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Post Macaws of Caracas
Created by John Eipper on 08/02/19 3:57 AM

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Macaws of Caracas (José Ignacio Soler, Venezuela, 08/02/19 3:57 am)

Gary Moore's post about birds and their cryptic bird cycles, brains, sounds and colors, inspired me to tell the story of the guacamayas (macaws in English) in Caracas.

In this city there are plenty of mountain forests and vegetation, and it has the rare privilege of having an extensive number of native bird species, regionally important for their variety and exoticism. But the guacamayas are exceptional. Contrary to what you might expect, these South America tropical birds are originally from jungles and rain forest regions, from Panama to Paraguay, but over the last 30 years or so these colorful wild birds are present in hundreds of thousands in Caracas, and almost have become tamed pets for many people, although they preserve their freedom and wild state.

It is said that an Italian immigrant in the 1980s, Vitorio Poggi, was once followed and stalked by two guacamayas when he was riding his motorcycle. It is not known what eventually happened to those birds, but he enthusiastically started to raise them by starting with a young couple and freeing them when mature. In a few years 14 different species populated the whole city in the thousands, in an exceptional adaption process.

They are very friendly colorful animals, yellow, red, blue and green, noisy and garish, 40-50 cm long, with cyclical habits. They mate for life. They have become so accustomed to humans that individual birds come regularly to windows, terraces and gardens to visit and look for food early in the morning and late in the afternoon. People used to give them fruit or sunflower seeds directly from their hands. My wife use to feed the same couple very often.

They have become a beautiful special part of this city's environment.

JE comments:  José Ignacio Soler appended these images.  What majestic birds.  The Caracas guacamayas (try to say that five times, fast) must be descended from someone's pets.  As feral or quasi-feral birds, do they learn to talk like their domesticated (household) counterparts?

Vitorio Poggi

Guacamaya over Caracas

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  • Macaws in Guatemala (from Gary Moore) (John Eipper, USA 08/03/19 5:25 AM)

    Gary Moore writes:

    The beautiful story from José Ignacio Soler (August 2) about colorful macaws
    adapting to life in urban Caracas, and flourishing there, moved me for a
    distant reason.

    Decades ago when I was hiking through the Central American
    jungles--at that time so lush and enormous that they looked impenetrable--I found myself in a straggling little hamlet where the government of Guatemala
    had subsidized some ragged settlers to come in from more populous areas,
    to live in makeshifts that were little more than palm-thatch lean-tos in the mud.
    There I lifted my eyes, as out of surrounding walls of vegetation a flock of big
    macaws came flying overhead, like rainbow B-52s soaring in formation. But I also
    saw that a settler, a gaunt, lanky, talkative individual, was similarly impressed--for he was raising to his shoulder a little .22 rifle. "They make good eating,"
    he said officiously, proud of his mastery of the wilds. A two-legged species of
    fire ant seemed to have been loosed in the forest, gobbling its way through.

    Over the decades since, I've seen a vast tundra of bulldozed pastures replace
    what had seemed endless and impenetrable. A dark nook in my brain has not
    wanted to check on the statistics about macaws. But now I see, as with many
    impending apocalypses, the doom wasn't quite perfect. The invisible force
    of life played a wild card. Nacho has shown us that the macaws--at least in
    his city--found a way not to disappear.

    (And maybe I should have known. The idiot with the .22 missed.)

    JE comments:  Gary Moore touched on a possibility I didn't want to think about, but here it is:  have the hungry Caraqueños begun to eat the city's macaws?  I noted with some concern when José Ignacio Soler wrote that the people of Caracas "used to" feed their guacamayas.  When times get tough, pets can be the first to suffer. 


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