St Vincent Amazon (Amazona guildingii)
|Also known as:||Guilding's Amazon, St Vincent parrot|
|Spanish:||Amazona de San Vincente|
|Size||Length: 40 cm (2)|
|Weight||580 - 700 g (3)|
Classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1) and listed on Appendix I of CITES (4).
The St Vincent Amazon is the only parrot inhabiting the island of St Vincent in the Caribbean (5). The plumage of this attractive species is highly variable, with virtually no two birds appearing alike (3). However, two distinct colour morphs are clearly discernible: a ‘yellow-brown’ morph, and a ‘green’ morph. The more common yellow-brown morph has a creamy-white head, shading to yellow-orange on the hind-crown, with bluish patches behind the eyes. The upperparts and breast are scaled bronze, becoming greenish lower down, while the wings are variably patterned with a kaleidoscope of orange, red, blue, yellow and black, and the tail is deep blue with an orange base and a yellow terminal band. Although the green morph is broadly similar in appearance, the upperparts are predominately dusky-green and the head is bluish white (2) (3) (5). There is no difference in plumage or size between the sexes, and the immatures are duller than the adult birds (2) (5). This noisy parrot uses a variety of calls including yapping, honking, shrieking, bubbling and squawking (3) (5).
The St Vincent Amazon is confined to the Caribbean island of St Vincent (2) (3) (5).
Inhabits moist forests in the island’s central mountains, from 125 to 1,000 metres above sea level, with a preference for the ridges and valleys at low elevations where the larger, mature trees provide nesting opportunities (2) (3) (5).
As one of the least studied parrots in the Caribbean, only sparse information is available on the natural history of the St Vincent Amazon (3). A gregarious, canopy feeding bird, it forages in flocks, and consumes a wide variety of seeds, fruits, flowers and leaves, with activity peaking around dawn and dusk (2) (3) (5). Although flocks comprising 20 to 30 birds are encountered fairly frequently, distinct pairs are often discernible (3). During the breeding season, which begins around February, loose nesting assemblages are typically formed by around 12 birds, with each pair building a nest in the cavity of a mature tree (3) (5). The normal clutch size is two, with most eggs being laid around April and May (2) (3). After hatching, the female is known to deposit the eggs-shells some distance away from the nest site, probably as a decoy to potential predators (3).
The combined effects of habitat loss, hunting for food, trapping for the cage-bird trade, and natural disasters (volcanoes and hurricanes), saw the once common St Vincent Amazon decline rapidly through the 20th Century, reaching an all-time low of just 370 to 470 birds in the early 1980s (2) (3) (5). Fortunately, following exemplary conservation efforts, the population has steadily increased, with an estimated population of 800 individuals in 2005. Nonetheless, the population is still dangerously small, and many of the same historical factors still threaten to undermine the concerted efforts of the past two decades (3) (5).
A raft of conservation measures are credited with halting the St Vincent Amazon’s slide towards extinction, including: the enforcement of international and domestic legislation protecting this species from hunting and trade; the protection of habitat through the establishment of the St Vincent Parrot Reserve; and the delivery of successful public education campaigns (5). In order to continue the progress that had been made over the preceding 20 years, a comprehensive species conservation plan was published in 2005. The primary objectives of the plan are: to continue to monitor the population; to conduct further research into its ecology and reproductive biology; and to enhance protective measures (3) (5).
To find out more about the St Vincent Amazon, see:
- Morph: one of two or more distinct types of a given species, often distinct colour forms, which occur in the same population at the same time (that is, are not geographical or seasonal variations).
IUCN Red List (November, 2009)
- del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J. (1992) Handbook of the Birds of the World: Sandgrouse To Cuckoos. Vol. 4. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
- Culzac-Wilson, L. (2005) Species conservation plan for the St. Vincent Parrot Amazona guildingii. Loro Parque Fundacion, Puerto de la Cruz, Tenerife.
CITES (November, 2009)
BirdLife International (November, 2009)