Cuban Amazon Amazona leucocephala


Justification of Red List category
This species has undergone population reductions in the past mainly owing to trapping and the destruction of nest sites. These have now slowed down or ceased in parts of the range as a consequence of effective conservation measures, but the species remains highly conservation-dependent. It is therefore listed as Near Threatened.

Population justification
Population estimates for the Bahamas and Cayman Islands are as follows: 6,557 ± 925 on Grand Cayman in 2016, 688 ± 88 on Cayman Brac in 2017 (DoE 2017, Haakonsson et al. 2017), 8,000-13,000 on Great Inagua, 3,000-5,000 on Abaco and around 10 individuals on New Providence (Bahamas National Trust 2016, S. Cant-Woodside in litt. 2016). The population on Cuba is estimated to number 7,000-14,000 individuals based on recorded population density estimates and the fact that only a proportion of the estimated Extent of Occurrence is likely to be occupied.  The total population is therefore estimated to number 24,242-40,268 individuals, which equates to 16,161-26,845 mature individuals, rounded here to 16,000-27,000 mature individuals.

Trend justification
The species is considered to be declining owing mainly to trapping and destruction of nest sites. The population in the Bahamas is considered to have remained stable or increased. The Cayman Islands populations have increased since hurricanes Ivan (2004) and Paloma (2009) and are expected to benefit from a current registration initiative of captive birds. However, the populations are increasingly clumped due to habitat destruction, which significantly reduces the resilience of both the Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac populations (DoE 2019). The Cuban population is thought to have declined over recent years, mainly due to poaching (Cañizares 2012, M. Cañizares in litt. 2016). Although there is no data on the extent of this decline, the species has been classified as Vulnerable in Cuba (Cañizares 2012). The overall population is therefore suspected to have declined by 10-20% over the past three generations. Particularly away from Cuba, the species has benefited from effective conservation action, including the provision of artificial nestboxes (Waugh 2006) and reforestation. If these measures were to stop, population declines would likely accelerate quickly to a rate of 20-29% over three generations.

Distribution and population

Amazona leucocephala occurs on Cuba (including the Isle of Pines), the Bahamas (where it was formerly widespread but now restricted to Abaco, Great Inagua, and New Providence), and the Cayman Islands (to UK) (Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac, and formerly Little Cayman) (Bond 1979, King 1981, Sibley and Monroe 1990). In Cuba, it was widespread but has declined and is now restricted to Guanahacabibes peninsula, Zapata peninsula (where it is still common), Macizo de Guamuhaya, Lomas de Cunagua, Sierra de Najasa, and the forests of the western Sierra Maestra and Cuchillas del Toa (Juniper and Parr 1998, Galvez-Aguilera et al. 1999, A. Kirkconnell in litt. 1999). Counts made in natural and human-influenced areas in the mountains of central Cuba in March 2009 estimated 90-100 parrots for an area of over 200 km2, representing a density of around 0.5 individuals per km2 (Cañizares 2012). The Cuban population is thought to be continuing to decline as the result of poaching; the population of Guanahacabibes peninsula has shown a decline in recent years (M. Cañizares in litt. 2016). Most recent estimates of the Grand Cayman subspecies fluctuate around 6,000 birds (6,557 ± 925 in 2016) and the Cayman Brac subspecies has been seen to recover from hurricane Paloma in 2009 with an estimated 688 birds (±88) in 2017, despite a loss of almost 50% of this population (DoE 2017, Haakonsson et al. 2017). The Bahamas population was previously thought to number c. 400-500 on Great Inagua and 1,100-1,200 on Abaco (Snyder et al. 2000), but recent data has shown that the Bahamas population is much higher, with 8,000 - 13,000 birds on Great Inagua and 3,000-5,000 on Abaco (Bahamas National Trust 2016). A few pairs, probably reintroduced from Abaco, are present on New Providence (Bahamas National Trust 2016, S. Cant-Woodside in litt. 2016). A small population on New Providence, likely reintroduced from Abaco around 2002, numbers around 12 individuals (S. Cant-Woodside in litt. 2016).


The species inhabits different habitats on different islands. In Cuba it is typically found in dense and well-conserved woodland, although there are significant populations inhabiting savannah areas; in the Bahamas it inhabits native broadleaf and pine woodlands, and in the Cayman Islands dry forest on the ridge-top plateau and nearby agricultural land (Bond 1979, King 1981, Sibley and Monroe 1990, M. Cañizares in litt. 2020). The population on Abaco is particularly interesting because it nests in natural holes in limestone substrate on the ground (O'Brien et al. 2006). There, chicks and adults are completely insulated from the frequent fires required by their fire-dependent pine forest habitat (O'Brien et al. 2006). Birds move to native broadleaf forests to feed on berries during the non-breeding season (Stahala and Stafford 2004).


It is trapped for the domestic, and formerly at least, international cage bird trade. Nest trees are often pushed over or nest cavities enlarged to extract chicks, rendering them useless for future breeding attempts. The poaching pressure is so high that most nests in Cuba are raided every year and nestling recruitment is seriously reduced (M. Cañizares in litt. 2016). Housing development threatens the non-breeding habitat of the Abaco population while housing and infrastructure development significantly threatens both foraging and nesting habitat in the Cayman Islands (Haakonsson et al. 2017). Forest loss throughout the species's range is currently estimated at ~7% across three generations (Tracewski et al. 2016). Hurricanes also pose a threat (Marsden 2013).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix 1. Protected in the Bahamas under the Wild Birds (Protection) Act. Legally protected in the Cayman Islands since 1989, more recently under the National Conservation Law (NCL 2013). Artificial nests of a variety of designs are in use in several locations in Cuba and have been used by over 130 birds (Waugh 2006). Those made of artificial materials have proved more durable (Waugh 2006). The main population managed with artificial nests is in the Ciénaga de Zapata National Park, Lomas de Banao; Pico San Juan and Hanabanilla ecological reserves. Voluntary Counts in Central Cuba have been performed twice each year since 2009 and more than 1,500 local people have been involved in the activity. Important plant species for parrots feeding are used for reforestation and forest enrichment. The Cuban Zoological Society is focused on the public campaign 'Mejor volando' ('Better Flying') (M. Cañizares in litt. 2020). The Cayman populations are surveyed annually by the Department of Environment, before and after reproduction to infer number of breeding pairs on both islands. A six-month amnesty registration project is enacted to enable enforcement of the National Conservation Law and to mitigate poaching events. Over 200 birds have been registered (Haakonsson 2020).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Discourage the taking of birds from the wild through public education campaigns and enforcement of poaching events. Encourage better bird-keeping practices to increase longevity of captive birds and reduce demand on wild populations. On Abaco, protect vital tracts of broad-leaf forests. On Cuba, make and erect more artificial nests. In the Cayman Islands, expand protected areas systems; reduce illegal poaching and trial artificial nests. Monitor population trends throughout its range.


28-33 cm. A large green parrot with pale red chin, throat and lower face, white forehead and eye-ring and blue primaries. Similar spp. No other Amazona parrot occurs sympatrically. Voice Very noisy; a wide variety of squawks and screeches with variation between populations. Hints Best located by noisy calls, often seen flying over forest.


Text account compilers
Martin, R., Everest, J., Wheatley, H.

Benstead, P., Cant-Woodside, S., Cañizares, M., Haakonsson, J. E., Isherwood, I., Kirkconnell, A., Mahood, S., Mitchell, A., Sharpe, C.J. & Wege, D.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Amazona leucocephala. Downloaded from http://datazone.birdlife.org/species/factsheet/cuban-amazon-amazona-leucocephala on 10/12/2023.
Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2023) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://datazone.birdlife.org on 10/12/2023.