The Bahama Parrot population, once endangered, is now showing continued growth on the two islands where they still live due to national park protection and predator control programs coordinated by the Bahamas National Trust (BNT).
According to the latest research by Dr. Frank Rivera-Milán of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the parrot population on Abaco continues to increase, with numbers reaching almost 8,000.
The Abaco National Park was created in 1994 to protect the parrot’s northern breeding ground. At the time the parrot population was under 2,000.
The Bahama Parrot was once widespread throughout several Bahamian islands – in his journal Christopher Columbus wrote “flocks of parrots darken the sun”; however, they are now found only on Abaco and Inagua, with a small population recently established on New Providence. The latest surveys on Inagua also show a rising parrot population
On Abaco, the parrots nest on the ground in the pine forest, and although much of their breeding habitat was protected by the Abaco National Park, the birds were unlikely to survive due to continued predation by feral cats.
Acting on recommendations from leading parrot researcher Dr. Caroline Stahala, in 2009 the BNT implemented a predator control programme in the Abaco National Park under the supervision of a warden.
The last Bahama Parrot census was conducted on Abaco in 2012, and indicated a population of about 4,000 birds. The most recent census indicates that the parrot population has doubled in four years – underscoring the success of the BNT’s conservation management programme.
According to Dr. Rivera-Milán, the Bahama Parrot can withstand the devastation caused by moderate hurricanes, and is responding well to sustained feral cat removal efforts at nesting areas in southern Abaco.
The BNT plans to continue the predator control programme on Abaco, and conduct population research every two years.