1st Bird of Christmas: Scarlet Macaw

26 Dec

The 12 Birds of Christmas

Unless you’ve grown up in Andalasia, you know that “The Twelve Days of Christmas” is an English Christmas carol that enumerates a series of increasingly grand (and in some cases improbable and quite unwieldy) gifts given on each of the twelve days of Christmas. The dozen days in the song are the twelve days starting, in some traditions, the day after Christmas and leading up to the Feast of the Epiphany (January 6).

While I’m enjoying (forces smile) a prolifically snowy and more-often-than-not-below-effing-freezing Christmas holiday in the states, tropical climes are, as you can imagine, not far from my mind. Having spent a great deal of the winter time in Costa Rica the past few years, I have many favorite bird species there. I decided to share here 12 of them, some of which I have actually sighted and photographed – and a few who continue to elude me – offering up a let’s-pass-some-time-doing-something-productive-and-educational blog series: The 12 Birds of Christmas!

Dec. 26: The First Bird of Christmas is the Scarlet Macaw

Jogging along in the sand as the tide goes out along Playa Tambor, I’m distracted by what sounds like a raucous argument between two domestic partners. I follow the animated chatter away from the Pacific and up towards the estuary that flanks the tiny air strip next to a popular Vegas-like resort that is all some know about the sleepy fishing village of Tambor. As I get closer, I recognize the combatants’ voices. They belong to Scarlet Macaws, who make roaring vocalizations whilst flying from their roost to a feeding site, and then wax relatively quiet when munching on a perch, which they’ve just found.

At one time, the beautiful large, bright red-blue-and-yellow Ara macao was close to extinction due to the pet trade and the destruction of habitats that include their main source of food, Tropical Almond (Terminalia catappa) trees, on which this pair is feeding somewhat noisily. Our area on the Nicoya Peninsula is one the places where conservation efforts – including nest protection, artificial nest creation, captive breeding-and-release and reintroduction programs such as the one at Curú Wildlife Refuge – have contributed to the successful comeback of the Lapa, as it is known to Ticos (Costa Ricans).

The illegal exotic pet trade is an industry that disturbs me greatly; sometimes while hiking in Costa Rica I have seen youngsters with nets attempting to capture birds. Parrots, iguanas and wild cats are the animals most often exploited. Now, on the rare occasions that I enter a pet store in the states where I see some of the parrots and macaws that I have adoringly followed in their natural habitats, I am sickened and outraged that this torturous practice continues to flourish. At some point in my future, perhaps there awaits a project to raise more awareness about this issue. If you have been involved in a good program to combat the pet trade, I’d love to hear about your experience.

One bird down, and 11 to go.

Listen to a clip of the Scarlet Macaw.

Photos for this entry by Frances Figart


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3 Responses to “1st Bird of Christmas: Scarlet Macaw”

  1. Dave Ganong December 26, 2010 at 8:19 pm #

    Hi Francis,

    I found this Blog very interesting and enjoyable. Great piece on your adventures and brings a subtle touch of compassion to the Scarlet Macaw’s challenges. Look forward to experiencing the 2nd bird of Christmas.

  2. Tammy Horn December 27, 2010 at 4:13 am #

    What a brilliant and creative take on the days leading to Epiphany! Focusing on birds is definitely a more manageable approach than all the lords a-leaping and maids a-milking. You don’t really say why you being with the Scarlet Macaw, but your discussion about the consequences of the illegal pet trade traffic definitely makes an impact, as much so perhaps as the cacophonous sounds of the macaw. Looking forward to the rest of the virtual aviary!

  3. Amy December 27, 2010 at 6:19 am #

    Thanks for letting me know about your project. I am looking forward to the rest of the birds. I am just as happy about the “lovely” winter weather here in the midwest as you are I think so a glimpse of the tropics the next several days is a welcome distraction. Your pictures are spectacular.

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