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Puerto Rican Amazon

 (Amazona vittata)
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© Ricardo Valentin

Project Status: Active | 2004, 2009 - current

Collaborators

Department of Natural and Enivronmental Resources (DNER), Puerto Rican Parrot Recovery Program, US Fish and Wildlife

World’s rarest Amazon parrot in struggle for survival

The world’s population of 480 to 550 Puerto Rican Amazons (Amazona vittata) resides in the Rio Abajo State Forest and the El Yunque National Forest.

Progress and outcomes: WPT partnered with Puerto Rican Department of Natural Resources in 2009 to support the breeding programs at the Rio Abajo aviary. Around 430 birds are currently held in captivity at Rio Abajo and Luquillo, and these are being carefully managed to preserve genetic diversity.  Over a hundred birds have been released back into the wild.

Focus of future work:  WPT is supporting a group of researchers on a 3-year study of the captive and wild populations at El Yunque National Forest, research which will be the first to document breeding behavior of males and females in both captive and wild populations. The goals of this study will be to: Examine the role of duetting as a predictor of nesting and fledgling success, learn if the male feeding rate during the incubation period affects the number of chicks that successfully hatch, measure incubation consistency of the female and its effect on hatching success, and determine feeding patterns of individual chicks by both males and females and their effects on fledging success. The results of this study will be used to increase reproductive success by selectively pairing males and females that exhibit particular breeding behaviours.

With your help we can complete these important tasks to better understand the species, and continue to deliver effective solutions to further their conservation. 

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IUCN/CITES Status: Critically Endangered / Appendix I

Wild population: Between 480 and 550, wild and captive (2014)

Where found: Puerto Rico and formerly neighbouring islands of Mona and Culebra; possibly Vieques and St. Thomas.

History:  The Puerto Rican Amazon, or Amazona vittata, is native to Puerto Rico, and once occurred throughout the forested parts of the island. Subspecies gracilipes was once found on the island of Culebra, but was extinct by 1912.  Population numbers declined from about 2000 in the 1930s to a low of 13 birds in 1975.  In 1989, Hurricane Hugo halved the population from 47 to 23.  Over the next decade and a half the population fluctuated, until 2011 when it numbered from 50-70 wild birds and about 280 captive individuals (Breining 2009, T. White in litt. 2012).  There are now 430 in captivity.  It has been confined to the Luquillo mountains in an area which represents only 0.2% of its former range (Snyder et al. 1987). Intensive conservation action has prevented the species' extinction, although recovery has been slow and the population remains very small.

Threats:

  • Habitat loss and degradation
  • Hunting
  • Capture for the wild bird trade
  • Increase in hurricanes and severe weather, such as major rainfall events
  • Competition for suitable nest sites
  • Loss of young to parasites and predation
  • Predation of released birds by Red-tailed Hawks Buteo jamaicensis

Ecology: These parrots were formerly found in all vegetation types from mangrove to montane forest, and dry forest in the south of Puerto Rico.  They take seeds, fruits, flowers and leaves as their foods.

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