Amazona leucocephalaCuban parrot

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Geographic Range

Cuban amazons are found on Cuba, Isle of Pine, the Bahamas, and Cayman Islands. The Cuban population can be found throughout Cuba, although only commonly occurs on the Zapata and Guanahacabibes Peninsulas and in Sierra de Najasa. The population which inhabits the Bahamas only occurs on Abaco and Great Inagua. On Abaco, the parrots are generally found closer to the southern end of the island. The Cayman island population of Cuban amazons can be found in the central and eastern areas of Grand Cayman with a relict population persisting on Cayman Brac. There is evidence of seasonal migration to more coastal island areas during the non-breeding season in the Abaco population. (Bond, 1995; Juniper and Parr, 1998; Stahala, 2008)

Habitat

Cuban amazons are mainly found at or near sea level although they have been reported in the mountains of Cuba. They are found in dense scrubby woods, pine forests, broadleaved woodland, palm groves, mangroves, plantations and even cultivated garden areas. With the exception of the Great Abaco population, which nests on the ground in limestone solution holes, Cuban amazons nest in tree cavities. It is also notable that, at least in the Abaco population, the parrots prefer a hardwood, shrubby habitat in the non-breeding season. (Bond, 1971; Juniper and Parr, 1998; O'Brien, et al., 2006; Stahala, 2008)

Physical Description

Cuban amazons are 28-33 cm long with a wingspan of 183-204 cm. They weigh between 260-301 g. The body color can range from bright green to olive green. They have blue primaries and a white forehead, forecrown, lores, and eyerings. Their cheeks, chin, and throat are a pale red. They also have scattered pale red feathers on their bellies with pale red and yellow feathers located on the tail. They have a beige colored bill. Juveniles look very similar to adults but do have dark, almost black, feathers covering ear-coverts. There is no sexual dimorphism.

There are 5 recognized subspecies: Amazona leucocephala leucocephala, Amazona leucocephala palmarum, Grand Cayman amazons (Amazona leucocephala caymanensis), Amazona leucocephala hesterna, Bahama amazons (Amazona leucocephala bahamensis). There does seem to be variation within the subspecies, although some argue that this variation is simply between individuals. (Forshaw, 1978; Juniper and Parr, 1998)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes alike
  • Range mass
    260 to 301 g
    9.16 to 10.61 oz
  • Range length
    28 to 33 cm
    11.02 to 12.99 in

Reproduction

Detailed information regarding reproductive behavior is not available for Cuban amazons. It is noted that during the breeding season, the parrots are seen more often in singles or pairs, rather than groups of several parrots up to 30 individuals. Time to hatching, time to fledging, and time to independence is unclear. However it has been observed that for one nest, eggs were laid in mid May and two young birds left the nest at the end of August. Nests are built in hollow tree cavities with the exception of the Abaco Bahama amazon population which nests in limestone cavities in the ground. (Rivera-Mila and et al, 2005; Stahala, 2008)

Females lay 2 to 4 white and almost round eggs, which are incubated for 26 to 28 days. Eggs hatch asynchronously 12-72 hours apart. Chicks are born altricial, without feathers and their eyes are closed. Their eyes open around 3 weeks of age. The chicks receive regurgitated food. (Gape and Rivera, 2006)

  • Breeding interval
    Cuban amazons breed once yearly.
  • Breeding season
    The breeding season occurs from spring to the end of summer. The Abaco Bahama population breeds from May to September.
  • Range eggs per season
    2 to 4
  • Range time to hatching
    26 to 28 days

After the nest is built, the male stands guard at the nest and brings food to the incubating female for a week after the chicks hatch. At one week of age, chicks begin to grow feathers which allows the female to lessen her incubating duties. The male and female then share feeding duties. Chicks are born altricial, without feathers and their eyes are closed. Their eyes open around 3 weeks of age. When chicks are ready to fledge they perch at the nest entrance and parents call to them, apparently coaxing them from the nest.

Chicks of many parrot species follow their parents and join a larger, social group after fledging. It is likely that Cuban amazons do the same. ("Handbook of Birds of the World", 1997)

  • Parental Investment
  • altricial
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • male
      • female
    • protecting
      • male
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • male
      • female
    • protecting
      • male
      • female
  • post-independence association with parents

Behavior

Cuban amazons are a relatively sedentary species that does not exhibit migratory behavior. During the non-breeding season Cuban amazons can be found in pairs, groups of several parrots, or even in groups of 30 or more birds. They are usually very noisy especially during flight. It has been suggested that although they are usually found in fairly large flocks, they still maintain some sort of family unit. Even within the flocks, groupings of twos or threes can be seen. These smaller groupings have been observed leaving the rest of the flock to feed with only each other. The pair or triplet then reunites with the larger flock towards nightfall. (Forshaw, 1978)

  • Average territory size
    186 km^2

Home Range

The range of the Abaco Bahama population is an estimated 186 square kilometers. (Stahala, 2008)

Communication and Perception

The calls of Cuban amazons are described generally as a variety of harsh screeches and shrill, metallic shrieks. Some calls have been described as long, scolding 'Yaaart yaaart' and while others resemble a braying donkey.

Many parrot species exhibit tactile communication through allopreening, beak grabbing and forms of play. It is likely that Cuban amazons exhibit the same behavior. Like all birds, Cuban amazons perceive their environment through auditory, tactile, visual and chemical stimuli. (Forshaw, 1978; Juniper and Parr, 1998)

Food Habits

Cuban amazons consume unopened leaf bud of palm (Roystonea), cones and new tender shoots of Caribbean pine (Pinus caribaea), sea grape (Coccoloba uvifera) and silver buttonwood (Conocarpus erectus). They also consume fruits and seeds of many tropical trees and shrubs of the genus Smilax, Sabal, Duranta, Ernodia, Tabebuia, Acacia, Metopium, Tetrazygia, Swietenia, Cupanis, and Lysiloma. (Juniper and Parr, 1998)

  • Plant Foods
  • leaves
  • seeds, grains, and nuts
  • fruit

Predation

Because nesting on Abaco occurs on the ground, the chicks are susceptible to predation by feral cats. (Juniper and Parr, 1998)

  • Known Predators

Ecosystem Roles

Cuban amazons have large home ranges and can fly over long distances, therefore they are likely an important seed disperser for local plants.

  • Ecosystem Impact
  • disperses seeds

Conservation Status

Cuban amazons are Near Threatened. Populations are in decline due to habitat deforestation for timber, urbanization, or conversion of forest to agricultural land. Introduced predator species, such as feral cats, threaten native birds not adapted to foreign species.

Many young parrots are taken from nests to be sold as pets. As the majority of the population nests in cavities high above the ground, knocking down the entire nesting tree is the easiest method of capture. This method significantly reduces the number of cavities available for future nesting. (Raffaele, et al., 1998)

Contributors

Kara Cox (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

agricultural

living in landscapes dominated by human agriculture.

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.

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

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.

folivore

an animal that mainly eats leaves.

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

herbivore

An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.

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).

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.

scrub forest

scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.

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

1997. Handbook of Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain: Lynx Edicions.

Bond, J. 1995. Birds of the Caribbean (Birds of the West Indies). Norwalk, CT: The Easton Press.

Bond, J. 1971. Birds of the West Indies. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Forshaw, J. 1978. Parrots of the World. Melbourne: Landsdowne Editions.

Gape, L., F. Rivera. 2006. "Rose-throated Parrot" (On-line). Bird of the Month. Accessed February 10, 2010 at http://www.scscb.org/working_groups/Actions/bird_Dec_06_Rose-throated_Parrot.htm.

Juniper, T., M. Parr. 1998. Parrots: A Guide to Parrots of the World. New Haven: Yale University Press.

O'Brien, J., C. Stahala, G. Mori, et al. 2006. Effects of prescribed fire on conditions inside a Cuban Parrot (Amazona leucocephala) surrogate nesting cavity on Great Abaco, Bahamas. Wilson Journal of Ornithology, 118: 508-512.

Raffaele, H., J. Wiley, O. Garrido, A. Keith, J. Raffaele. 1998. A Guide to the Birds of the West Indies. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Rivera-Mila, , et al. 2005. Estimation of Density and Population Size and Recommendations for Monitoring Trends of Bahama Parrots on Great Abaco and Great Inagua. Wildlife Society Bulletin, 33: 823-834.

Stahala, C. 2008. Seasonal movements of the Bahama Parrot (Amazona leucocephala bahamensis) between pine and hardwood forests: Implications for habitat conservation. Ornitologia Neotropical, 19: 165-171.