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Extinction Countdown

Extinction Countdown

News and research about endangered species from around the world

Sunday Species Snapshot: Puerto Rican Parrot

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Puerto Rican ParrotThe only native parrot species still living in the U.S., these birds nearly went extinct in the second half of the twentieth century. By 1975, only 13 parrots remained. Intense conservation efforts over the past few decades have helped to turn that around, but the species still has a long way to go.

Species name: The Puerto Rican Amazon (Amazona vittata), a.k.a, the Puerto Rican parrot. In Spanish, the bird is known as the iguaca.

Where found: Once present through most of Puerto Rico and its nearby islands, the parrot can now be found in only a small portion of Puerto Rico's main island.

IUCN Red List status: Critically endangered. About 400 of the birds live in captivity and, as of last year, more than 100 have been released into the wild, where they are carefully tracked and monitored.

Major threat: The species was nearly wiped out by agricultural development and roads, as well as collection for the pet trade. Luckily today's birds are relatively safe since most of these birds live in captivity. The wild parrots still face the threat of an invasive bird called the pearly-eyed thrasher (Margarops fuscatus), as well as invasive rats and mongooses.

Notable conservation programs: The Puerto Rican Parrot Recovery Program, a joint effort between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources and the U.S. Geological Survey. In addition the Puerto Rican Parrot Genome Project aims to sequence the birds' genome, something that could aid in its conservation since all of the current birds are descended from such a small population.

Multimedia: Here's a parrot having a grand old time taking a shower:

Photo by Tom MacKenzie, USFWS via Flickr

Previous Sunday Snapshots:

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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