The Scarlet Macaw is the national bird of Honduras. Unfortunately, it has been seriously threatened due to illegal poaching and bird trafficking. As an effort to protect the national bird, Honduras celebrates scarlet macaw day on June 28. Perhaps there is no better place in the World to enjoy the scarlet macaw in freedom than at the Mayan Ruins of Copan, in Western Honduras. There, you can see almost 100 macaws flying freely within the park and the valley. As a matter of fact, Copan Ruinas promotes itself as the Sacred Valley of the Scarlet Macaws. Indeed, the Mayan ruins at Copan are spectacular. When you add the macaws flying around the park, it becomes a magical experience!
What started out as a project to house native birds, including toucans, macaws and parrots that were domesticated and not able to survive in the wild, Macaw Mountain Bird Park, has blossomed to become the most successful macaw breeding facility in the World! Lloyd Davidson, the owner, and leader of this project once told me: “We were not trying to have the macaw’s mate, they were evidently healthy and happy and started mating”. This made the park scramble to provide adequate nesting facilities for the birds. The World Parrot Trust became interested in the concept and proposed liberating macaws. Soon, the first macaws were successfully set free within the Copan Archaeological Park. Today, when you enter the park facilities, some very loud and colorful macaws will greet you.
During its peak, the Mayas at Copan held the macaws in very high esteem. The centuries old ball court in Copan has some artistic markers that represent a macaw head. In addition to macaws being set free within the park, there have also been successful releases within the Santa Isabel Coffee farm, 30 kms. East of Copan Ruinas on the highway to San Pedro Sula. There is also a large group of macaws that are free on the private island of Barbaretta, where they are thriving. Barbaretta is one of the Bay Islands of Honduras. It is between the Roatan Island and Guanaja Island.
There are plans to release several pairs of Scarlet Macaws in the Cangrejal River Valley some time in the future. Without doubt the success in this program inspired the congress to declare June 28 as the day that Honduras Celebrates Scarlet Macaws! Copan Ruinas organizes a series of activities around this date. This year, due to the Covid-19 emergency, they will be celebrating the activities as a virtual event, sharing the success via social media and national TV.
The program at Macaw Mountain continues to grow. Not all macaws are great parents and can ensure that their babies will grow and survive on their own. To give these magnificent birds a helping hand at increasing their numbers, they have joined efforts with Pro-Alas, a conservation NGO dedicated to help increase the survival rate of these magnificent birds. As a result, they now have the first facility whose mission is to incubate and assist baby macaws in the World! The facility is in Copan Ruinas, within the grounds of the Macaw Mountain Bird Park, just outside of Copan. With over 20 years’ experience taking care of tropical birds, with an emphasis on Macaws, this project will no doubt have a significant effect on the reproduction of the National bird of Honduras.
According to Mauricio Cuevas, the biologist at Macaw Mountain, Macaws lay three to four eggs each mating season. However, the parents only have the capacity to bring up a couple of hatchlings. Thus, the third and fourth hatchlings have a very slim chance of surviving. By hand picking two eggs from each nest, they can ensure that the numbers of surviving babies grows significantly. The incubation period lasts between 26 to 28 days. Once hatched, they must hand feed the macaw chicks up to 10 times a day for as long as 90 days. As they grow up, there is less and less interaction with humans. A big effort is made to help them socialize between themselves. Most of the baby macaws will grow up to be strong and good flyers. This makes them ideal candidates to become free.
Efforts to identify the best areas where to release these magnificent birds are on ongoing project. Once identified, a concerted effort with the local communities is made to ensure that the communities become involved in protecting these birds.
According to Samantha Carvajal, who heads the breeding program at Pro-alas, this year they have successfully hatched and brought up a total of 13 Macaws. These include three different species of Macaws: Ara macao, Ara ambiguus and Ara ararauna as well as one Amazona autumnalis.
Dr. James Gilardi, President of the World Parrot Trust declared that “We at the World Parrot Trust are very pleased with the success and the progress reintroducing the Scarlet Macaw in the Sacred Valley of the Macaws.” “It has proven to be an invaluable tool for the protection of an endangered species”. We started with the Scarlet Macaw, (Ara Macao), but expect that the project will also benefit other species.
Join the party as Honduras Celebrates Scarlet Macaw day. Visit their facebook page for the virtual event that promises to be memorable!