Endangered Puerto Rican Parrots left with limited resources after Hurricane Maria

A parrot grabs fruit of the royal palm. Credit: Tanya Martinez

Biologist in Puerto Rico report that at least 80 of the endangered Puerto Rican Parrots survived Hurricane Maria while exposed to the category 5 storm. The 175 parrots in captivity were unharmed.

The Puerto Rican Parrot, also known as the Puerto Rican Amazon is the only remaining native parrot in Puerto Rico. The parrot has been on the critically endangered list since 1994.

Back in 1989, Hurricane Hugo devastated the parrot population, destroying more than half the parrots in the Puerto Rican wild. By the end of 1989, just a small population of 22 birds remained.

During both Hurricane’s Irma and Maria, the rare parrots in captivity were moved into a hurricane proof building.

After Irma hit Puerto Rico in early September it appeared the parrots in the wild dodged a bullet. The eye of Irma passed about 30 miles to the north of the island. While the damage from Irma was a major inconvience, the parrots weathered the storm.

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Round two with Maria was a much different story. The 155 mph winds destroyed much of the forest and stripped many of the trees bare. Biologist Tanya Martinez was able to tweet a few pics of the devastation four days after Maria passed.

Due to the storm, there are now no direct communications to the Rio Abajo Aviary. The site is where the birds are cared for in captivity and then released into the wild.

A secondhand report from Ricardo Valentine, a biologist that cares for the endangered parrots, said with leaves missing on the trees the bright birds are easy to count.

Puerto Rico Parrot Hurricane Maria
The remaining parrots are easy to spot in the defoliated canopy. Credit: Tanya Martinez

Valentine, stayed at the Rio Abajo Aviary while Maria battered the American territory. Valentine reports that the smaller breeding cages at the aviary are destroyed, and he’s not sure what type of funding they’ll receive for repairs.

Meanwhile, a site for donations to the aviary has popped-up online and biologist are referring the public to it for help.

Martinez says with much of the forest defoliated, the parrots are making good use of what they can find.  The fruit of the royal palm survived and the parrots appear to be eating that.

Without direct communication to the aviary, information is still very limited. We’ll update this story as more information is made available.

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