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.
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.
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
Sexual Dimorphism: Both
the male and the female of the species are similar.
There is not enough biological data regarding the longevity
of these birds in the wild.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Puerto Rican Amazons can
successfully camouflage amidst the greeneries of the forest using their
green plumage, and stay secretive, when in rest.
The shape and durability
of their beaks help them in breaking the hard shells of fruits easily that
they frequently consume.
Their clawed paws assist
them in getting a good grip of the twigs and branches of the trees on
which they sit.
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).
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.
With a dangerously low population count, along with prompt
habitat loss, the IUCN 3.1 has enlisted these parrots under their ‘CR’ (Critically
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
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
The first parrot that was
born in captivity back in 1979 is Pepo,
which is still alive at its age of 33.