Saturday, October 12, 2013

The largest flock I have seen to date of Puerto Rican parrots (Amazona vittata) in the Rio Abajo forest.



Since the first releases of the Puerto Rican parrot in the Rio Abajo forest, it has become almost commonplace to see, in certain parts of the forest, small flocks foraging or roosting.  These flocks can vary in size, but in my experience, 20 to 30 birds together has been the upper range for these groups.  Sometimes I walk in the forest to enjoy the clear afternoons that follow the thunderstorms of that start after noon and to see if I can catch a glimpse of the wild birds. 

Seeing PR parrots fly over the forest, during these walks, is always an inspiring sight.   Today, as I was walking around the forest just before nightfall I saw a flock sitting on a leafless tree.  The moment I saw the group of birds I was thrilled.  It was clear this was a very large group for the species.   From the photos I took I can count 45 birds on the tree.   I took several photos but since light was falling quickly and the birds kept moving, this one probably has the most birds together.   In my knowledge this is the largest flock ever documented on a photo.

I could not help but recall an article that I read many years ago, in which the authors said “…we personally doubt the current population exceeds 50 individuals and may even be much smaller.  We predict that Puerto Rico is about to lose another of its native birds.”¹  I am happy to say that thank to the work of many, many highly dedicated people, this is one prophecy that didn’t come to pass.   Of course our work is not done yet, but as this photo attest, we are on our way.


Recher Harry F, and  Recher, Judy T.  1996.  A contribution to the knowledge of the avifauna of the Sierra de Luquillo, Puerto Rico.  Caribbean Journal of Science.  Sept-Dec. 1966

6 comments:

Kent said...

What an encouraging photo! My wife and I will be visiting Rio Abajo in early March. Can you share some of the more reliable places to see the parrots in the wild in Rio Abajo?

Ricardo Valentin said...

Sadly, I can't. I know there are plenty of wonderful people that would greatly enjoy sighting this species in the wild. Unfortunately revealing publicly where the flock congregates might expose the parrots to people that are not interesting in the welfare of the species and might even want to try to capture one. Although we have done great strides in the effort to save the species, the RA population is still comparatively tiny. The flock ranges widely through the forest, there is a possibility you will see them in your visit, but it is impossible to predict where they will be any given day since they follow the seasonal availability of food sources in the forest, which are patchy and sometimes far appart.

Kent said...

Totally understand. Just thought maybe they recommended certain trails as more favorable to bump into them. Glad they are doing so well. Looking forward to seeing your beautiful island.

Kent said...

Hello again, glad to say I was able to have the unforgettable experience of having 12 parrots fly over my head with several landing close enough to the road to allow great views and a couple photographs as they picked fruit off from a leafless tree. My father saw 2 in El Yunque when he lived in PR in 1960 and it was a great thrill to see some free flying birds in 2014.

Tropicalgardener said...

Is there any such thing a "pure" PR parrot or have they be DNA refreshed with other island birds?

Ricardo Valentin said...

All the PR are pure bred stock. We have never hybridized them.