Parrots of the Caribbean: Birding tourism offers hope for threatened species

Parrots of the Caribbean: Birding tourism offers hope for threatened species

JENNINGS MOUNTAIN, St. Vincent and the Grenadines — The destruction was terrible, but the silence was even worse. Yvette Pereira had just walked up the road to the farm she owned on St. Vincent, an island located between St. Lucia, Grenada and Barbados in the Lesser Antilles.

“It was like in a nightmare. It was all gray and no green. I heard nothing,” Pereira recounted.

A couple of days before, on April 9, 2021, a volcano named La Soufrière erupted and blanketed much of the island in ash. The small river that normally gurgled through Pereira’s property ceased to flow, trees were snapped in two, and several of her farm animals were killed. But it was the parrots that worried Pereira the most.

“Normally I drive up, open my door, and am hearing parrots. I thought, where are the parrots?”

Pereira had cause for concern. The parrots that she was so accustomed to seeing weren’t the kind of parrots found at the pet shop, or even in most zoos. These were St. Vincent parrots (Amazona guildingii), a dazzling species with colors like a sunset. The species, endemic to this island that measures just 29 kilometers long and 18 across (18 by 11 miles), is one of four parrot species restricted to only one island in the string of islands known as the Lesser Antilles. All are considered threatened species on the IUCN Red List (three are vulnerable and one is critically-endangered).

Lead Image: A young birder from the United States, Heather Levy, scanning for imperial parrots at a viewpoint in Dominica’s Morne Diablotin National Park. Image by Peter Kleinhenz for Mongabay.

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