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Parrots of the Caribbean – Saving the Bahaman and Puerto Rican Amazons

Amazon in Puerto RicoNew efforts are underway to help 2 critically endangered Caribbean parrots, the Bahaman Amazon (Amazona leucocephala bahamensis) and the Puerto Rican Amazon (A. vittata). The various Caribbean islands are a hot-bed both of parrot diversity and parrot troubles – the Guadeloupe and Martinique Amazon Parrots, and a subspecies of the Puerto Rican Amazon (formerly found on Culebra Island), are already extinct.

The Bahaman Amazon

The Bahaman Amazon, also known as the Bahama Parrot, is closely related to the Cuban Amazon (please see photo).  It is limited in distribution to the Bahaman Islands of Grand Abaco and Grand Inagua. 

The Problem with Ground Nesting

In addition to the usual pressures of habitat loss and over-collection, the population on Grand Abaco is at risk due to a unique nesting strategy.  The island is composed largely of limestone, which (as is typical of limestone) is riddled with natural cavities and sinkholes.  The parrots there nest on the ground, within these holes.

This was a useful strategy in the past, especially considering the absence of suitable arboreal nesting sites, and has allowed biologists to study the species in detail.  However, raccoons and house cats have now been introduced to the island, and they too have easy access to the nests.  It is believed that their predation on eggs and nestlings is currently the most serious threat faced by the Bahama Amazons on Grand Abaco.

A Conservation “First” for the Bahamas

Although precipitous declines in Bahaman Amazon numbers have been well-documented, a coordinated conservation effort on the birds’ behalf has been a long time in coming.  A management plan, the first for any Bahaman animal, has finally been implemented.

The plan focuses on predator control, land use planning and the generation of public support (i.e. the Adopt-a-Nest Program, please see below).  Importantly, it also summarizes all that is known about the parrot’s natural history, so that biologists can make informed decisions concerning the future of this specialized island dweller.

The Puerto Rican Amazon – World’s Rarest Parrot?

A. leucocephala in Grand CaymansSadly, a few parrots vie for this title, but the Puerto Rican Amazon, also known as the Iguaca, is definitely one of the world’s 10 rarest birds. Despite decades of intense, well-funded conservation efforts, the entire population numbers less than 300 birds.  That is, however, an improvement – only 13 individuals could be found in 1975.

Sugar cane farming, housing developments, poaching and introduced predators added to losses inflicted by hurricanes to push this island endemic to the brink of extinction.  Ironically, this much-abused parrot may have had a role in leading Columbus to land in 1492 (please see article below)…I guess the parrots regret that move now!

Although the Puerto Rican Amazon’s situation continues to improve, conservationists believe that more can and should be done.  Consequently, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, The Puerto Rican Department of Natural Resources, the Lincoln Park Zoo, Mississippi State University and other organizations have banded together to review and revise the recovery plan.  Please see my article The Long Uphill Battle to Save the Puerto Rican Amazon Parrot for more information.

Further Reading

Informative Parrot’s International video featuring wild and captive Puerto Rican Parrots.

A researcher’s Bahama Parrot Blog.

Read about the Puerto Rican Parrot’s place in history: Did Parrots Help Columbus to find America? 

Caribbean Endemic Bird Festival.



A. leucocephala in Grand Cayman image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Phillip and Snowmanradio


  1. avatar

    Hello Frank, I enjoy your articles allot. I know you sent out one on Indian Ring Neck Parakeets one time. So can you please it to me again? Because I got one from a bird expo on Sunday. And love to lean more about them. Thank you for your time Frank. From, Linda

  2. avatar

    Hello Linda, Frank Indiviglio here.

    Nice to hear from you again; Thanks for the kind words.

    You can reach the article by clicking here. It is in 2 parts, and has links to related articles as well.

    Good luck, enjoy your new bird and please keep me posted.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

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I believe that I was born with an intense interest in animals, as neither I nor any of my family can recall a time when I was not fascinated by creatures large and small. One might imagine this to be an unfortunate set of circumstances for a person born and raised in the Bronx, but, in actuality, quite the opposite was true. Most importantly, my family encouraged both my interest and the extensive menagerie that sprung from it. My mother and grandmother somehow found ways to cope with the skunks, flying squirrels, octopus, caimans and countless other odd creatures that routinely arrived un-announced at our front door. Assisting in hand-feeding hatchling praying mantises and in eradicating hoards of mosquitoes (I once thought I had discovered “fresh-water brine shrimp” and stocked my tanks with thousands of mosquito larvae!) became second nature to them. My mother went on to become a serious naturalist, and has helped thousands learn about wildlife in her 16 years as a volunteer at the Bronx Zoo. My grandfather actively conspired in my zoo-buildings efforts, regularly appearing with chipmunks, boa constrictors, turtles rescued from the Fulton Fish Market and, especially, unusual marine creatures. It was his passion for seahorses that led me to write a book about them years later. Thank you very much, for a complete biography of my experience click here.
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