estimate averaged around 350 birds. January 2013 saw an increase to 865 individuals. The formation of a 'Parrot Club', an after-school group dedicated to the Yellow-shouldered Amazon has attracted 400 youngsters. This, along with the STINAPA Junior Rangers youth group, has galvanized young people on Bonaire to action, to help conserve habitat and parrots.  More local involvement is being encouraged with Parrot Experience Tourism, where guides are now being trained to lead groups out to parrots.  Tree planting has been very active, with hectares of area restored on Bonaire.


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IUCN/CITES Status: Vulnerable / Appendix I

World population: 2500 – 10,000

Where found: Restricted to small coastal area in Venezuela and the islands of Blanquilla, Margarita and Bonaire. Introduced to Curacao, Netherlands Antilles.

History: The Yellow-shouldered Amazon (Amazona barbadensis) has a fragmented range with seven genetically isolated populations in N coastal Venezuela (Falcón, Lara, Anzoátegui and Sucre) and the islands of Margarita, La Blanquilla, Curaçao and Bonaire (Rodríguez-Ferraro 2009). The mainland population is apparently low, but the population on Margarita has increased from 750 birds in 1989 (Sanz and Grajal 1998).  There are reports of a wild population on Curaçao since 1988 (De Boer 2008, A. Rodríguez-Ferraro in litt. 2012). It is now extinct on Aruba.  On the islands there were 1,600 on Margarita in 2008 [Briceño-Linares et al. 2011], 100 on La Blanquilla in 1996-1998 [Rodríguez-Ferraro and Sanz 2007], and 650-800 on Bonaire in 2012 [Department of Resources and Planning, Bonaire per R. Martin and S. Williams in litt. 2012]).  In 1992, 12 captive-reared birds were reintroduced to Margarita (Sanz and Grajal 1998), which was moderately successful.


  • Capture for the wild bird trade
  • Destruction of habitat for tourist and associated developments
  • In some areas is hunted for allegedly damaging crops
  • Degradation of natural vegetation for timber and charcoal (Bonaire)
  • Overgrazing of plants by goats and donkeys, reducing natural food species diversity
  • Destruction of nest sites from poaching
  • Predation by introduced mammals

Ecology: This parrot occurs in areas with cacti and thorny bush and trees; also reported around cultivated areas and around mangroves. Found up to 450m (1476 ft) on Margarita, possibly higher on the mainland.  Birds take fruits of several trees and bushes, seeds, nectar rich blossoms, cactus tops, and cactus fruit. They will also sometimes take crops, such as avocado, mango and maize.

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