Puerto Rican Parrot

The Puerto Rican Parrot is a species of critically endangered birds endemic to the Puerto Rican archipelago. The primary factors for their dramatic population decline include human colonization of the island and eventual loss of suitable forest habitats, poaching for cagebird trade, as well as natural causes like predation, and natural disasters like the hurricane Maria that affected their population back in 2017.

Puerto Rican Parrot Scientific Classification

Animalia
Chordata
Aves
Psittaciformes
Psittacidae
Amazona
Amazona vittata

Table Of Content

Scientific Classification

Puerto Rican Parrot

Animalia
Chordata
Aves
Psittaciformes
Psittacidae
Amazona
Amazona vittata

Physical Description

Size: The total head to tail length is 28–30 cm (11.0–11.8 in).

Weight: On average, they weigh around 250–300 g (8.8–10.6 oz), or 275 g (9.7 oz).

Body Feathers: The plumage is largely green that is relieved by the red forecrown, and blue primaries.

Feet: Pink or flesh-colored with claws bearing sharp nails.

Eyes: The rounded black eyes are bordered by white patches.

Beaks: The beaks are strong, curved and flesh-colored, bearing pair of tiny nostrils at the base.

Puerto Rican Parrot

Sexual Dimorphism: Both the male and the female of the species are similar.

Lifespan

There is not enough biological data regarding the longevity of these birds in the wild.

Distribution

Their natural range is West Indies on Puerto Rico’s Greater Antilles Island, in the northeastern regions of the Caribbean Sea, to the east of Hispaniola, as also, in the western parts of the Virgin Islands.

Habitat

Puerto Rican parrots are mostly found in the wet forests of Puerto Rico, starting from the moist mountainous forests, down to the mangroves and coastal scrub forests.

Puerto Rican Parrot Habitat
Picture of Puerto Rican Parrot

Classification of Species

Two subspecies of the Puerto Rican parrot could be recognized by the biologists, with one of them being the extant and nominate subspecies, Amazona vittata vittata, which is presently found only in Puerto Rico, and the other being the extinct Amazona vittata gracilipes that inhabited the Culebra Island. However, it is not clear whether the latter was considerably different from the former.

Behavior

Puerto Rican parrots are typically seen in pairs. Like most other parrot species, these birds are also diurnal, foraging amidst the dense forests almost throughout the day. These birds perceive their environment through auditory, visual, chemical, and tactile stimuli.

They are social, gregarious birds, mostly fly in flocks, except when it comes to mating – the time when they make pairs and build nests to copulate. These birds are usually noisy in flight, emitting a distinct bugling call. They fly at a moderately high speed, beating their wings rapidly.

Puerto Rican amazons prefer to fly along the ridges and valleys, rather than over the mountain peaks. During the breeding season, they defend their nest site using loud calls to ward off invading pairs.

Sounds & Calls

These highly vocal birds produce a wide variety of sounds and squawks. Like many other parrot species, these birds can learn, imitate and speak human words.

Diet

The diet of the Puerto Rican Amazons primarily consists of wild fruits, mostly Sierra palm. However, they would also consume flowers, leaves, tender shoots, seeds, bark, and nectar.

Puerto Rican Parrot Bird
The Puerto Rican Parrot

Reproduction and Life Cycle

Puerto Rican parrots reproduce once a year. Prior to the mating season, new pairs build their nests in natural tree cavities. They use these homes not merely during the mating season, but for many years at a stretch.

The breeding season falls between January and July. The clutch size normally ranges from two to four eggs. However, many pairs do not succeed in laying eggs in a season.

The incubation of the eggs is done by only the female Puerto Rican parrots, while it lasts for about 26 days. Once the eggs are laid, the mother will not leave the nest and continue to incubate them until they hatch out, while the father would guard the nest.

The parents feed the chicks until they fledge in the next 60 to 65 days after hatching. The juveniles depend on the adults until the arrival of the next breeding season.

The young birds resemble adults except that they have a pair of pale yellow bills. The baby parrots take three to five years to reach sexual maturity.

Adaptations

  1. Puerto Rican Amazons can successfully camouflage amidst the greeneries of the forest using their green plumage, and stay secretive, when in rest.
  2. The shape and durability of their beaks help them in breaking the hard shells of fruits easily that they frequently consume.
  3. Their clawed paws assist them in getting a good grip of the twigs and branches of the trees on which they sit.

Predators

Puerto Rican amazons have many predators, including the introduced species – the brown and the roof rats that have reduced their population significantly, as also, the red-tail hawks. Their eggs and chicks are also hunted by pearly-eyed thrashers and warble fly larvae (that infest the nests).

Population Decline

According to 2012 report, the population of these birds has been highly affected, with an estimated number of only around 53-80 individuals being left in the wild, and a little more than 300 in captivity planned for release.

Conservation Status

With a dangerously low population count, along with prompt habitat loss, the IUCN 3.1 has enlisted these parrots under their ‘CR’ (Critically Endangered) list.

Interesting Facts

  • At least 60 various species of food plants have been recorded in the diet of this bird in the wild.
  • The Puerto Rican Amazon has a Taino Indian name Iguaca, and a Spanish name Cotorra de Puerto Rico, both of which refer to its garrulous nature.
  • This parrot is the only extant species of native parrot in either the United States or its territories.
  • A story says that, in 1493, Christopher Columbus sailed into Puerto Rico, which was then known as the Caribbean island, and he received a warm greeting from the Taíno inhabitants, while hundreds of squawking bright-green parrots flocked around them.
  • The first parrot that was born in captivity back in 1979 is Pepo, which is still alive at its age of 33.

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