Amazona vittatacinnamon-sided hummingbird(Also: Puerto Rican parrot)

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Geographic Range

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. ("Amazona vittata", 2009; Biaggi, 1970; Del Hoyo, et al., 1997; Raffaele, 1989)

Habitat

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. ("Amazona vittata", 2009; Biaggi, 1970; Del Hoyo, et al., 1997; Raffaele, 1989; Benstead, et al., 2009)

  • Range elevation
    200 to 600 m
    656.17 to 1968.50 ft

Physical Description

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. (Biaggi, 1970; Del Hoyo, et al., 1997; Raffaele, 1989)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes alike
  • Average length
    30 cm
    11.81 in

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. (Snyder, et al., 1987; Wilson, et al., 1995)

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. (Biaggi, 1970; Del Hoyo, et al., 1997; Raffaele, 1989; Snyder, et al., 1987)

  • 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

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. (Wilson, et al., 1995)

  • 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

Lifespan/Longevity

No data on lifespan was found, but closely related Cuban amazons (Amazon leucocephala) may live for up to 50 years. (Wilson, et al., 1995)

Behavior

Like most parrots, Puerto Rican amazons are diurnal. They are usually found foraging in the trees for most of the day. These birds fly in flocks, but are usually sedentary in their nest during the breeding season, using their green plumage to hide and be secretive. ("Amazona vittata", 2009; Biaggi, 1970; Del Hoyo, et al., 1997; Raffaele, 1989; Snyder, et al., 1987)

  • Average territory size
    12.43 km^2

Home Range

Juvenile Puerto Rican amazons have an average home range of 22 +/- 12 ha. This increases to an average of 1243 ha after joining an adult flock. (Lindsay, et al., 1991)

Communication and Perception

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. (Biaggi, 1970; Raffaele, 1989)

  • Other Communication Modes
  • mimicry

Food Habits

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. (Biaggi, 1970; Del Hoyo, et al., 1997; Raffaele, 1989; Snyder, et al., 1987)

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

Predation

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. (Biaggi, 1970; Raffaele, 1989; Benstead, et al., 2009)

  • Anti-predator Adaptations
  • cryptic

Ecosystem Roles

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

  • Ecosystem Impact
  • disperses seeds

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Conservation efforts to help Puerto Rican amazons recover has helped researchers learn more about how ecosystem and animal behaviors work. Resource managers in the Lesser Antilles have used successful techniques developed on the Puerto Rican amazons to help improve other local endangered parrot populations. These endangered parrots also attract avid birders to the area. (Christian, et al., 1996)

  • Positive Impacts
  • research and education

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

It was thought that Puerto Rican amazons would destroy the corn industry in Puerto Rico. As a result of this fear, farmers killed hundred of birds. Population numbers were later assessed to be too small to impact the industry. (Biaggi, 1970; Raffaele, 1989; Benstead, et al., 2009)

  • Negative Impacts
  • crop pest

Conservation Status

Puerto Rican amazons are classified as critically endangered by the IUCN Red List, with only about 50 birds in the wild today. They are endemic to the island of Puerto Rico and are restricted to a small northern area of the island. Due to deforestation of habitat, predation, and over-hunting the population at one point was as low as 13 wild birds, with the species completely vanishing from Vieques and Mona Island. The IUCN once considered it the most endangered bird species. A captive breeding and release program continues to increase the population. Following the release of 40 individuals into the wild from captivity between 2004 and 2007, two new natural nesting groups have been recorded since 2008. ("Amazona vittata", 2009; Christian, et al., 1996; Benstead, et al., 2009)

Contributors

John Burgos (author), Florida State University, Emily DuVal (editor), Florida State University, Rachelle Sterling (editor), Special Projects.

Glossary

Neotropical

living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.

World Map

acoustic

uses sound to communicate

altricial

young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.

arboreal

Referring to an animal that lives in trees; tree-climbing.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

cryptic

having markings, coloration, shapes, or other features that cause an animal to be camouflaged in its natural environment; being difficult to see or otherwise detect.

diurnal
  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.
endothermic

animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

female parental care

parental care is carried out by females

fertilization

union of egg and spermatozoan

forest

forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.

frugivore

an animal that mainly eats fruit

granivore

an animal that mainly eats seeds

herbivore

An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.

island endemic

animals that live only on an island or set of islands.

iteroparous

offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).

male parental care

parental care is carried out by males

mimicry

imitates a communication signal or appearance of another kind of organism

monogamous

Having one mate at a time.

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

oviparous

reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.

rainforest

rainforests, both temperate and tropical, are dominated by trees often forming a closed canopy with little light reaching the ground. Epiphytes and climbing plants are also abundant. Precipitation is typically not limiting, but may be somewhat seasonal.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season

sedentary

remains in the same area

sexual

reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

social

associates with others of its species; forms social groups.

tactile

uses touch to communicate

terrestrial

Living on the ground.

tropical

the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.

visual

uses sight to communicate

References

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.

Benstead, P., J. Bird, S. Butchart, I. Isherwood, A. Syme, H. Temple, D. Wege. 2009. "Species factsheet: Amazona vittata" (On-line). BirdLife International. Accessed January 17, 2010 at http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/species/index.html?action=SpcHTMDetails.asp&sid=1666&m=0.

Biaggi, V. 1970. Las Aves de Puerto Rico. Universida de Puerto Rico: Editorial Universitaria.

Christian, C., T. Lacher Jr, M. Zamore, T. Potts, G. Burnett. 1996. Parrot conservation in the Lesser Antilles with some comparison to the Puerto Rican efforts. Biological Conservation, 77: 159–167.

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.

Lindsay, G., W. Arendt, J. Kalina, G. Pendleton. 1991. Home Range and Movement of Juvenile Puerto Rican Parrot. The Journal of Wildlife Management, 55: 318-322.

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.