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Puerto Rican Amazon

 (Amazona vittata)
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© Ricardo Valentin

Project Status: Active | 2004, 2009 - current

Collaborators/Funders

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

Rare Amazon parrot in a race for survival

The world’s population of fewer than 700 Puerto Rican Amazons (Amazona vittata) resides in the Rio Abajo State Forest and the El Yunque National Forest.

Progress and outcomes: WPT has partnered with Puerto Rican Department of Environmental and Natural Resources since 2009 to support the program at the Rio Abajo aviary. Breeding birds are currently held in captivity at Rio Abajo and Luquillo, carefully managed to preserve genetic diversity.  Over a hundred birds have been released back into the wild. In 2017, despite having a record breeding season the population was devastated when Hurricane Maria hit the island, causing the loss of 40% of the wild population at Rio Abajo and 60% overall. As of September 2019, there were 128-140 wild parrots in the Río Abajo Forest. In 2020 there was another breeding boom, with 44 chicks fledging and joining the wild population.

Focus of future work:  WPT has supported studies that were the first to document breeding behaviour of males and females in both captive and wild populations. 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: Fewer than 700, captive and wild

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 became extinct by 1912.  Population numbers declined from about 2000 in the 1930s to a low of 13 birds in 1975.  After some recovery, in 1989, Hurricane Hugo halved the population from 47 to 23.  Over the next while 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 over 400 in captivity.  It has been confined to the Luquillo mountains in an area that 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 other severe weather
  • 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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