Yellow-shouldered Amazon (Amazona barbadensis): request for information.

BirdLife species factsheet for Yellow-shouldered Amazon

This discussion was first published as part of the 2019 Red List update. At the time a decision regarding the status of this species was pended, but to enable potential reassessment of this species as part of the 2021 Red List update this post remains open and the date of posting has been updated.

Yellow-shouldered Amazon is found in two isolated populations in northern coastal Venezuela (one in the north-west near Coro and one in the north-east near Puerto la Cruz), as well as on the islands of Margarita, La Blanquilla, Curaçao and Bonaire (Rodríguez-Ferraro 2009). It is extinct in the Paraguaná peninsula on mainland Venezuela (Briceño-Linares et al. 2011) and on Aruba. The species inhabits xerophytic vegetation, frequenting desert shrublands dominated by cacti and low thorn-bushes or trees, but may require tracts of denser woodland (Collar et al. 2018).

Yellow-shouldered Amazon is suspected to have undergone a population decline in the past owing to illegal poaching and habitat loss. The main threat stems from the pet trade (C. J. Sharpe in litt. 2011, Rojas-Suárez and Rodríguez 2015). Yellow-shouldered Amazons are heavily exploited for trade, serving a strong internal pet market. Additionally, it is prosecuted as a crop pest (Collar et al. 2018). The species’s habitat is converted for infrastructural and industrial developments, tourism, farmland and mining. These threats are further compounded by occasional droughts, particularly on the islands (Collar et al. 2018).

The population is estimated to number between 2,590 and 8,470 individuals, roughly equating to 1,700-5,600 mature individuals. The species’s current population trend is not clear though. The largest subpopulation on Margarita Island has increased from 750 birds (c. 500 mature individuals) in 1989 (Sanz and Grajal 1998) to over 1,600 (c. 1000 mature individuals) in 2008 (Briceño-Linares et al. 2011) and is currently considered to be stable (V. Sanz in litt. 2016). On Bonaire, the population size increased moderately from c. 350 individuals (225 mature individuals) in 1980 to around 700 individuals (450 mature individuals) in 2017 (DCNA 2018). The most recent estimate from La Blanquilla is from 1996-1998, when the island held around 100 individuals (Sanz and Rodríguez-Ferraro 2006). On the mainland, the species was in decline in 2003 (Hilty 2003). The population in north-western Venezuela was estimated at 5,000 individuals in 2012 (V. Sanz in litt. 2016), while there are no estimates available for the north-east of the country. The current population size and trend on the mainland are thus unknown, and we are unable to determine the overall population trend for this species.

Yellow-shouldered Amazon is currently classified as Vulnerable under Criterion B1 because it has a restricted range, within which trade and habitat loss have caused declines (Collar et al. 1992). However, the species’s Extent of Occurrence (EOO) has recently been revised as 135,000 km2, based on a Minimum Convex Polygon (the smallest polygon in which no internal angle exceeds 180 degrees and which contains all the sites of occurrence) (IUCN 2001, 2012). This updated EOO figure no longer falls under the threshold of 20,000 km2, under which a species may be listed as Vulnerable under Criterion B1.

After re-calculating the EOO for Yellow-shouldered Amazon, this species may warrant a change in Red List status. Therefore, we present here our reassessment against all criteria for the species.

The initial topic on this analysis can be found here.

Criterion A – The population of Yellow-shouldered Amazon is thought to have declined in the past based on high poaching pressure and habitat loss within its range. However, data on population size and trends for this species are scarce. Currently, it is only possible to assess the rate of change for the two subpopulations on the islands of Margarita and Bonaire.

The population on Margarita increased from an initial 500 mature individuals in 1989 and stabilized at 1000 mature individuals in 2008 (Briceño-Linares et al. 2011, V. Sanz in litt. 2016). Assuming a constant rate of population change, this equates to a 100% increase over this period, or a 160% increase over the past three generations (36.9 years). On Bonaire, the population increased from 225 mature individuals in 1980 to 450 mature individuals in 2017 (DCNA 2018). This equates to an increase of c. 100% over three generations. Taken together, these two populations increased by 137% over the past three generations.

Very precautionarily, it could be assumed that the mainland population of unknown size was very large in the past and is undergoing a rapid decline, so that it has outweighed the increases in the island populations. This may be feasible, given that the mainland population was considered to be in decline in 2003 (Hilty 2003), and the western mainland population was estimated at 5,000 individuals in 2012. We do not have a figure for the eastern mainland population. 

In order to be listed as Vulnerable under Criterion A4, Yellow-shouldered Amazon would have to undergo a decline of ≥ 30% over three generations. Therefore, information is urgently sought regarding the current rate of population decline on the mainland, to see whether the overall rate of decline in this species is large enough to warrant its listing under Criterion A4cd and possibly additionally A2cd+3cd.

Criterion B – Using a Minimum Convex Polygon, the Extent of Occurrence (EOO) of this species has been calculated as 135,000 km2. This is far too large for listing the species as Vulnerable and therefore, Yellow-shouldered Amazon may be considered Least Concern under this criterion. The Area of Occupancy has not been calculated; thus, the species cannot be assessed against Criterion B2.

Criterion C – The population of Yellow-shouldered Amazon is estimated to number 1,700-5,600 mature individuals. This may warrant listing the species under Criterion C, under the condition that it is declining and other conditions are met. If Yellow-shouldered Amazon should be undergoing a population decline estimated at ≥ 10 % over three generations, it may be listed as Vulnerable under Criterion C1.

The species forms several subpopulations, and there is no evidence that the number of mature individuals is fluctuating. Thus, it can only be listed under Criterion C2 if no subpopulation contains more than 1,000 mature individuals. This is the case for the islands of Margarita, La Blanquilla and Bonaire. We do not have information about the population size on Curaçao or eastern mainland Venezuela. The population on the western mainland was estimated at 5,000 individuals in 2012, equating to around 3,300 mature individuals. Considering the threats the species is facing, it cannot be ruled out that this population declined to less than 1,000 mature individuals since then. In case that the populations on Curaçao and the eastern mainland are smaller, Yellow-shouldered Amazon may be listed as Vulnerable or Near Threatened under Criterion C2a(i).

We urgently request information on the rate of population change and on the sizes of the different subpopulations, in particular up-to-date information from the mainland populations, in order to be able to assess the species against this criterion.

Criterion D – The population size and range of this species are too large for listing as Vulnerable and therefore, Yellow-shouldered Amazon may be considered Least Concern under this criterion.

Criterion E – To the best of our knowledge no quantitative analysis of extinction risk has been conducted for this species. Therefore, it cannot be assessed against this criterion.

Therefore, it appears that the only criteria where the species might approach or meet the threshold for Vulnerable are A2cd, and possibly additionally A3cd+4cd and C1+2a(i). To better assess the species against these criteria, we urgently request up-to-date information regarding the current population size and rate of decline of Yellow-shouldered Amazon, particularly for the populations on the mainland.

Please note that this topic is not designed to be a general discussion about the ecology of the species, rather a discussion of its Red List status. Therefore, please make sure your comments are relevant to the discussion outlined in the topic.

An information booklet on the Red List Categories and Criteria can be downloaded here and the Red List Criteria Summary Sheet can be downloaded here. Detailed guidance on IUCN Red List terms and definitions and the application of the Red List Categories and Criteria can be downloaded here.


Briceño-Linares, J. M.; Rodríguez, J. P.; Rodríguez-Clark, K. M.; Rojas-Suárez, F.; Millán, P. A.; Vittori, E. G.; Carrasco-Muñoz, M. 2011. Adapting to changing poaching intensity of yellow-shouldered parrot (Amazona barbadensis) nestlings in Margarita Island, Venezuela. Biological Conservation 144: 1188–1193.

Collar, N.; Boesman, P.; de Juana, E.; Kirwan, G. M. 2018. Yellow-shouldered Amazon (Amazona barbadensis). In: del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A.; Sargatal, J.; Christie, D. A.; de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain. (Accessed 13 September 2018).

Collar, N. J.; Gonzaga, L. P.; Krabbe, N.; Madroño Nieto, A.; Naranjo, L. G.; Parker, T. A.; Wege, D. C. 1992. Threatened birds of the Americas: the ICBP/IUCN Red Data Book. International Council for Bird Preservation, Cambridge, U.K.

DCNA. 2018. Bonaire’s Yearly Parrot Count. BioNews 15: 3-4.

Hilty, S. L. 2003. Birds of Venezuela. A&C Black, London, U.K.

IUCN. 2001. IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria: Version 3.1. IUCN Species Survival Commission. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, U.K.

IUCN. 2012. IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria: Version 3.1. Second edition. IUCN Species Survival Commission. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, U.K.

Rodríguez-Ferraro, A. 2009. Who’s who? & how we know – Genetics & Conservation. PsittaScene 21(3): 3-5.

Rojas-Suárez, F.; Rodríguez, J. P. 2015. Cotorra cabeciamarilla, Amazona barbadensis. In: Rodríguez, J. P.; García-Rawlins, A.; Rojas-Suárez, F. (eds). Libro Rojo de la Fauna Venezolana. Cuarta edición, Provita y Fundación Empresas Polar, Caracas, Venezuela.

Sanz, V.; Grajal, A. 1998. Successful reintroduction of captive-raised Yellow-shouldered Amazon parrots on Margarita Island, Venezuela. Conservation Biology 12: 430-441.

Sanz, V.; Rodriguez-Ferraro, A. 2006. Reproductive parameters and productivity of the Yellow-shouldered Parrot on Margarita Island, Venezuela: a long-term study. The Condor 108: 178-192.

This entry was posted in Americas, Caribbean, Parrots, South America and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Yellow-shouldered Amazon (Amazona barbadensis): request for information.

  1. Red List Team (BirdLife International) says:

    Preliminary proposals
    Based on available information, our proposal for the 2019 Red List is to pend the decision on this species and keep the discussion open until 2020, while leaving the current Red List category unchanged in the 2019 update.

  2. Red List Team (BirdLife International) says:

    The rate of decline under Criterion A is measured over the longer of 10 years or three generation lengths of the species. The generation length for Yellow-shouldered Amazon has recently been recalculated to 10.6 years (Bird et al. 2020), meaning that trends should be assessed over 31.8 years (three generations) under Criterion A.

    Bird, J. P.; Martin, R.; Akçakaya, H. R.; Gilroy, J.; Burfield, I. J.; Garnett, S.; Symes, A.; Taylor, J.; Šekercioğlu, Ç.; Butchart, S. H. M. (2020). Generation lengths of the world’s birds and their implications for extinction risk. Conservation Biology online first view.

  3. Red List Team (BirdLife International) says:

    The window for consultation is now closed. We will analyse and interpret the new information and post a preliminary decision on this species’s Red List status on this page in early July.

    Thank you,
    BirdLife Red List Team

  4. Red List Team (BirdLife International) says:

    Preliminary proposal

    Information that was recently submitted by Provita (J. M Briceño, G. Angelozzi, A. Gallardo, A. García-Rawlins, E. Blanco) allowed us to re-mapping of the distribution range and the quantification of the population trend.

    Based on the re-mapped range, the Extent of Occurrence is now calculated as 163,000 km2; the maximum Area of Occupancy is 21,000 sqkm. This does not warrant a listing as threatened under Criterion B. The population on Margarita and Bonaire are increasing. In Venezuela, detection probabilities are described as stable in 70% of the range, as declining in 18% of the range and as increasing in 12% of the range (per E. Blanco in litt. 2020). From this information we can infer that the overall population is likely stable.

    Based on available information, our preliminary proposal for the 2020 Red List would be to list Yellow-shouldered Amazon as Least Concern.

    There is now a period for further comments until the final deadline in mid-July, after which the recommended categorisations will be put forward to IUCN.

    Please note that we will then only post final recommended categorisations on forum discussions where these differ from the initial proposal.

    The final 2020 Red List categories will be published on the BirdLife and IUCN websites in December 2020/January 2021, following further checking of information relevant to the assessments by both BirdLife and IUCN.

  5. Sam Williams says:

    Although the reported range of the species may have increased due to new information I don’t believe it reflects a real change in terms of numbers. Furthermore although total numbers may be relatively high now thanks to great conservatione fforts, this species occurs as several isolated sub-populations making which itself is precarious. Given the country’s challenges, the mainland Venezuelan populations no doubt occur in low densities and are extremely vulnerable. Only two sub-populations have increased in recent years and this being due to considerable conservation effort. The Bonaire population is probably stable but again on the Venezuelan island of Margarita the population could easily decline again due to collection for trade. Overall I think changing the status to least concern would overlook the specifics that contribute to their vulnerability.

  6. Red List Team (BirdLife International) says:

    The following comment was received by email from Rowan Martin:

    The population on Curaçao can be considered as negligible in the context of its global population. The species may have occurred in the past in more significant numbers – there is a suggestion that it was present in 1782 (Voous, 1983). However if this were the case, it has been effectively extirpated as has occurred on neighbouring Aruba.

    There are a number of records of the species occurrence in more recent years (Eric Houtepen CARMABI, pers. comm. June 24th 2020), although the source of these individuals is unclear. It is possible that these are escaped or intentionally released pet parrots – other introduced parrots have also been observed breeding on Curaçao. One local expert reports twice observing a pair of YSAs flying above the sea towards Oostpunt from the direction of the island of Bonaire (Eric Houtepen CARMABI, pers. comm. June 24th 2020), suggesting that YSAs may occasionally arrive under their own volition. A local bird expert has suggested there may be a self-sustaining population but if this is the case, the location is not known to conservation and research organisations on Curaçao.

  7. Red List Team (BirdLife International) says:

    Recommended categorisations to be put forward to IUCN

    Based on available information, our proposal for the 2020 Red List is to pend the decision on this species, awaiting further information on the overall population size and population structure, as well as on the trend of the mainland population. The discussion for Yellow-shouldered Amazon will be kept open until 2021, while the current Red List category will remain unchanged in the 2020 update.

    Final 2020 Red List categories will be published on the BirdLife and IUCN websites in December 2020/January 2021, following further checking of information relevant to the assessments by both BirdLife and IUCN.

Leave a Reply to Red List Team (BirdLife International) Cancel reply

You have to agree to the comment policy.

All comments must follow the rules of usage.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.