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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
No data on lifespan was found, but closely related Cuban amazons (Amazon leucocephala) may live for up to 50 years. (Wilson, et al., 1995)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
The large home range and high mobility of Puerto Rican amazons likely make them an important seed disperser.
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)
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)
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)
John Burgos (author), Florida State University, Emily DuVal (editor), Florida State University, Rachelle Sterling (editor), Special Projects.
living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.
uses sound to communicate
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.
Referring to an animal that lives in trees; tree-climbing.
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.
uses smells or other chemicals to communicate
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.
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.
parental care is carried out by females
union of egg and spermatozoan
forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.
an animal that mainly eats fruit
an animal that mainly eats seeds
An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.
animals that live only on an island or set of islands.
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).
parental care is carried out by males
imitates a communication signal or appearance of another kind of organism
Having one mate at a time.
having the capacity to move from one place to another.
the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.
reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.
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.
breeding is confined to a particular season
remains in the same area
reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female
associates with others of its species; forms social groups.
uses touch to communicate
Living on the ground.
the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.
uses sight to communicate
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.