Wildlife group solves parrot controversy

| 18/08/2009

(CNS): Local conservationists Cayman Wildlife Rescue, and the National Trust may have come up with a solution to what farmers consider to be a pest when it comes to their crops, but is one of Cayman’s protected species. The Cayman Parrot, the country’s national bird is also a big mango fan and as such considered a serious problem by local fruit framers some of whom say they should be allowed to kill the parrots. Farmers say that they are losing as much as half their crops to the endangered bird. However, a new device is now being tested by the two conservation groups with great success.

A Florida based company, called Bird Busters, has created a custom device which is programmed specifically to ward off Cayman Parrots from crops.  The device called a Bird Squawker plays back distress calls from Cayman Parrots, alarm calls from Cayman Parrots, cries of predatory hawks, gun shots noises and digital sound effects in a random pattern to confuse and scare offending birds.

The custom device has now been tested in local farmland, worked by Franklyn Smith with great success and Smith’s worker Eval Davis testified to its success. “When the device is running we have no new damage to the crop.  If the device is off the parrots return to the area within a day,” he said.

As a result Smith says he is looking forward to getting the Bird Squawker for next year’s mango crop.  In the past he admits to at least 50 percent crop destruction due to the Cayman Parrot. 

Alison Corbett, Project Manager of Cayman Wildlife Rescue has teamed up with local farmers to try and help change the relationship between parrot and farmer.

“In visiting local farmers here I have seen the true devastation the parrot has on the crop.  These farmers work hard, battling many issues and I hated that Cayman’s National Bird was considered by most to be a pest.  I knew there were solutions out there, we just needed to try some alternatives,” she said.

Corbett explained that while there is no concrete evidence that Cayman Parrots are still being shot by local farmers as a means of control there is considerable hearsay and some have admitted to shooting the national bird despite its status as a protected species., “One local farmer attested to shooting 80 Cayman Parrots in one day alone, before deciding to put down his rifle forgood,” Corbett said.  I have had other reports that there are still hundreds shot each year.  We can either deny this issue or choose to provide the farmers with effective and sustainable options.”

Otto Watler, long time advocate for the Cayman Parrot, who has also been working closely on the project said it would be a sad day when the beautiful Cayman Islands’ Parrot ceases to grace our skies.  “I think everyone that lives on these beautiful islands should do their part to stop this awful tragedy from becoming a reality and it will surely happen sooner than later if some method of protecting the Parrot is not put in place by the powers that be.”

The Cayman Parrot faces many threats such as loss of habitat as well as the and human threats such as illegal shooting, trapping and nest robbing.  The Grand Cayman Parrot and Cayman Brac Parrot are two distinct endemic sub-species of the Cuban Parrot.  Both of the Cayman Islands’ Parrots are considered endangered and are CITES protected.  The Cayman Brac species especially, due to its limited range, is at great risk for extinction.

The bird squawker seen as a genuine way of protecting the birds retails for $1,300 USD and to order contact Jack Wagner at Bird Busters(703) 299-8855 or by email jackwagner@birdbusters.com.  Bird Busters will work with local farmers to devise a plan for the placement of the device and speakers.  The device operates from a standard 12 volt battery and has a light sensor which turns the device off automatically at night.

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  1. The Cayman Islands Parrot is our National Bird. It is a beautiful creature, beloved by tourists and Caymanians alike. It is high time that solutions are implemented and the farmers are helped with the mango crop pest problem. Too long have farmers born the burden of dealing with this all alone. We all want to eat mangos, and the farmers are doing their best, but the way to help the parrots is to help the farmers.

     We can have both parrots and mangos if we apply our resources. Let’s solve this problem once and for all. Sqawkers, netting, planting more mango trees around the island for people and parrots to share, allowing parrots to eat the mangoes in the top branches, while people harvest the low-hanging fruit, creating feeding areas to attract parrots away from farms – let’s try all possible methods at once.


    BEFORE it’s too late.


  2. Peter Davey says:

    I understand, but have no proof,  that the Dept of Agriculture supplies ammunition to the farmers to shoot parrots. No one seems to know the population count of parrots in Cayman, as the last census, in which I took part, was done well over a decade ago. As a result, we simply do not know how much damage the farmers are doing, but as they probably shoot many hundreds of parrots annually, it must be very considerable.

    Ivan destroyed many parrot nesting sites, so it is quite probable that the population has dropped considerably since 2004. Just as disturbing, when you shoot feeding parrots, more just move in, so farmers’ mango trees are like  fly traps, they go on killing until the fruiting stops.

    Clearly no Government has never cared enough to work out a compensation package for the farmers.  To lose our national Bird would be inexcusable, and an international scandal of the highest order. To stand by and watch the law being broken without consequence is also inexcusable. 

    I personally plan to sponsor a squawk box if and when it becomes appropriate to do so, and if a few of us who care enough would do the same, we might just be able to go to bed at night knowing that Cayman’s beautiful national bird is a whole lot safer.

    An excellent idea above, to swap squawk boxes for gun licences, though telling someone what to do, rather than trying to enlighten them so they want to do it, is usually a bad option, particularly in Cayman. I don’t believe the farmers enjoy shooting parrots, I think they truly dislike it, but they are caught in a genuine financial trap. It really is up to all of us work with this possible solution and then, if it is successful, the police must begin to prosecute anyone who shoots a parrot. 

    I would like to congratulate Allison Corbett for doing what no one else has done, which is to find a genuine solution to this problem. Let’s hope it works, and if it does, then she should be regarded as a national hero(ine)

    Peter Davey,

    I am a member of the CI Bird Club, but my comments are entirely personal..





  3. NetDude says:

    If a person just put a big industrial-strength net over the mango tree and tied it around the truck, wouldn’t that keep pretty much everything off the mangoes?

    I mean, is this really rocket science?


    Phasers on stun Captain…

  4. Anonymous says:

    Because we know that farmers are flouting the law by shooting, poisoning and poaching the Cayman Parrots, I never buy local mangoes except from friends with trees – If mangoes mean dead parrots, I’ll eat something else.

    Kudos to the volunteers at Cayman Wildlife Rescue for pursuing this solution – but where is everyone else? Government needs to help the farmers solve this problem with more new ideas like this and the public needs to make their voices heard.

    What is the real cost to the country if we lose yet another icon? – or if we have to start an expensive captive breeding program?

    It’s a thrill to watch a raucus flock of parrots fly overhead – for everyone, not just tourists, but local nature lovers and animal advocates, children, bird-watchers and those considering buying homes here for retirement.

    Is this a Caribbean Paradise or not? How can this go on year after year and be left to volunteers to struggle with?

    I’m making a donation to Cayman Wildlife Rescue today in thanks for this tremendous effort and I urge everyone who cares about this to do the same. They have their finger in the dyke and deserve our support.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I’m glad to see farmers trying other methods to save their crop. I hope this system will deter the parrot from eating the mangos. However, I refuse to buy local fruit knowing that some farmers willfully shoot our protected national bird all for the sake of a few mangoes. I will start buying local mangoes just as soon as Mr. Franklin and others put down there shot guns.


    Concerned Caymanian



  6. Anonymous says:

    This is amazing that a non-profit organization has taken this on, I sure hope the Gov’t will back this device.  If the farmers can’t afford this investment, I hope the Gov’t could help with financing or possibly sercure a grant to cover some of the costs.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Farmers still have other pests that bother them other than the precious Cayman Parrot such as wild dogs, agouti, and other animals that will eat crops.  So, there is still a need for some farmers to keep a gun in possession.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Yes the Green Iguana is becoming very invasive here, but currently they are actually protected under the law.  The law makes no distinction between Green and Blue Iguanas.  We need the law to change before control can be implemented.  Please start to write your government for real change.

    • Anonymous says:

      Green Iguanas should be harvested for their delicious meat

    • Dennie Warren Jr. says:


      I agree!

    • Anonymous says:

      "They are not endangered, not native to Cayman and are complete pests"

      sounds a lot like all people on Cayman. If evolution dictates that we allowed to invade and flourish here then so should the green iguana who seems very well adapted to thriving in Cayman.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Forget about the parrots. find something to get rid of these damn green iguanas.

    They are not endangered, not native to Cayman and are complete pests, not only to homeowners but to drivers as well. I have seen so many close calls from people swerving to avoid these pests. someone is going to get killed soon and then we may think about doing something with them.

    there must be literally thousands of them that live in my neighborhood. they crawl on my and poop on my roof and pool. i can no longer drink water from my cistern and my pool costs are astronomical from extra cleanings. My children are terrifiedof them as well.

    If there is anybody else out there that agrees with me or if CNS can do a story about the damage that these pests are causing it would be most helpful to hear if there are any potential solutions,


    • Anonymous says:

      I totally agree with you.  They are pests.  I am really concerned for our indigenous animals survival and the effect these iguanas may have on the food chain. 

      I can guarantee that any iguana that finds its way into my yard is a dead one.  My dogs will liquidate it. LOL

      • Cayman Wildlife Rescue says:

        Right now there is a lot of wild foods still out there for parrots.  What I have observed is that they seem to prefer mangos, not just that, even certain types of mangos.  We still do have to control development of their habitat, especially nesting habitats and we need to start planting native trees in our own backyards.  We now have a wonderful Native Tree Nursery on island, I really hope people start to consider native (and hardy) trees for their plantings.

        • anoin says:

          Native Tree Nursery

          Where is it? been trying to find out more on the indiginous fauna as landscaping my Garden and would rather not add to the invasive species on island

          Thanks in advance

          CNS: It’s at the QE Botanic Park. Go to CNS Science & Nature section on main menu and click on their ad.

    • Private says:

      While I agree that the iguanas are a small pest, i do not agree that we should implement ways of harming them as they are a part of our ecosystem. Why kill an animal just because it is a pest?  there are many in my neighbor hood but these animals have a right to live just as humans do!!!!

      Countless times on my commute i see these animals dead in the road or being chased by dogs! Get some sense people! these are our islands do what is right to conserve them!

  10. Parcay says:

    If we chase off the parrots and keep them from eating our crops, what will they eat?  Where will they go for food? Could they become extinct through starvation?

    • AnOn says:

      I never thought of it that way….now I am depressed…I would much rather them be free cause I hate seeing people putting them in cages….but I support local agriculture too…what a tangled web!

  11. Anonymous says:

    For the sake of the parrots, I believe this is a great solution. What I do not understand is that under the current animal laws, it is prohibited to shoot just about any animal, as it seems all except the protected, locally and CITES endangered Cayman parrot.

    How do these farmers get their guns. What do they fill in on their gun application to obtain such a license: Oh, nothing special, just to kill those darn parrots. And apparently they actually get that license to kill.

    Am I missing something here, who is actually breaking the law here???

    I believe the Government should provide the farmers with these devices and revoke their gun license as they won’t need them anymore.

    Great start too to get some guns off the streets.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Great story!  Glad to hear a humane solution was discovered.  Any hope that government would subsidize this in what’s left of our agricultural areas?  The price tag might put some farmers off but it is a much better solution than killing off Cayman’s National Bird. 

  13. Anonymous says:

    Please ask Jack Wagner to invent an Iguana deterrent — a killer more like it,  and I’ll be over the moon!

    • Bling Bling says:

      Yes..Theae green Iguana already caused an accident on the new west bay bypass almost killing some construction workers as a drvier swerved to avoid it…..I saw one bigger than a dog….I kill these Green pest because they eat all my watermelons and pumkins…..We should kill them and export there meat to Honduras!