Tuesday 21 May
Imperial Amazon (Amazona imperialis)
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Imperial Amazon fact file
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Imperial Amazon description
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.
- Amazona Imperial.
- Length: 45 cm (2)
- BirdLife International:
- Elfin forest
- Type of tropical high altitude forest, growing on exposed sites in which the trees are dwarfed or gnarled.
- A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
- 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.
- 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.
- IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (June, 2006)
- BirdLife International (March, 2004)
- CITES (March, 2004)
- Imperial Amazon (Amazona imperialis) – Rare Species Conservatory Foundation (March, 2004)
- The Canadian World Parrot Trust lends major support for the conservation of the imperial Amazon in Dominica – World Parrot Trust (March, 2004)
- Erritzoe, J. (1993) The Birds of CITES and how to identify them. The Lutterworth Press, Cambridge.
- Reillo, P. (2006) Pers. comm.
- 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.
- Collar, N., Gonzaga, L., Krabbe, N., Madrono Nieto, A. and Naranjo, L. (1992) Threatened birds of the Americas. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington D.C..
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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 statusTop
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).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):
For more information on this and other bird species please see:
Authenticated (16/06/2006) by Dr. Paul Reillo, Director of the Rare Species Conservatory Foundation.
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