Imperial Amazon (Amazona imperialis)

loading
Female imperial Amazon on perch
loading
Loading more images and videos...

Imperial Amazon fact file

Imperial Amazon description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderPsittaciformes
FamilyPsittacidae
GenusAmazona (1)

The imperial Amazon is a spectacular parrot and the national bird of Dominica (4). It is the largest member of the genus Amazona, and is one of the rarest parrots in the world (5). The two sexes are similar in appearance, with a dark maroon-purple head featuring some greenish-blue feathers; the ear-coverts are reddish-brown and the cheeks are maroon. The upperparts of this parrot are green; the wings have typical red wing spots, as with all Amazona, and long flight feathers that become purplish-blue at the tips (6) (7). The purple feathers of the underparts have blackish fringes, creating a scaled appearance. The reddish tail has a greenish-blue tip (2) (6). Juveniles are generally similar to adults, but typically have a duller-coloured plumage, and brown rather than red irises (6) (7). A loud trumpet-like call is produced in flight, and a range of squawks and whistles, particularly a high-pitched “weep-weep-weep”, are emitted at other times (2) (7).

Also known as
imperial parrot, sisserou.
Spanish
Amazona Imperial.
Size
Length: 45 cm (2)
Top

Imperial Amazon biology

Despite its shy and reclusive nature, and the inaccessibility of much of its habitat, new research technologies are revealing much about the imperial Amazon’s ecology. It nests in cavities in tall trees, but observation of nests is difficult as the cavities are typically concealed in vines and plants (2). Breeding typically occurs during the dry season between February and June, when resources are most abundant (2) (9), but nesting may also occur during other months depending upon rainfall and food abundance (7). Pairs of imperial Amazons defend their territory from late December until their chicks have fledged (7). Field observations suggest they may breed every other year, with only one fledgling per nest having ever been observed (8) (9), and the young appear to associate with their parents for up to a year post-fledging (7). Although it had been previously speculated that one young is typically raised from a clutch of two eggs, a clutch of two has only recently been confirmed from the first clutch of captive-laid eggs at the Parrot Conservation and Research Centre in Roseau, Dominica, in April 2006 (7).

This parrot feeds on a range of fruits, seeds, shoots, flowers, berries and nuts (9).

Top

Imperial Amazon range

Endemic to Dominica in the West Indies, this species is found in forests in and near the Morne Diablotin National Park, eastern Northern Forest Reserve, and Central Forest Reserve (7). Additionally, the southern population, decimated by Hurricane David (1979), has become re-established at the southern end of the Morne Trois Pitons National Park (particularly in the valleys near Morne John and Morne Watt, near Morne Prosper) (7) (8).

Top

Imperial Amazon habitat

The imperial Amazon generally occurs in sheltered valleys (8) across montane and sub-montane forest at altitudes of 600 - 1,300 m (2). The terrain in which this parrot is found is typically extremely rugged, with nest sites often located in trees on very steep slopes (4). When food resources are short it will descend to lower altitudes of around 300 to 500 m in order to forage (7).

Top

Imperial Amazon status

Classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List 2006 (1). Listed under Appendices I of CITES (3).

IUCN Red List species status – Endangered

Top

Imperial Amazon threats

The precipitous decline of this species, known to number just 80-100 individuals in 1993, was the result of a combination of factors including habitat loss caused by conversion of forests to plantations and hurricane damage, as well as hunting for food and trapping for the pet trade (2). Subsistence hunting was prevalent throughout the mid to late 1940s, and the species continued to be hunted for the pet trade into the 1980s (8). Thankfully, strict law enforcement, a comprehensive education and awareness campaign, and national pride have all but eliminated threats from poaching since the early 1990’s (2) (7). Despite an increase in numbers the population remains low, with estimates of between 150 and 250 adults remaining (4) (8), and the species is therefore still classified as Endangered by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (1). Habitat loss still poses a serious threat, however, and as lowland forests are increasingly cleared, the imperial Amazon may face competition for nest sites with the related species Amazonia arausiaca (2).

Top

Imperial Amazon conservation

The imperial Amazon has benefited from Dominica’s long history of forest conservation and, more recently, from intensive governmental and non-governmental efforts to protect its habitat and make local citizens aware of its needs (8). Indeed, it is as a result of a dedicated conservation programme targeted at the imperial Amazon, spearheaded by the partnership between Dominica’s Forestry, Wildlife and Parks Division and the Rare Species Conservatory Foundation (RSCF) (8), that numbers of this species have slowly increased. To date, this partnership has significantly aided this endangered parrot through integrating extensive protected-area and law enforcement legislation with staff training, education and public awareness, and research on both captive and wild populations (8) (6). A major result of this programme of conservation has been the creation of the Morne Diablotin National Park in the known nesting area for the species (5), first initiated in 1997 (8). An in situ captive programme has long been in place to research and rehabilitate the birds, and a pair of imperial Amazons that has resided at the Parrot Conservation and Research Centre (Forestry, Wildlife and Parks Headquarters, in Roseau) since 2000 laid their first clutch of infertile eggs in April 2006, revealing important information about their reproductive biology (7). A very successful education programme in Dominica has substantially reduced trade and raised local awareness of the plight of Dominica’s national symbol (2). International trade in this parrot is also tightly restricted by its listing under Appendices I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), and the bird is protected by law on Dominica (2). The imperial Amazon’s comeback from a small remnant population on the slopes of Morne Diablotin following Hurricane David to near pre-hurricane levels is a testament to the effectiveness of Dominica’s long-term conservation efforts (8).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
Top

Find out more

For more information on the imperial Amazon, including the conservation efforts of the Rare Species Conservatory Foundation (RSCF) and Dominica’s Forestry, Wildlife and Parks Division see:

Rare Species Conservatory Foundation (RSCF):
http://www.rarespecies.org/siss.html

For more information on this and other bird species please see:

Top

Authentication

Authenticated (16/06/2006) by Dr. Paul Reillo, Director of the Rare Species Conservatory Foundation.
http://www.rarespecies.org

Top

Glossary

Elfin forest
Type of tropical high altitude forest, growing on exposed sites in which the trees are dwarfed or gnarled.
Endemic
A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
Genus
A category used in taxonomy, which is below ‘family’ and above ‘species’. A genus tends to contain species that have characteristics in common. The genus forms the first part of a ‘binomial’ Latin species name; the second part is the specific name.
Montane
Of mountains, or growing in mountains.
Montane forest
Forest occurring in the montane zone, a zone of cool upland slopes below the tree line dominated by large evergreen trees.
Top

References

  1. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (June, 2006)
    http://www.redlist.org
  2. BirdLife International (March, 2004)
    http://www.birdlife.org/
  3. CITES (March, 2004)
    http://www.cites.org
  4. Imperial Amazon (Amazona imperialis) – Rare Species Conservatory Foundation (March, 2004)
    http://www.rarespecies.org/siss.html
  5. The Canadian World Parrot Trust lends major support for the conservation of the imperial Amazon in Dominica – World Parrot Trust (March, 2004)
    http://www.worldparrottrust.org/wpt12/imperialamazon.htm
  6. Erritzoe, J. (1993) The Birds of CITES and how to identify them. The Lutterworth Press, Cambridge.
  7. Reillo, P. (2006) Pers. comm.
  8. Wiley, J.W., Gnam, R.S., Koenig, S.E., Dornelly, A., Galvez, X., Bradley, P.E., White, T., Zamore, M., Reillo, P.R. and Anthony, D. (2004) Status and Conservation of the Family Psittacidae in the West Indies. Journal of Caribbean Ornithology, 17: 94 - 154.
  9. Collar, N., Gonzaga, L., Krabbe, N., Madrono Nieto, A. and Naranjo, L. (1992) Threatened birds of the Americas. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington D.C..
X
Close

Image credit

Female imperial Amazon on perch  
Female imperial Amazon on perch

© Paul R. Reillo, Ph.D. / Rare Species Conservatory Foundation

Rare Species Conservatory Foundation
http://www.rarespecies.org

X
Close

Link to this photo

ARKive species - Imperial Amazon (Amazona imperialis) Embed this ARKive thumbnail link ("portlet") by copying and pasting the code below.

Terms of Use - The displayed portlet may be used as a link from your website to ARKive's online content for private, scientific, conservation or educational purposes only. It may NOT be used within Apps.

Read more about

X
Close

MyARKive

MyARKive offers the scrapbook feature to signed-up members, allowing you to organize your favourite ARKive images and videos and share them with friends.

Play the Team WILD game:

Team WILD, an elite squadron of science superheroes, needs your help! Your mission: protect and conserve the planet’s species and habitats from destruction.

Conservation in Action

Which species are on the road to recovery? Find out now »

This species is featured in:

This species is affected by global climate change. To learn about climate change and the species that are affected, visit our climate change pages.

Help us share the wonders of the natural world. Donate today!

Blog