Development poses growing threat to parrots

| 09/07/2019 | 94 Comments
Cayman News Service
Cayman parrots (Photo by Stuart Mailer)

(CNS): The continued clearing of land for development in the Cayman Islands is posing an increasing threat to its endemic parrots. Adding to the problem of poaching, the ongoing impact on the National Birds’ habitat is making them less resilient, according to the Department of Environment. With the hurricane season now underway, a major storm could undermine the survival of parrots on both Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac, and the DoE is urging people to consider the conservation of the unique birds and help preserve their natural habitat.

Hurricane Ivan on Grand Cayman and Hurricane Paloma on Cayman Brac both took a serious toll on the populations of Cayman parrot species, both sub-species of the Cuban Parrot (Amazona leucocephala). While the numbers have recovered, the DoE is concerned that they are now much more vulnerable to depletion from a major hurricane.

“We lost an estimated 50-60% of our parrot population during 2004’s Hurricane Ivan, and more than half of the parrots on Cayman Brac during 2008’s Hurricane Paloma,” said DoE Terrestrial Resources Unit Manager Fred Burton. “Over time, the Grand Cayman parrots made it back to pre-Ivan levels. The Brac parrots took about five years to recover from the effects of Paloma.”

Population assessments by the DoE since those major hurricanes revealed that the parrots are now concentrated in smaller areas on both Cayman Brac and Grand Cayman. The studies also suggest a lower number of breeding parrot pairs on both islands. Grand Cayman parrots (Amazona leucocephala caymanensis) are now mostly restricted to the central and eastern mangroves and dry forest.

Breeding of the Cayman Brac parrot (Amazona leucocephala hesterna) now mainly occurs in the dry forest on the Bluff. This species once inhabited Little Cayman but 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.

“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, noting that Cayman parrots are a
protected species under the National Conservation Law (NCL).

Cayman has not yet been required to adopt captive breeding measures in attempts to boost the parrot numbers, as has occurred in Puerto Rico, where hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent preserving the local species. But after reestablishing the population, the species was depleted again following Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017.

“Puerto Rico lost a huge number of its re-established native parrots during the 2017 storms,” said Jafet Vélez, wildlife biologist at the Puerto Rican Parrot Recovery Program. “The captive breeding efforts needed to support the remaining population are both expensive and time-consuming. It is far better, in the Cayman Islands situation, to conserve what natural habitats remain and try to curb such issues as poaching of the birds.”

Even Environment Minister Dwayne Seymour, whose support for and understanding of conservation has frequently been called into question since he was given the portfolio, said that Cayman would not want the expense that other countries have incurred with captive breeding efforts.

“Let’s ensure Cayman parrots can safely remain in their natural habitat,” Seymour stated in a release from the DoE.

For more information about Cayman parrots, conservation efforts and what you can do to help, contact DoE Public Education and Outreach Officer Brent Fuller via email at or call 244-5984/922-5514.

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Category: Land Habitat, Science & Nature

Comments (94)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    what the govt doing about the foreigners taking native specie’s such as land crabs…they supplementing their diets with them along with snails and whelks…as one told me they cant afford to purchase from groccery stores…too expensive?

  2. Anonymous says:

    cuc offered to cut my very large almond tree down in my yard in prospect as it has to be trimmed periodically as not to hamper wires- i refused the offer! i have counted 6 pairs of partots feeding in it (12 parrots)…all at once…i also ran a Foreigner outta my yard the other night from catching land crabs.. i feed them and love nature!!!😉😊

  3. Anonymous says:

    Over-development will soon kill more than parrots! Concrete and asphalt don’t exhale oxygen!!

    • Anonymous says:

      The Premier said he wants 100 k people in Cayman, i wonder if we gets 100 k people, it will stop at that figure or continue to get more, i think it will get more, its best to stop at the amount thats in Cayman now, No more status grants, no more. More are not always the best.

  4. Anonymous says:

    People! I would suggest that in the next election you vote for someone dedicated to conservation!!! its will slow the economy a bit but some some foreign nationals may not be able to have construction jobs for the next decade and governments may lose out on the ever ballooning work permit fees but,for the sake of our kids and grand kids it must take priority. We are destroying our reefs and our ecosystem at an alarming rate as big developers see that Cayman is saturated with weak leaders and docile citizens, its time to change this our this place will be unrecognizable in 10-20 years. Trust me don’t be asleep on this.

  5. Anonymous says:

    If the government does not care about Caymanians why would they care about Cayman parrots?

  6. Anonymous says:

    The destructive parrot should be replaced as our national bird and replaced by another one of our beautiful and nondestructive birds and then a bounty placed on these worthless parrots.

  7. Anonymous says:

    This could easily read: runaway development poses real threat to humans – in this case Caymanians. The destruction of the natural environment like the proposed destruction of Barkers Beach is but a glaring example. It is sure to kill the soul of a nation of people, as it is the last bastion of off-the-beaten path, soul rejuvenating piece of heaven left on Grand Cayman. Period!

  8. Anonymous says:

    Millionaire developers removing natural habitat for parrots and forcing them to eat the fruit of the local farmers in increasing quantities. The rich get richer and the poor farmer gets scr$&ed.!!
    What’s new in Cayman.?

  9. Anonymous says:

    Here’s a suggestion for the premier, why not give every work permit holder a parrot once they land at ORIA and depending on the health of the bird and off springs let that be a major contributing factor on their PR. Betcha we will triple the bird population in 5 years.

  10. Anonymous says:

    All animals, including humans, are annoying and a pest..

    • Charles Darwin says:

      Especially the eons of sea creatures whose accumulated calcified remains formed the Cayman Islands.

      Have you ever taken a close look at the rock on which we live?

      • Anonymous says:

        Err, yes. Its volcanic. Do you know where you live?

      • Anonymous says:

        Charles Darwin is a bit of a joke. The fossil record has NO evidence of any creature in transition. One species has never turned into another. Even Darwin had to admit that. I do not understand why we employ people to teach lies?
        Change your handle to Bell, Einstein, Hawking or the incredibly intelligent Böhr and impress us. Real science is going to win the day, not fakery. There is not a single mathematical equation associated with evolution and there is a bloody good reason why.

        • Anonymous says:

          Nice to see the lemmings here…lol. Bunch of eyebrow shavers.

        • Anonymous says:

          Oh come on, the anthropic principle fails at every turn. What happens when you come face to face with the Eternal One. You will face Him down with the words of a fallible or dead scientist? Please wake up. One day it will be too late.

        • Jack says:

          google italian skink and let me know what you think about species in transition

    • Anonymous says:

      You are a grumpy cuss, but I like you.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Anybody that cares about this needs to realize that the politicians, developers and the people that back Dart don’t really give a rats ass about this. They will soon, but they’ll be too busy saving their own asses to even remember it. In the total event of the rapidly accelerating destruction of the environment, it will be mostly poor people (the people who contribute the least to the destruction) that suffer first and most.
    As a spiteful person, I only hope some of the lower level trump/dart et al supporters suffer some, but even then, their narrative will not let them see how they contributed.

    • Anonymous says:

      Dart employees, consultants and contractors are forbidden from commenting publicly or privately on any matter that might affect Dart’s businesses or plans, otherwise they are sacked or have contracts terminated.

      • Anonymous says:

        Then Dart can cancel the next hurricane.

      • Anonymous says:

        It’s sad, but they are complicit.

      • Anonymous says:

        So what? If told you I would pay you say, $95,000.00 a year to do work on destroying the eco system, I’m guessing that, for the time being at least, the vast majority of people would take the money. “Yay! stuff, drinks on the beach, Mew phones and shit!!! lifestyle! Hell yes, sign me up.

      • Anonymous says:

        This is the problem. Nobody wants a bunch of bad stuff from environmental destruction but very, very few are willing to do what’s necessary. We want the shiny things, at the expense of the world. It’s not “our world” by the way.

  12. Anonymous says:


  13. Anonymous says:

    So what makes these birds more special than green iguanas and the chickens running around? Don’t they tear up fruit trees and gardens like iguanas did? Also shit on cars?

    Is it because they are more socially acceptable and cuter?

    • Anonymous says:

      They are indigenous

      • Anonymous says:

        Got proof?

        • Anonymous says:

          Like what? A genealogy chart and tiny passport?

          The close similarities between both the Brac and Grand Cayman parrots to the Cuban Parrots make it clear where their distant origins are. The fact that they ARE different is strongly indicative of the length of time since our local parrots branched off.

          The “Cuban Parrots”, in fact, are found all around the Caribbean. Historic accounts about both islands talk about the parrots and their description.

    • Anonymous says:

      3:33 you’re joking right? Parrots are indigenous and every right to be here unlike the iguanas and chickens. If they poop on your car too bad. They have more right to this island than you as they were here first before anyone settled in Cayman.

    • Anonymous says:

      While you may have a point worth debating, most people’s heads are so far up their dollar lined asses that it will not even be looked at.

    • Anonymous says:

      Some people here bulldoze fruit trees, steal fruit, smash up cars, even burn cars, litter up the place, and generally engage in anti-social behaviour etc, etc…

      Should we shoot them too?

      • Anonymous says:

        I must have missed the video of rioting parrots, driving bulldozers and burning cars.

      • Anonymous says:

        ….well…. are people that build places to get drunk on the beach included in this? Shooting seems harsh, but we could certainly stop admiring them.

    • Anonymous says:

      3:33 not even comparable to what human do to the environment and each other.

    • Dena says:

      You sound so stupid right now!!!!

  14. Anonymous says:

    what about the farmers who shoot them because they see them as a pest???

    • Anonymous says:

      They are very destroyful pests, they will eat a couple mangoes, that will be ok, then they will cut down dozens and dozens more and laugh at it.

      • Anonymous says:

        That’s a new word??? Destroyful 😂😂😂LMFAO

        • Anonymous says:

          Piss-off. You understood what they said.

        • Anonymous says:

          It’s a word in the Caymanian dialect!
          You are in Cayman so appreciate the nuances or like they say there are 5 flights a day to Miami.

        • Anonymous says:

          the joke is on you. Destroyer is a real word, a noun in fact, meaning one who destroys. Go look it up. If you want to be a grammar police get your facts next time.

          • Anonymous says:

            You should listen to your own advice. If you want to police other peoples posts get your facts right. The OP said destroyful- not destroyer

        • Anonymous says:

          Your comment tells me you are either a 9 year old boy, or younger, or a right proper pompous ass, ass.
          Knowing that there are people that think like you makes me sad for the world and sad for the lack of self confidence and respect you carry, that you think laughing at someone expressing themself might give you that confidence. Piss off baby boy.

      • Anonymous says:

        But why all the time must killing be the solution?

      • Anonymous says:

        Not sure in which language “destroyful” is a real word. Certainly not English.

  15. Johnny Rotten says:

    This is no big surprise, the trees that provide nesting habitats and food for parrots are fast disappearing from both development and disease. Development or at least the way it’s been done and being done is all about scorched earth.

    Just laying waste to everything on a piece of property is not the way to go. There is value to having local flora in your yard and it typically doesn’t need any additional irrigation too! Bringing in plant material from wherever also poses a serious threat of disease and invasive pests.

    Our Planning Department has turned a blind eye to this except to the paper green and had allowed this mode of development to continue unabated for decades. And our so called Agricultural Department is just an enabler and reactionary. How difficult would is be for Dept of Agriculture to champion a National Tree Planting Program?

    We certainly seem to have plenty of people still without jobs, and criminals that could be used to spearhead this regreening of Cayman. I’m not a big fan of Dart except for the fact he had people actively propagating and using local and regional flora in his developments. I have to highly commend him for this as our government has failed miserably on this one.

    • Anonymous says:

      The department of agriculture is too busy running a plant nursery rather than teaching and supporting the residents that do plant or want to plant.

      Nothing like the old adage “feed a man fish…. teach a man to fish….

      • Anonymous says:

        Light a man on fire, keep him warm the rest of his life. Just joking. Don’t do that. Really, just don’t.

  16. Anonymous says:

    “urging to consider” is a great and altruistic sentiment, one with which I concur fully. Sadly, few people care, money talks and everything gets killed.

  17. smh says:

    Government officials seems to be dragging their feet in PLANTING FRUIT TREES along the roads !

    It seems like materialistic people don’t like native trees. They love concrete structures, cars, and asphalt. THEY REFER TO BIRDS AS PEST! … and so this is the result.

  18. Anonymous says:

    To hell with all the things on land and in the sea that made Cayman a charming Caribbean island. We want concrete, car parks, iconic towers, congestion, greater social divides and pollution. Right McKeewa?

    • Anonymous says:

      $$$$granny$$$$wit$$$$. But don’t blame Cayman’s first and worst. He doesn’t really know any better and is being led by the nose by his bery clever bwanna overloads.

    • Dena says:

      Man you hit the nail right on the head! I would shake your hand if I could.

  19. Anonymous says:

    I love these birds. They are incredibly beautiful and intelligent. We need to preserve our rich environment. Every day I marvel at creation. Absolutely incredible, smh.
    We have a couple of white-headed doves that were found on the floor as chicks because their tree was moved due to construction. They are nearly ready for the wild. That will be a special day.

    • Anonymous says:

      A beautiful white head dove/ pigeon comes by my back yard every few weeks to share the cats’ food, it is amazing to see two cats and a bird eating together. There was a time when that would not happen.! About the trees- I love trees and my little yard is filled up with them. I use the underplanting method. I have pomegranate growing under sweet sop and inpatiens under the pomegranate. Trees are the best carbon blocker – save the ozone layer, plant a tree. Your good health depends on it.

      • Anonymous says:

        Now a dove would make a great national bird. Is there an indigenous specimen?

      • Anonymous says:

        So good to hear someone close to nature. Thanks for sharing. Very wise about the underplanting. We could grow a lot more here with that technique and of course, keep the oxygen fresh around your house. Superb post.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Headline should really read as follows> Over development poses threat the all residents both expat and locals alike including flora and fauna, unless the elephants in the room are addressed and people begin to resist the manipulation by politicians.

  21. Anonymous says:

    All that has to be done to make a big difference would be for planning to require aspects of landscaping to be made up of trees which would help support parrots. The medians of roads could be lined with them. Almost no cost, and would improve and support the environment, for people and animals.

    • Anonymous says:

      while that may look like a good idea, I can tell you that it will not work. One of the issues that I and many others have been seeing is the attack of birds during mating season and during the time when there are hatchlings and fledglings. In Camana bay where I work Dart has had to erect signs warning persons of the dangers of the birds as they are nesting.

      In Prospect where I live, there are nesting parrots aplenty, but they are now nesting in the yards of persons who have large trees etc. That can pose a problem as when they are nesting, birds like all animals will become violent and start attacking. A friend of mine who lives in a George Town apartment complex is now wary of walking her dog in the mornings and evenings as the birds have taken to using the trees that are in the complex as a nesting ground.

      The development that is happening is quickly eroding what habitat these animals have and they are going to what every other species has done. They are going to either adapt or die. The Government needs to protect the species in the same way that it has done the Blue Iguana. Unfortunately, man does not realise what he is doing until it is too late.

      • Anonymous says:

        You work in Camana Bay – cannot even distinguish between a Ching Ching and a parrot – and think it is a problem when local birds take issue with you snooping around their nests!

        My God, no wonder the Caymanian people are getting increasingly pissed.

      • Anonymous says:

        Are you sure the birds are parrots? If they are it sounds like they are changing their habits as well as their habitats.

      • Anonymous says:

        Lol, yeah those “violent” attacking birds. They’ll take your eyes out you know. Look at all the blind people walking around Camana who have been attacked.
        Sounds like you’ve watched one too many Alfred Hitchcock movies.

        • Anonymous says:

          Ching-ching (actually Great Antilles Grackle) “attacks” have been reported quite commonly here, especially around Camana Bay area. It may not be deadly, but warding off a protective bird that wants to drive you away from their nest with a peck or two in the head, isn’t my idea of sport or fun. Can’t really blame them either.

          Maybe we should start a designer hardhat fashion. It could be the rage. 😀

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