Polly wants a mango

Cayman parrots ruin crops

According to local farmers, Cayman parrots are a down-right nuisance.

Cayman parrots

Cayman parrots cast a wary eye downward from the top of a mango tree. Photo: Jewel Levy

Cayman’s national birds are so smart and evasive they playfully taunt farmers and Department of Agriculture officers while devouring crops.

To make matters worse, officials cannot come up with a quick-fix solution for the parrot dilemma

‘Something needs to be done,’ said East End Farmer Franklin Smith. ‘One time I would shoot them, but since government placed them on the endangered list and me putting down the gun, the parrot population has grown. It would not be so bad if they were looking for food, but these birds just cut down young fruits.’

Farmer Harvey Stephenson agreed that Cayman’s national bird is a nuisance.

‘Parrots are getting fat off farmers’ expense,’ he said.. ‘The parrots are fat, rosy looking and well-educated. It’s no laughing matter; we can’t shoot them because it is against the law, but we need to find a solution.

‘It is difficult for me at 75 years old to work and feed parrots. I even erected a swinging scarecrow in the fields to frighten them, but they enjoyed themselves swinging on the scarecrow,’ he said.

Agriculture Department Director Adrian Estwick acknowledged that the parrot problem is frustrating for farmers.

‘Even though we have spoken to farmers, the department has open ears for help,’ he said. ‘We are not trying to sweep it under the carpet or avoid farmers’ concerns, but our hands are tied as what to do.’

But Mr. Smith thinks something can be done.

‘The parrots could be culled,’ he said. ‘Take out some of the parrots each year; turn the Botanic Park into an aviary for visitors and locals to visit.’

Mr. Smith also suggested letting families have parrots as pets again.

‘But something has to be done. What do I do in the meantime when so much damage is being done?’ he asked. ‘If it means taking up my gun to protect the crops, then I am prepared to do that.’

Mr. Smith said he was not advocating killing parrots, but instead seeking help to protect his crops.

‘The parrot population is putting tremendous hardship on the farming community, I do agree,’ said Mr. Estwick. ‘I observed the parrots in the act of destroying the fruits and it is clear evidence a lot of damage is being done.’

‘It was discussed with Mr. Smith that the Agriculture Department would carry out a monitoring process, which would involve picking a mango tree when blossoms are starting to fruit, place a net under the canopy of that tree for the duration of the expected crop, and have a member of the Agriculture Department monitor the losses.’

He further stated some fruits would drop by themselves.

‘We want to analyse the percentage impact of what is parrot damage from what is a natural abortion of fruits,’ said Mr. Estwick.

‘This is just an observation monitoring,’ he said. ‘It is not scientific because it will only be one tree at a time.’

Mr. Estwick said the department does not have the staff, resources or the equipment necessary to carry out a scientific experiment, but it would be indicative of what is occurring.

He further stated that the Department of Environment shared farmers’ concerns on the issue, but there was no easy solution because the Cayman parrot was an endangered species.

Mr. Smith and Mr. Stephenson both said the main crop parrots destroy was mangoes, but that they also ruin other fruit crops.

‘These parrots are not prejudiced to any type of fruits,’ said Mr. Smith. ‘They cut away ackees, June plum, sweet sops and naseberries – you name it.

‘The only fruits I have not seen parrots destroy are breadfruits.’