The Sacred Valley of Scarlet Macaws

Over 12 centuries ago, the Copan Valley was inhabited by the great Maya Civilization. For them, this was the Sacred Valley of Scarlet Macaws. A nearby hill was named Macaw Mountain. The magnificent ball court in the center of the Acropolis still has the 6 markers resembling macaws. The entry passage into the ball court still boasts a well-preserved macaw sculpture. There is scientific evidence that the Maya of Copan had a special relationship with Scarlet Macaws. Long after the fall of Copan, the valley was home to macaws. Indeed, Copan is the Sacred Valley of Scarlet Macaws.

Over the years, especially in the twentieth century, the macaws were to disappear from the Copan Valley. Farming, but mainly poaching took a toll on the macaw population until they disappeared entirely. The good news is that a project led by a local bird park, Macaw Mountain Bird Park was been very successful in reinserting the magnificent Scarlet Macaws into the valley.  With funds from the Parrot Trust, an international NGO whose goal is to protect parrots, they have pulled together a magnificent achievement. Today, there are more than 60 scarlet macaws flying freely over the Copan Archaeological park!

Macaw Markers at Ball Court in Copan Ruinas
These magnificent sculptures decorate the ball court at Copan Ruinas, Honduras

This Christmas holiday I was in Copan, and after a pleasant hike to the Archaeological park I visited the park itself. I have done so many times in the past, and it just does not get old. But despite the park being spectacular, it has gotten even better over the years. As I entered the park, there was a tree where at least a dozen Scarlet Macaws where gathered. In a moment, they all took flight, and provided a spectacular show for those of us that were there. We were all in awe. It is easy to understand why they call the area the Sacred Valley of Scarlet Macaws!


The Copan Archaeological Park is Home to dozens of Scarlet Macaws!

Macaw Sculpture in Copan Ruinas
The artistic ball court at Copan Ruinas

I was told that they are especially active, flying over the park at around 9 a.m. and again at around 3 p.m. I was there at about 11 a.m. and they were active enough and I really enjoyed watching them fly! After some time just watching these spectacular birds and imagining the interaction that the Ancient Maya had with them, I continued my self-guided tour of the Copan Archaeological Park. Being the holiday season, there were many persons in the park. Most had a local guide giving them a tour. There is no doubt that this is the best way to visit the park: with a guide. They have tons of information and give you a deep understanding of how the Maya people lived.


If you visited the Copan Maya Archaeological Park more than five years ago, I insist that you should revisit. You will experience the Sacred Valley of Scarlet Macaws. This unique sight will connect you with the ancient Maya and help you understand their respect and love of nature. In the meantime, you will also have a chance to get up close with the national bird of Honduras: the Scarlet Macaw!