U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Southeast Region News Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                   Vicki M. Boatwright or

November 30, 1995                       Diana M. Hawkins


     RECORD NUMBER OF FLEDGLING PUERTO RICAN PARROTS 

     LEAVE THE NEST IN 1995

Twenty-nine young Puerto Rican parrots took to the skies for the first time this year, making 1995 the most successful year so far for the Puerto Rican parrot recovery program. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Southeast Regional Director, Noreen K. Clough, these 29 fledglings include 13 chicks that were born in the wild and 16 that were captive-bred. The recovery project is a collaborative effort of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Forest Service, and the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources.

The Puerto Rican parrot is endemic to Puerto Rico and restricted to the Caribbean National Forest in Luquillo. It was listed as endangered in 1967 and is presently considered among the 10 most endangered birds in the world. A major effort towards the recovery of the species was initiated in 1968.

The recovery program's initial efforts were limited to working with the wild parrot population. In 1972, however, captive breeding efforts were initiated with the creation of the Service's Luquillo Aviary in the Caribbean National Forest. Since 1972, the project has included both captive breeding and management of the wild flock in the Luquillo mountains. In 1993, 10 Puerto Rican parrots were transferred to the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources' Jos‚ L. Vivaldi Aviary at the Ro Abajo Forest in Utuado to start a second captive flock. Biologists believe that having a second captive breeding site is essential to guarantee the species' survival should the other facility be affected by disease or any other natural disasters.

Clough said that this year's 16 captive-born chicks were produced by the two captive flocks in the Luquillo and Jos‚ L. Vivaldi Aviaries. This is the highest number of captive-born chicks that have ever been produced in the 23-year history of the captive breeding program, she said. It is important to increase the number of birds produced through captive breeding in both aviaries, Clough noted, because some of these chicks will be released or fostered into wild nests to increase the vigor and genetic diversity of the wild population. Other chicks that are produced in these aviaries will be used to establish new wild populations in areas historically occupied by Puerto Rican parrots, she said.

The 13 wild-born chicks are the offspring of five nesting pairs that laid a total of 15 eggs of which 15 hatched and 13 chicks reached the fledgling stage. One of these pairs was a new breeding pair. Chicks were also fostered from the Luquillo Aviary to wild nests. As a result, 15 successful fledglings were produced in the wild, which equals the 1993 record.

The 1995 breeding season has demonstrated the ability of these endangered parrots to continue to recuperate from the devastating losses this species incurred during Hurricane Hugo in 1989. The continuing successful increases in the production of chicks is due both to the resilience of the birds themselves, and to the Service's ongoing development of new techniques for better management of both the captive and wild populations.

X X X Release #95-103


1995 News Releases

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