Cayman parrots vulnerable to storms

A mix of severe hurricanes, habitat loss and poaching have taken a heavy toll on Cayman’s native parrots.

More than half of the Cayman Parrots on Grand Cayman were lost during 2004’s Hurricane Ivan, while a similar proportion of the Brac population was lost in 2008’s Hurricane Paloma, according to the Department of Environment.

Though numbers have recovered, particularly on Grand Cayman, researchers fear that another storm could have an even more drastic impact.

Habitat loss as a result of development has been blamed for making the iconic national bird more vulnerable.

Department of Environment population assessments done since Hurricanes Ivan and Paloma have found that the parrots, while resilient, are now concentrated in smaller areas on both Cayman Brac and Grand Cayman. Those studies also suggest a lower number of breeding parrot pairs on both islands.

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“Stresses on the population from clearing of natural habitats and also from unlawful poaching have made our Cayman parrots less able to come back from major losses experienced during hurricanes or tropical storms,” said DoE Research Officer Jane Haakonsson.

A pair of Cayman parrots engage in grooming on a tree branch. – Photo: Stuart Mailer

Grand Cayman parrots are now mostly restricted to the central and eastern mangroves and dry forest. On the Brac, breeding mainly occurs on the bluff and in the dry forest.

Cayman Brac Parrot populations that once inhabited Little Cayman stopped breeding following the disastrous 1932 storm, which largely destroyed their breeding grounds. The Brac Parrot’s home range is now among the most limited of any Amazon parrot subspecies in the world, according to the DoE.

Parrots are a protected species under the National Conservation Law.

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