Overview

Brief Summary

Biology

The Puerto Rican Amazon typically occurs in pairs, with nests made in natural tree cavities and used year after year (2). The breeding season is from late February to July (7) and the clutch size ranges from two to four eggs, although many pairs fail to lay eggs in a season (2). Incubation is performed by the female only, and lasts for around 26 days (6). Young fledge at approximately nine weeks of age (6) (8) and reach sexual maturity after three to five years (8). Diet mainly consists of wild fruits, particularly the sierra palm (Prestoria montana), but flowers, leaves, seeds, bark and tender shoots may also be eaten, with up to 60 food plants recorded in the diet (6).
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The Puerto Rican Parrot (Amazona vittata) occurred historically on Puerto Rico and the neighboring islands of Mona and Culebra. At one time this species was found throughout forested regions of Puerto Rico (with the possible exception of the dry forests of the southern coastal strip). However, beginning in the mid-19th century, populations declined dramatically as a result of habitat loss (less than 1% of Puerto Rico's original pre-European forest cover remained by 1912), hunting (Puerto Rican Parrots were widely viewed as crop pests), and capture as pets. Although the pre-European population probably numbered several hundred thousand, as few as 2,000 birds may have existed by 1937 and by the 1950s only around 200 remained. Only 24 individuals could be located in 1968, 16 in 1972, and 13 (a record-low) in 1975. Conservation efforts (including captive breeding) begun in the late 1960s have met with some limited success, but the species is still critically endangered. The current tiny (and therefore highly vulnerable) remnant wild population inhabits montane rainforest (200 to 600 m elevation) in eastern Puerto Rico, where birds may be encountered in pairs or small flocks. This species can be distinguished from the Hispaniolan Amazon (A. ventralis), which is present in Puerto Rico as an introduced species, by the Hispaniolan Amazon's conspicuous white forehead and maroon belly patch.

The Puerto Rican Parrot's diet includes a range of fruits, seeds, flowers, leaves, and bark. It normally nests in tree cavities, almost always cavities from natural decay in Cyrilla trees (and reportedly nested historically in limestone hollows in the western part of the island). Clutch size is 2 to 4 (usually 3) eggs. In recent years, known nesting events have all been in artificial cavities.

(Collar 1997 and references therein; Juniper and Parr 1998 and references therein)

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Description

The Puerto Rican Amazon is the USA's only native parrot, one of the ten most endangered birds in the world, and possibly the world's rarest wild parrot (4). This emerald-green bird (5) possesses black edging to the feathers of the head, mantle and breast, giving a scaled appearance (6), and is characterised by a red band across the forehead and conspicuous white eye-rings (7). The primary wing feathers are a soft blue, the tail is green, and the bill and feet are flesh-coloured (6) (8).
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Distribution

Range Description

This speciesis endemic to Puerto Rico (to U.S.A.), and once occurred throughout the forested parts of the island. An endemic subspecies gracilipes occurred on Culebra, but became extinct in 1912. Once abundant, there has been a drastic decline, which reduced the population to c. 2,000 by the 1930s and an all-time low of 13 birds in 1975. It has been confined to the Luquillo Mts (El Yunque National Forest) since the 1960s, and the present occupied range of 16 km2 represents only 0.2% of its former distribution (Snyder et al. 1987). Conservation action has prevented the species's extinction, although recovery has been slow and the population remains tiny.

In 1989, Hurricane Hugo cut the wild population from 47 to about 23. By the beginning of 1992, there were a minimum of 22-23 parrots in the wild and 58 in captivity, with a record fledging success in July 1992 taking the wild total to 39 or 40. In 2000, the parrot numbered 40 wild birds, plus 10 recently re-introduced birds and 100 in captivity, held in two aviaries (Davis 2000, T. White in litt. 2012). In 2001, thieves broke into an aviary and stole a number of captive adults.In 2004, the wild population was 30-35 individuals (Arendt 2000), and in 2006, 20 birds were released in the Rio Abajo State Forest marking the beginning of a second population in the wild (Velez-Valentin and Boyd 2006): a further 26 birds were released here in December 2007 and 19 more were released in December 2008, with the first two successful nests recorded in the wild at Rio Abajo in 2008 (T. White in litt. 2005, 2008, 2012). As of 2011, the population numbered c.50-70 wild individuals spread over two areas, and about 280 captive individuals (Breining 2009, T. White in litt. 2012). In 2013 there were 64-84 wild birds and 16 chicks at Rio Abajo and 15-20 wild birds at El Yunque, and the first known natural nest in 42 years was recorded in Rio Abajo (V. Anadon in litt. 2013, Coto 2013). There were also reportedly nearly 400 captive birds in 2013 (Coto 2013), including a record 107 chicks produced in captivity (Anon. 2013a). In the same year, at least three captive bred birds that were released in the Rio Abajo Forest were found to be flocking with approximately 150 Orange-winged Amazons Amazona amazonicaaway from the original release site (Anon. 2013b). In May 2014, two young birds were discovered in a natural nesting hole outside the boundary of a national park (Anon. 2014).

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Puerto Rican amazons (Amazona vittata) are found in the West Indies on the Greater Antilles island of Puerto Rico, found in the northeastern Caribbean Sea, east of Hispaniola and west of the Virgin Islands.

Biogeographic Regions: neotropical (Native )

Other Geographic Terms: island endemic

  • 2009. "Amazona vittata" (On-line). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species(tm). Accessed February 01, 2010 at http://www.iucnredlist.org/apps/redlist/details/142694/0.
  • Biaggi, V. 1970. Las Aves de Puerto Rico. Universida de Puerto Rico: Editorial Universitaria.
  • Del Hoyo, J., A. Elloit, J. Sangatal. 1997. Puerto Rican Amazon. Pp. 468 in Handbook of the Birds of the World., Vol. 4, Sandgrouse to Cuckoos Edition. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions.
  • Raffaele, H. 1989. A guide to the Birds of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.
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Historic Range:
U.S.A. (PR)

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Range

Endemic to Puerto Rico, USA, where the species has been confined to the Caribbean National Forest of the Luquillo Mountains since the 1960s, with a present occupied range of just 16 km² (7).
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Physical Description

Morphology

Puerto Rican amazons have green feathers that cover the majority of their body with a red fore crown between the beak and eyes and two-toned blue primaries. They have a white eye-ring with no feathers. Almost all of the feathers have black tips, giving these birds a scaly look. They have pink or flesh-colored legs and beaks and are approximately 30 cm in length. There is no sexual dimorphism and juveniles resemble adults.

Average length: 30 cm.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: sexes alike

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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
Historically, it occurred in montane and lowland forest, and mangroves. It is now restricted to forest at elevations of 200-600 m. It breeds between late February and July, when it nests in large, deep tree-cavities and lays 3-4 eggs (Raffaele et al. 1998, Arendt 2000). Since 2001, all known nesting in the wild has occurred in artificial cavities (White et al. 2006).


Systems
  • Terrestrial
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Puerto Rican amazons were once found in the forests of Isabella, Quebradillas, Utaudo and Arecibo and mangrove areas in Puerto Rico. They are now found in the northern area of the island, along Route 191 in the Luquillo Forest. They can be found at elevations of 300 to 600 m above sea level. The Tabonuco forests were once an important breeding and feeding ground but due to logging much of the habitat has been lost. These birds nest in the Palo Colorado zone and forage in the Dwarf forest region of El Yunque.

Range elevation: 200 to 600 m.

Habitat Regions: tropical ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: forest ; rainforest

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Puerto Rico was formerly entirely forested and, historically, the Puerto Rican Amazon was abundant in all forest types (2), including scrub, moist montane and lowland forests, and mangroves (6) (7). The species is now restricted to montane rainforest at elevations of 200 to 600 metres above sea level (7).
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Trophic Strategy

Puerto Rican amazons are herbivores and feed on small fruits, seeds, leaves, flowers and bark, mainly of kudzu (Pueraria montana). Puerto Rican amazons usually search for food in pairs. They have also been known to feed on corn crops, a food source that only recently became available to them through agricultural changes in the past century.

Plant Foods: leaves; wood, bark, or stems; seeds, grains, and nuts; fruit; flowers

Primary Diet: herbivore (Frugivore , Granivore )

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Associations

The large home range and high mobility of Puerto Rican amazons likely make them an important seed disperser.

Ecosystem Impact: disperses seeds

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Puerto Rican amazons have many predators. The introduction of brown rats (Rattus norvegicus) and roof rats (Rattus rattus) has decimated the population. Pearly-eyed thrashers (Margarops fuscatus) prey on unattended eggs and chicks. Warble fly larvae (Hypoderma species) infest the nest, killing the chicks. They are also prey to red-tail hawks (Buteo jamaicensis). Before being protected by listing as an endangered species, the biggest threat to the parrots were humans. People captured them for food and farmers would kill these slow moving birds to protect their corn crops.

Known Predators:

  • brown rats (Rattus norvegicus)
  • roof rats (Rattus rattus)
  • pearly-eyed thrashers (Margarops fuscatus)
  • warble fly larvae (Hypoderma spp)
  • red-tailed hawks (Buteo jamaicensis)

Anti-predator Adaptations: cryptic

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Known predators

Amazona vittata is prey of:
Buteo jamaicensis
Buteo platypterus
Epicrates inornatus
Diptera
Philornis
Secernentia nematodes

Based on studies in:
Puerto Rico, El Verde (Rainforest)

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
  • Waide RB, Reagan WB (eds) (1996) The food web of a tropical rainforest. University of Chicago Press, Chicago
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Known prey organisms

Amazona vittata preys on:
fruit

Based on studies in:
Puerto Rico, El Verde (Rainforest)

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
  • Waide RB, Reagan WB (eds) (1996) The food web of a tropical rainforest. University of Chicago Press, Chicago
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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Puerto Rican amazons are very vocal and produce a wide variety of squawks. In flight they make a distinct bugling call. Like many Amazona parrots, they can even learn to speak human words. Puerto Rican amazons perceive their environment through visual, tactile, auditory, and chemical stimuli.

Communication Channels: acoustic

Other Communication Modes: mimicry

Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical

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Life Expectancy

No data on lifespan was found, but closely related Cuban amazons (Amazon leucocephala) may live for up to 50 years.

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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Observations: One specimen lived 10.1 years in captivity (Brouwer et al. 2000). Considering the longevity of similar species, however, it is likely that maximum longevity is underestimated in this species.
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Reproduction

Puerto Rican amazons are monogamous and breed with the same partner for life, only changing if their partner dies. If a female is injured, a male may abandon the female and choose a healthier female to mate with. Though the basis of mate choice is not known, it has been observed that pairs tend to participate in mutual dances consisting of coordinated bows, partial extension of the wings, and full tail expansion.

Mating System: monogamous

Puerto Rican amazons breed from late February to early June in large, deep tree-cavities caused by decay, or in small-cliff side cavities. More recently they have bred in artificial cavities made of wooden boxes. The nest location varies from 7 to 15 meters above ground. The female lays 2 to 4 white eggs and incubates the eggs for about 24 to 28 days.

Breeding interval: Puerto Rican Amazons breed once a year.

Breeding season: Puerto Rican Amazons breed from late February to July.

Range eggs per season: 3 to 4.

Range time to hatching: 24 to 28 days.

Average fledging age: 9 weeks.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 4 years.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 4 years.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization ; oviparous

Female Puerto Rican amazons perform the majority of rearing in the chicks' early stages, while males rarely enter the nest. As rearing progresses, females spend less time rearing the chicks and males enter the nest with greater frequency, increasing their attentiveness to the chicks. Chicks remain with the parents for some time after fledging. The young learn important life skills from the parents at this time.

Parental Investment: altricial ; male parental care ; female parental care ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Male, Female, Protecting: Male, Female); pre-independence (Provisioning: Male, Female, Protecting: Male, Female); post-independence association with parents; extended period of juvenile learning

  • Biaggi, V. 1970. Las Aves de Puerto Rico. Universida de Puerto Rico: Editorial Universitaria.
  • Del Hoyo, J., A. Elloit, J. Sangatal. 1997. Puerto Rican Amazon. Pp. 468 in Handbook of the Birds of the World., Vol. 4, Sandgrouse to Cuckoos Edition. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions.
  • Raffaele, H. 1989. A guide to the Birds of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.
  • Snyder, N., J. Wiley, C. Kepler. 1987. The Parrots of Luquillo: Natural History and Conservation of the Puerto Rican Parrot. Los Angeles: Western Foundation of Vertebrate Zoology.
  • Wilson, K., R. Field, M. Wilson. 1995. Successful nesting behavior of Puerto Rican Parrots. Wilson Bulletin, 107: 518–529.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Amazona vittata

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


No available public DNA sequences.

Download FASTA File
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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Amazona vittata

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 1
Specimens with Barcodes: 1
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
CR
Critically Endangered

Red List Criteria
D

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2015

Assessor/s
BirdLife International

Reviewer/s
Symes, A.

Contributor/s
White, T., Engeman, R. & Anadon, V.

Justification
Once numbering only 13 birds in the wild, this parrot has been saved from extinction. Conservation action has increased the population since 1975, but it remains Critically Endangered because the number of mature individuals remains tiny. If more released birds successfully breed in the wild and numbers remain stable or increasing, the species may warrant downlisting in the future.


History
  • 2013
    Critically Endangered (CR)
  • 2012
    Critically Endangered (CR)
  • Critically Endangered (CR)
  • Critically Endangered (CR)
  • Critically Endangered (CR)
  • Critically Endangered (CR)
  • Critically Endangered (CR)
  • Critically Endangered (CR)
  • Critically Endangered (CR)
  • Critically Endangered (CR)
  • Threatened (T)