The Imperial Amazon, known locally as the Sisserou, is endemic to the island of Dominica in the Lesser Antilles and is one of the rarest parrots in the world. It is also the national bird of Dominica, appearing on both its national flag and its coat of arms. It is a relatively large parrot and the largest member of the Amazona genus. Males and females are similar in appearance, standing around 45cm. Females are slightly heavier coming in at about 900g compared to 650g for a male. The species possesses a stocky appearance typical of Amazon parrots having a heavy bill with a hooked upper mandible, a short, square tail, an eye ring grey to brown in coloration, with eyes being orange to red. Adult plumage for both sexes consists of a dark purple head with cheeks and ear coverts presenting more brown; breast and abdominal feathers are purple with black edges; underparts olive-green with green/blue tips; mantel to uppertail coverts green with black edges; wings green with red carpal edges, outer secondaries burgundy at the base.
Distribution & Habitat
The Imperial Amazon is restricted to three disjunctive patches of highland forest (all >600m ASL) in Dominica; Morne Diablotin, the Northern and Central Forest Reserves, and Morne Trois Pitons National Park. Early accounts of the bird suggest it might once have been more widely distributed and some suggest it being more prevalent than Dominica’s other endemic parrot, the Red-necked Amazon (Amazona arausiaca, locally Jaco) which is now generally found across the island.
Imperial Amazons feed on a variety of nuts, seeds fruits and berries found in the forest canopy. They are cavity nesters, one of the drivers of their preference towards primary forest where there is a higher abundance of old growth trees and therefore more suitable cavities. The breeding season stretches from February to June. Reproduction is low with typically only one young fledging and nesting sometimes occurring only bi-annually. Age of sexual maturity is unknown.
Status & Threats
Much of the Imperial Amazon’s habitat has been protected within two of the island’s national parks, Morne Diablotin National Park and Morne Trois Pitons National Park, located within the Northern Forest Reserve and the Central Forest Reserve respectively. However, much of the area surrounding the reserves are still lacking protection. While illegal hunting and illegal trade still remain threats to the Imperial Parrot’s survival, these threats are fairly minimal compared to competition from species moving into the reserves due to habitat loss in the lowlands and habitat loss and damage, particularly due to hurricanes. In order to mitigate these threats, the IUCN recommends expanding education and awareness and collecting data allowing for a quantitative assessment of population trends; both areas we aim to address in conjunction with other in-situ conservation measures. Because of the Imperial Amazon’s restriction to one island, small range within that island and low reproductive rate, the population size will always be relatively small. Being a shy bird that lives in difficult to access regions of the island it will always be challenging to get a highly accurate population estimate. The current population estimate is between 160 and 240 adult individuals, however, this does not take into consideration the impact Hurricane Maria may have had on the populaiton.