Readers’ wildlife photos

April 1, 2021 • 8:30 am

by Greg Mayer

A correspondent in Caracas sends the following photos of Blue and Yellow Macaws, Ara ararauna (also known by the English name Blue and Gold Macaw). These bellissimi uccelli are not native to Caracas, but have thrived in this urban environment. They are almost tame, having learned that many people are friendly, and a convenient source of food (photos and brief story).

Blue and Gold Macaw (Ara ararauna), Caracas, Venezuela.

My corespondent’s visitors dine on bananas and seeds . . .

Blue and Gold Macaw (Ara ararauna), Caracas, Venezuela.

. . . and will gently accept food from the hand. I have house sat for a macaw (Roberto, a scarlet macaw) and an amazon parrot (Bartolo), and know how nasty a parrot bite can be, so this shows how thoroughly these wild macaws can be trusted.

Blue and Gold Macaw (Ara ararauna), Caracas, Venezuela.

A Reuters story from 2015 identifies Caracas resident Vittorio (o Victorio, en castellano) Poggi, an Italian immigrant, as the man who introduced them to Caracas by releasing captive-bred birds in the 1970s. In the following video clip from 2018 from Channel 10 in Miami, Poggi and other caraqueños share their enthusiasm for the birds. (My correspondent sent his photos in July 2020).

This species is native to the trans-Andean lowlands of northwestern Colombia, and to the cis-Andean central Amazonian lowlands, the two parts of the range being separated by mountains and the drier areas of northern Venezuela, where Caracas is located. Exotic parrots do well in urban environments. A colleague even suggested in the 1980s that the critically endangered Puerto Rican Parrot (Amazona vittata)– at the time restricted to the El Yunque rainforest— be translocated to San Juan, where several introduced species were thriving; the rainforest was a last refuge, not the preferred habitat.

Introduced parrots are now widely distributed in the United States, and even occur in Chicago— the Monk Parakeet (or Parrot), Myiopsitta monachus. Hyde Park, where the University of Chicago is located, is supposed to be a hotbed, though I’ve never seen them there, but have seen them further north, near Depaul University. (The only wild macaws I have seen were in Costa Rica– different species from Caracas.)

As Vittorio might say “Bellissimo!”

Forshaw, J.M. 2010. Parrots of the World. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NY. google preview

Haffer, J. 1974. Avian Speciation in Tropical South America With a Systematic Survey of the Toucans (Ramphastidae) and Jacamars (Galbulidae). Pub. 14. Nuttall Ornithological Club, Cambridge, Mass.

Pruett-Jones, S., C.W. Appelt, A. Sarfaty, B. Van Vossen, M.A. Leibold, and E.S. Minor. 2012. Urban parakeets in Northern Illinois: A 40-year perspective. Urban Ecosystems 15:709-719. pdf