Monday, October 7, 2013

Puerto Rican parrots, Amazona vittata, in captivity feeding on Sierra palm (Prestoea montana) fruits.

Brian Ramos, Piel Jonas Banchs, Ana Estrella, Jong Piel Banchs
Planting sierra palm

Although the diet the parrots receive in captivity is designed to furnish all their nutritional needs, from time to time we add seeds, fruits and leaves gathered from the forest to the parrot's food.  These foods collected from the wild fulfill an important role in the wellbeing of the parrots in captivity. 

Wild collected fruits, seeds, and leaves play a role as environmental enrichment for the birds in captivity, as they offer the opportunity to manipulate and feed on food that is different in size, shape and texture from the standard captive pellet diet.   Because we put the whole inflorescence with the fruits inside the cage, the birds get to interact with the food in a way that is similar with what would happen in the wild.  In simpler terms, environmental enrichment is a way of saying these food help relieve the boredom of the parrots.

Puerto Rican parrots relish eating the fruits of various species of palms.  Although sierra palm is a favorite, they also eat royal palm (Roystonea borinquena) and corozo palm (Attalea cohune).  In the El Yunque forest the puerto rican parrots favor the sierra palm to the point that it is said that its breeding season is influenced by the availability of sierra palm seeds. 

The staff of the Puerto Rican parrot project collects these wild fruits from the forest around the aviary.  This means that when the birds are released they are quite familiar with the foods available in the forest.  In the Rio Abajo forest, sierra palm Prestonea montana is an uncommon plant we don’t feed the birds with them frequently.  In place of sierra palm we feed the birds royal palm fruits.

Aside from caring for the birds in captivity and monitoring the birds in the wild, the puerto rican parrot project staff works in a variety of endeavors of which the general public is generally not aware, one of these is improving the habitat by planting a variety of trees the parrot use as food. In the past decade the aviary staff has planted, among others, hundreds of seedlings of sierra palm, corozo palm and even the endemic manaca palms (Calyptronomas rivalis), in the aviary and nearby areas.

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