Grand Cayman Parrots: A Status Report

Terry A. Brykczynski


Editor's Note: Tony Silva's article on the Grand Cayman Amazon parrot (Watchbird, June/Juiy '85) elicited two informed responses wishing to update facts and present the most current and correct status of the parrots. Ramon Noegel reported that for the first time in I5 years of observation he is encouraged and feels A. l. cayman ens is is increasing its numbers on Grand Cayman Island. This increase, according to Noegel, is partly due to the successful mosquito abatement program conducted on Grand Cayman Island -mosquitos have been a hazard to baby parrots even in Florida as well as on the island. Noegel and his organization are cooperating with the Grand Cayman Island government by assisting in field studies and, of course, Noegei's success captive breeding the Cayman Island parrot is unparalleled. Noegel 's concern at the moment is the numbers of foreign birds that have become established on Grand Cayman Island. He is worried that feral Indian ring-necked parakeets may have a serious effect on the future of the Cayman Island Amazon.

I personally feel that Noegel 's eagle eye and close cooperation with Grand Cayman Island officials will bode well for the future status of the Cayman Island parrot.

The well-researched and authoritative report by Terry Brykczynski follows in its entirety. The AFA membership is much indebted to Noegel and Brykczynski for their thorough and upto-date research.

A self-composed tricolored heron languidly beats along the wall of mangrove, reluctant to penetrate, while dozens of shrieking grackles, intent on ambushing dragonflies, swoop in acrobatic sorties from the dense jungle. The charged twilight air hums with rushhour activity. It feels odd to be able to drive nearly a mile into a tropical swamp but I'm grateful for the luxury, even though the road is nothing more than a ribbon of dredged marl barely wider than the car-the skeleton of an extensive network of mosquito control dikes piercing the interior of Grand Cayman. Within a few minutes of the engine being turned off the parrots approach.

You hear them first, staccato bursts of raucous squawks, then pairs of their distinctive silhouettes are spotted-stocky bodies with blunt heads, wingtips fluttering with deceptively powerful downstrokes. In the fading light none of their brilliant colors can be seen; only their black outlines and unmistakable chatter make for positive identification.

A severe drought has hurried the mango season and the parrots are returning for a rich feast of ripened food. Around me at least half a dozen pairs settle themselves for the night but no matter how hard I strain I cannot hear the gook-gook of youngsters begging for regurgitated food. It's mid-May and from reports of boys familiar with the nests the young are almost fully feathered except for a patch of bare throat. As I start the car and gingerly thread my way out of the mangrove, my headlights scatter hoohing ground cloves and I worry over the unpleasant prospect of punctures as huge clawwaving land crabs rush out of their burrows to do battle with my tires.

Of the five subspecies of the Cuban Amazon, two are confined to the Cayman Islands-a British Crown Colony a hundred and fifty miles south of Cuba. Together they provide unique examples of the best and the worst outlooks facing endangered island parrots today. Amazona teucocepbata hesterna inhabits the smallest land mass of any Amazon in the world-38 square kilometers of Cayman Brae. Various reports put their number at less than 100 and declining inexorably. A mazona /eucocephala caymanensis is found on the main island of Grand Cayman- 76 square kilometers-and while accurate figures are yet to be established, they certainly number far more than earlier published estimates of 300 and may, in fact, be substantially...

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