Reintroduction heralds new beginning for Puerto Rican Parrot

12/2/2016 | 0

A Puerto Rican Parrot at Bosque del Estado, Maricao, Puerto Rico, November 23, 2016. Photo by Jan Paul Zegarra, Biologist, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast Region.

A Puerto Rican Parrot at Bosque del Estado, Maricao, Puerto Rico, November 23, 2016. Photo by Jan Paul Zegarra, Biologist, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast Region.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is requesting your help monitoring 31 critically endangered Puerto Rican Parrots that were released at the Maricao Commonwealth Forest in Puerto Rico this week.

The parrot is endemic to the island, and the only native parrot in the United States. Conservation professionals have been working toward the parrot’s reintroduction to the Maricao forest for more than 40 years.

Puerto Rican Parrots were once abundant, but deforestation, predation, disease, and poaching caused the population to crash. In the 1970s, chicks and eggs were taken from the wild, and a collaborative effort between state and federal agencies began.

Today, the population includes more than 500 birds distributed between state and federal facilities and two wild locations — El Yunque National Forest and Rio Abajo Commonwealth Forest. The latest release signals the initiation of a third wild location, a milestone toward recovery, according to the USFWS.

Artificial nests were installed throughout the forest to provide viable nesting sites for the parrots.

Monitoring the parrots’ dispersal, survival rate, and habitat use will be a priority for the coming weeks. Each bird is fitted with a radio transmitter. Four biologists embedded throughout the forest will track the parrot’s signal for the next year.

Within the next few years, state and federal biologists will seek to control predators and competitors, monitor the size of the wild population, maximize parrot reproduction in the wild, release and monitor additional captive-reared parrots, and develop and implement plans to expand the release program.

Residents of Puerto Rico and visitors, including birders, are asked to keep an eye out for the newly released parrots. According to the USFWS, observers should look for an antenna and a cylinder on the bird’s neck. Keep your distance to avoid startling the birds, and call this telephone number to report sightings: (787) 888-1810, extension 5535.

Be prepared to provide the following information:

  • Town and location where you observed a parrot
  • How many parrots were observed
  • General condition and behavior

Fewer migrants are overwintering on Puerto Rico, puzzling researchers (June 2016).

Elfin-woods Warbler added to endangered species list (June 2016).

Read about birding at El Yunque National Forest, Hotspot Near You No. 247.

 

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