New Book: “Parrots Over Puerto Rico”


Abby McGanney Nolan’s review of Parrots over Puerto Rico by Susan L Roth and Cindy Trumbore appeared in The Washington Post.

Open this book, after you have admired its gorgeous, wordless cover, and you will need to turn it sideways. The paper-and-fabric collages and the succinctly informative text are laid out so that you lift up the pages, rather than turn them. All the better to take in the great heights of Puerto Rico’s green forests, the deep drop of one of its waterfalls and the lofty altitudes flown by its green-and-blue parrots; each spread presents a layered and distinctive view of the island. But for all its intricately textured loveliness, the book also tells two dynamic stories: One describes Puerto Rico’s human inhabitants, while the other depicts the decline and eventual resuscitation of its parrot population.

For hundreds of thousands of years, hundreds of thousands of parrots flew over the island. About 1,200 years ago, people began hunting the birds to eat or keep as pets. Parrot numbers gradually dwindled as successive conquerors developed the land. By 1967, the wild parrots were nearly extinct, spurring a recovery program that brought together American and Puerto Rican conservationists.

The book’s authors describe their varied scientific efforts, including creating two aviaries, bringing in Hispaniolan parrots to help raise the chicks, and training captive-bred parrots to hide or stay still if a red-tailed hawk approached them in the wild. Even though hurricanes often batter the island, wild populations of parrots are soon likely to be found in three separate locations on Puerto Rico — a remarkable upswing from 13 lonely creatures back in 1975.

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