The Honduras Bird Man
Some people claim I have been in Honduras too long. Perhaps they are right, but as far as I am concerned, it has not been long enough! My time here goes back over 23 years, and I have a lot of stories to share! Today I will share the story about the Honduras Bird Man!
The Honduras Bird Man
Yes, there really is a Honduras Bird Man. I met him about 20 years ago in Roatan. Back then, he was also a fish man. He owned and ran the Flying Fish, an industrial fishing facility in Roatan. His name? Lloyd Davidson. Lloyd is pleasant, mild mannered fellow from Tennessee. He first came to Honduras as a diving instructor for the Anthony’s Key Resort. He fell in love with Roatan and stayed in Honduras.
Back in those days, Lloyd’s other half also worked at Anthony’s Key Resort. Her name was Mandy, and she loved birds. Macaws above all others. She took it into adopting macaws and parrots. Most came from US and European expats who had moved to Honduras and gotten a bird as a pet. Parrots and Macaws live a long time, and often the owners died and the birds had no one to care for them. Before she knew it, she had a bunch of birds! When Mandy decided to move back to the USA, Lloyd “inherited” all the birds…
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This is where the bird park began. Lloyd rented a piece of property in Sandy Bay, right on the beach. There he built some large bird cages, and opened the Roatan Bird Park. This was back in the days when Cruise Ships were just beginning to make Roatan a port of call. Almost 20 years ago! The bird park was a great attraction for tourists in Roatan. Yet, Lloyd was starting to feel that Roatan was too small for him and was looking for a change in his life.
A trip to Copan made him take the decision to get away from the fishing and into coffee. Lloyd went ahead and purchased a coffee finca near Copan, and began planning his change of venue. He decided to take the birds to Copan. After the decision, he started to search for a piece of property where to take his birds. He found the perfect spot: just outside of town, with the Sesesmil creek cutting through the property. The property was quite well forested, and the creek provided for a perfect habitat for local birds. He cut a deal with the owner, Don “Chando” Arias, one of the largest landowners in Copan.
The deal was closed with a handshake. Don Chando died unexpectedly a few months after. Fortunately, his family, who are local tourism and coffee entrepreneurs, did not renege on the handshake deal. The transfer of the property took place. Lloyd and his partner, Pat Merrit got to work on the landscaping. They built boardwalks and pedestrian trails throughout the property. Then they built the aviaries. they took advantage of their large property and built large aviaries. Some are actually huge!
Putting a Team Together
During the process, Lloyd learned from the local archaeologists. He found that the Mayan site of Copan had a close relationship with macaws. More so that any other Mayan site. The Copan Mayas had a sacred mountain nearby, they called it Macaw Mountain. Lloyd took inspiration from this mystical name and gave it to his bird park. This relationship led to the establishment of a close relationship with the Copan Association. The association is a not profit under the leadership of Mr. Ricardo Agurcia Fasquelle, Honduras’ most prominent archaeologist. Another important figure in the association is Don Jorge Bueso Arias. He is a respected banker who has always promoted culture and education.
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Over the years, the park has grown, the birds have mated, and many new macaws have been born here. Lloyd soon understood he would have an overpopulated park. A visit from the World Parrot Trust, a nonprofit pro nature international organization came up with the perfect solution to the problem. Impressed with the park, and the health of the birds, they proposed it would be great to repopulate the valley with macaws! After some discussing, lots of thinking and some sleepless nights, a dream was ready to be followed! So together, they all went on to chase another dream: releasing macaws into the wild and repopulating the Copan Valley with the sacred macaws.
The logical place to start was at the Copan Archaeological Park, where there were already several resident scarlet macaws. These birds were neither well fed nor healthy. As Lloyd put it: “the macaws are fed corn like if they were chicken, so they now act like chicken and just walk around the floor or climb up a fence”. They started by feeding them a balanced diet with a combination of fruits, vegetables and seeds. A protein concentrate was added during the breeding season. Soon the macaws “felt they were actually macaws” and started acting as such! They started to fly around the park! What a scene! The Honduran Institute of Anthropology and History, as well as the Honduran Forestry Conservation Institute both jumped on board! The result, a dream team put together to chase one heck of a dream!
The second step was to educate the people around the valley. This meant visiting villages, telling the kids about the macaws. The Asociacion Copan took to visiting the schools in the neighboring villages. Over several months, the kids learned about the Scarlet Macaw, which is the National Bird of Honduras. The local television and radio channels also cooperated airing educational material regarding the macaws. Finally, the team took macaws to the schools in the villages. Many kids got to see and touch a macaw for the first time in their lives! Of course, they were marveled. Yes they would love to see these birds flying around their village and resting on the trees around their homes! The goal was to insure that kids would not be running around with slingshots trying to down the birds!
Another important player that quickly got onboard was the Copan Chamber of Tourism. Under the leadership of Jose Raul Welchez, its president back then, the chamber and all of the different enterprises that form part of this important activity in Copan started to collaborate. The concept was an easy sell: People love macaws. People will travel to Copan to see our macaws. They will stay in our hotels and eat in our restaurants! Of course it makes sense!
Releasing the Macaws!
At the same time, the plans to keep a set of baby macaws born in captivity away from human interaction was taking place at the Macaw Mountain Birdpark. Soon they were at their new home in an aviary in the park, so that they would become familiar with the resident macaws. After a month or so, the release took place within the archaeological park and the Macaws were free!
To this date, four different releases have taken place. The result is magnificent with over three dozen macaws released to date! As you walk into the Copan Archaelogial Park, you will hear and see a flock of scarlet macaws fly over you. The site is arguably as grand as the archaeological park itself! The Honduras Bird Man and the team he put together have achieved a great success. Today the people of Honduras can visit the Copan Archaeological Park and see their national bird flying in this magical land!
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If you want to learn more about the Honduras Bird Man and the Macaw Mountain Bird Park, make sure you visit the park next time you are in Copan. Plan on spending at least half a day there. You will not want to leave! By visiting the park, and paying the entrance fee, you are actually cooperating with this magnificent project. In a way, you become a sponsor and help the project move forward.
At the bird park you can have a bite or a drink at the Blue Morpho restaurant. As you roam through the park you will be stimulated by the aroma of fresh roasted coffee. The Miramundo Gourmet coffee is available for sale here, and you should buy some to take back home. A nice souvenir shop is also open and offering different memorabilia such as wood carved handicrafts, t shirts, caps, etc.
Next time you visit Copan, make sure you visit the Macaw Mountain Bird Park. Who knows, you may even run into the Honduras Bird Man himself. Even if you don’t, it will be a memorable experience and a highlight of your trip to Central America. Macaw Mountain is a unique bird park. There is no other facility in Central America that offers all that you will find here!