Amazona vittata


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family

Scientific Name: Amazona vittata
Species Authority: (Boddaert, 1783)
Common Name(s):
English Puerto Rican Amazon, Red-fronted Amazon, Puerto Rican Parrot
Spanish Amazona de Puerto Rico, Cotorra Portorriqueña

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Critically Endangered D ver 3.1
Year Published: 2013
Date Assessed: 2013-11-01
Assessor(s): BirdLife International
Reviewer(s): Butchart, S.
Contributor(s): White, T., Engeman, R. & Anadon, V.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Benstead, P., Bird, J., Butchart, S., Calvert, R., Isherwood, I., Sharpe, C J, Symes, A., Temple, H., Wege, D. & Khwaja, N.
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.

2012 Critically Endangered

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: Amazona vittata is 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 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).

Puerto Rico
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: As of 2011, the population numbered c.50-70 individuals spread over two areas, roughly equivalent to 33-47 mature individuals. In 2013, this had increased to c.80-100 individuals in the wild (64-84 at Rio Abajo and 15-20 at El Yunque). However, since released birds are not counted as mature individuals until they have bred successfully in the wild (IUCN 2011), and the entire Rio Abajo population is derived from released birds, the total number of mature individuals is uncertain but may well still be fewer than 50, therefore the 2011 estimate of mature is maintained here.
Population Trend: Increasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

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

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): There has been an almost total loss of suitable forest habitat. Hunting for food and pest control, and the cage-bird trade have had crippling effects in the past (T. White in litt. 2012). The principal threats are now competition for nest-sites, loss of young to parasitic botflies, predation and natural disasters such as hurricanes (Raffaele et al. 1998, Arendt 2000). Red-tailed Hawks Buteo jamaicensis predate parrots and hamper releases of captive-bred individuals. Predator-aversion training pre-release has improved the survival of captive-reared birds after release into the wild (White et al. 2005); nevertheless raptor predation claimed 21% of all released individuals between 2000 and 2002. It formerly suffered from competition for nesting cavities with Pearly-eyed Thrasher Margarops fuscatus but this has been significantly reduced by specially designed artificial nesting cavities (T. White in litt. 2012). Predation by alien invasive mammals is also having a serious impact upon productivity, with six fledglings taken by small Indian mongooses Herpestes javanicus and one nest-failure from black rats Rattus rattus during 2000-2003 (Engeman et al. 2006). Although predation events have not been documented, feral cats (Felis catus) are also common in parrot habitat in the Caribbean National Forest, are well-documented around the world as devastating bird predators, and represent another invasive mammal threat. Parrots regularly disappear without identification of a cause and cats and mongooses are capable of inflicting unidentifiable losses (R. M. Engeman in litt. 2012). It has been suggested that hurricanes are the most serious limiting factor preventing population recovery, and climate change may cause the frequency of hurricane events to increase. Furthermore, rainfall hampers the recovery programme, as chicks that fledge either during or before a major rainfall event have a much higher mortality rate than chicks that fledge during drier periods (Breining 2009).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix I and II. Major intervention to preserve this species began in 1968, involving provision of highly successful artificial nest-sites, control of nest predators and competitors, and captive breeding and reintroduction. The success of newly fledged parrots is monitored using radio-telemetry (Meyers 1996). All remaining habitat is protected in the Caribbean National Forest (Snyder et al. 2000) and the Rio Abajo Commonwealth Forest (T. White in litt. 2012). The population is monitored to help inform management decisions. Controlling exotic mammalian predators (trapping and toxic baiting) has been shown to be a highly cost-effective way of conserving Puerto Rican Amazon (Engeman et al. 2006, R. M. Engeman in litt. 2012). Trapping data has shown the Luquillo Forest to have among the highest black rat densities studied in the world, and optimal rat baiting strategies have been devised for application during nesting. Economic analyses based on empirical production costs for captive-bred parrots showed very high benefit-cost ratios for predator management, estimating that the prevention of one parrot loss every 4–12 years more than offsets all forms of predator management (for all species) in the intervening time (R. M. Engeman in litt. 2012). Around 280 birds are currently held in captivity at Rio Abajo and Luquillo (T. White in litt. 2012) and these are being managed to preserve as much genetic diversity as possible. A release technique known as "precision release" was trialled with six birds in 2008. This involves releasing a small number of captive-reared subadult parrots at each active nest site immediately following the fledging of the chicks, and aims to promote immediate and close interaction between the wild parrots and released birds (T. White in litt. 2005, 2008). Nearly 100 birds have been released from the Rio Abajo aviary in an attempt to establish a second population, which may be aided by lower annual rainfall at the site, lower levels of predation and a change in management techniques (T. White in litt. 2012). Although post-release mortality remains high, successful breeding has been recorded and the size and range of the flock is increasing (Breining 2009, Valentin 2009, T. White in litt. 2012).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Continue to monitor population trends. Track the fate of released birds. Maintain the integrated conservation management programme. Improve synchronisation of breeding of wild and captive birds to increase the number of captive-bred chicks that can be fostered by wild parents (Thompson 2004). Integrate exotic mammalian predator trapping (black rats, small Indian mongooses, feral cats) into the existing conservation management programme, and monitor predator populations to study the efficacy of these measures (R. M. Engeman in litt. 2012).

Citation: BirdLife International 2013. Amazona vittata. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015.2. <>. Downloaded on 02 September 2015.
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