The green-winged macaw (Ara chloropterus), also known as the red-and-green macaw, is found in the woodlands of northern and central South America. A couple of days ago my group and I visited a large sinkhole (Buraco das Araras) located on the edge of Rio de Prata in Brazil’s southern Pantanal. Two-story wooden platforms at either end afford tourists wonderful views into the vast recesses of the sinkhole. Precipitous pink sandstone walls rise up from a green lagoon and lush forest at the base. Most spectacularly, vibrant red-and-green macaws soar and wheel in flashes of color. They come to rest, often in pairs, in crevices along the cliff faces, or on the branches of rugged trees rooted in the sandstone. These birds mate for life and constantly engage in tender bonding behavior, preening one another gently, locking beaks, or simply resting pressed up close from shoulder to tail.
My group and I spent a whole day here, but even as the sun set, we gasped anew each time a pair or flock of the macaws hurtled into the darkening sinkhole, squawking loudly, gliding and twisting in a dance of love or competition.
Sadly, in recent years there has been a marked decline in the populations of all macaws due to habitat loss, and illegal capture for the parrot trade. They are captured by the tens of thousands each year.
To cage a bird so social, so acrobatic, so joyful in its exuberant flight, makes my heart hurt. Especially after seeing it in the wild, I can’t imagine the torture of captive life for such a creature. Please don’t ever buy a macaw, a parrot, a parakeet. These are birds that need and deserve to live free and wild, and in longstanding, bonded relationships with a mate--not as decoration or companionship for humans. If you really yearn for one, know that there are thousands of them needing adoption. There are all kinds of adoption networks for them, as they often outlive their owners (life span of 50 years), or are abandoned. Sanctuaries are also in need of re-homing, to help alleviate the problem of overcrowding in these rescue facilities.
Follow the work of World Parrot Trust and Birdlife International to learn how you can help.