There’s new hope that the Puerto Rican parrot, Amazona vittata, may be on its way back from the brink of extinction.
The critically endangered parrot is perhaps America’s last hope for a native parrot. The Carolina parakeet is long gone. The thick-billed parrot holds on in Mexico but was wiped out in the United States. A 1980s era reintroduction effort in Arizona ultimately failed when the thick-bills were either taken by predators or joined wild flocks in Mexico instead of remaining in the US.
However, until recently, there has been little hope for the Puerto Rican parrot despite decades of struggle to help the critically endangered Amazon.
The United States Fish and Wildlife Service said that as many as one million Puerto Rican parrots lived in the island’s forests at the beginning of the sixteenth century.
When the forests were cleared, the birds died. By the late 1970s, FWS was working on a recovery plan, but it went slowly. On September 17, 1989 there were 47 birds.
Hurricane Hugo struck the next day. The birds and their habitat was destroyed. By the end of the year, a mere 22 Puerto Rican Amazons remained.
It has been a battle ever since.
To protect the species from being vulnerable again to another hurricane, FWS has also tried to reintroduce captive-bred parrots into a second habitat in the Rio Abajo State Forest.
Now there’s evidence that the plan is working.
An ABC News report said at one dark moment, there were only 13 Puerto Rican parrots remaining in 1975. On Thursday, researchers at Rio Abajo Nature Preserve said that there are now 400 in captivity and 100 being tracked in the wild.
Most exciting: The first wild nest of the Puerto Rican parrot has been found after 42 years. Sadly, the eggs didn’t hatch. But it’s a start.
Puerto Rico has a number of introduced species including Canary-winged Parakeet and Nanday Parakeets. However, City Parrot pointed out that the Puerto Rican parrot is its last remaining native parrot.