A report from the Fish and Wildlife Service. Our thanks to Gabriela Mandeville for bringing this item to our attention.
Helping these rare birds make a comeback after Hurricane Maria
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service, plans to restart the reintroduction efforts of the endangered Puerto Rican parrots into El Yunque National Forest. For this purpose, we are releasing two groups of parrots in late January and early February.
In 2017, Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico with 150 mph winds. Service employees hunkered down at the Iguaca Aviary near El Portal, which housed more than 240 birds in a captive breeding facility. Those captive birds weathered the storm, but the parrots living in the wild in El Yunque did not. The release will re-establish a wild population of the parrot in El Yunque National Forest, which was reduced to one parrot after Hurricane Maria.
“This beautiful bird is emblematic of the beauty of the island of Puerto Rico, and we have been working with our partners, including the U.S. Forest Service, the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, to bring it back from the brink of extinction,” said Leo Miranda, Regional Director of the South Atlantic-Gulf region, which includes Puerto Rico. “Maria dealt the entire island a terrible blow, but this milestone means we are back on the road to recovery of this rare species.”
The Puerto Rican parrot has been listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) since 1967, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service oversees its recovery under the ESA.
Scientists estimate there may have been as many as 1 million Puerto Rican parrots in the 1800s. By 1975, biologists counted only 13 of the parrots in the wild, and it was considered one of the most endangered birds in the world.
The U.S. Forest Service constructed the access trails needed for post-release monitoring of the captive-raised parrots, and also provided other critical infrastructure components such as canopy-level observation platforms and artificial nest cavities within the vicinity of the planned reintroduction.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is establishing supplemental feeding stations for the released parrots. These will aid the parrots in adjusting to their new wild environment, where recent habitat assessments have detected nearly 50 species of trees, shrubs and vines that produce wild fruits eaten by the parrots. Once the parrots are released and their movement and activity patterns are determined, additional nest cavities and platforms may be established as needed.