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Street-level green spaces support a key urban population of the threatened Hispaniolan parakeet Psittacara chloropterus

Geary, M, Brailsford, CJ, Hough, LI, Baker, F, Guerrero, S, Leon, YM, Collar, NJ and Marsden, SJ ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-0205-960X (2021) Street-level green spaces support a key urban population of the threatened Hispaniolan parakeet Psittacara chloropterus. Urban Ecosystems, 24 (6). pp. 1371-1378. ISSN 1083-8155

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Abstract

While urbanisation remains a major threat to biodiversity, urban areas can sometimes play an important role in protecting threatened species, especially exploited taxa such as parrots. The Hispaniolan Parakeet Psittacara chloropterus has been extirpated across much of Hispaniola, including from most protected areas, yet Santo Domingo (capital city of the Dominican Republic) has recently been found to support the island’s densest remaining population. In 2019, we used repeated transects and point-counts across 60 1 km2 squares of Santo Domingo to examine the distribution of parakeets, identify factors that might drive local presence and abundance, and investigate breeding ecology. Occupancy models indicate that parakeet presence was positively related to tree species richness across the city. N-Mixture models show parakeet encounter rates were correlated positively with species richness of trees and number of discrete ‘green’ patches (> 100 m2) within the survey squares. Hispaniolan Woodpecker Melanerpes striatus, the main tree-cavity-producing species on Hispaniola, occurs throughout the city, but few parakeet nests are known to involve the secondary use of its or other cavities in trees/palms. Most parakeet breeding (perhaps 50–100 pairs) appears to occur at two colonies in old buildings, and possibly only a small proportion of the city’s 1500+ parakeets that occupy a single roost in street trees breed in any year. Our models emphasise the importance of parks and gardens in providing feeding resources for this IUCN Vulnerable species. Hispaniola’s urban centres may be strongholds for populations of parakeets and may even represent sources for birds to recolonise formerly occupied areas on the island.

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