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article imageIn Caracas, macaws' bold color show can't be missed

By AFP     Dec 29, 2018 in Travel

Colorful wild macaws flying through Caracas skies are a bright sight to behold. Striking and mostly docile, they settle on balconies in search of food. But that very closeness is not always what's best for them.

A dog observes macaws on a Caracas balcony
A dog observes macaws on a Caracas balcony
YURI CORTEZ, AFP

The birds' plumage is a palette that runs from reds, blues and greens to yellows or oranges. With every sunrise and sunset they start their zigzagging flight between palm trees and residential towers.

A macaw has lunch on a Caracas terrace
A macaw has lunch on a Caracas terrace
YURI CORTEZ, AFP

If the scene sounds like a dream for nature lovers, behind the proliferation of these birds in a city with high noise, pollution and human hustle, is wildlife trafficking and the introduction of exotic species, biologist Diego Diaz tells AFP.

A blue and yellow macaw (R) and a blue  red and yellow macaw (Ara macao) are seen flying in busy urb...
A blue and yellow macaw (R) and a blue, red and yellow macaw (Ara macao) are seen flying in busy urban Caracas
YURI CORTEZ, AFP

It's unknown how they arrived in this city of six million people. But many experts think they were introduced by animal traffickers or that they could escape from captivity in homes or zoos.

Macaws are seen on the roof of an apartment building in Caracas
Macaws are seen on the roof of an apartment building in Caracas
YURI CORTEZ, AFP

Regardless, Caracas is not their natural habitat; macaws are at home in the wild in secluded jungle areas of southern Venezuela, some on the border with Brazil.

A flock of macaws flies over apartment buildings
A flock of macaws flies over apartment buildings
YURI CORTEZ, AFP

In the capital, these large- and sharp-beaked species live incongruously from terrace to TV antenna, from roof to ledge to palm tree, from which they set out on noisy individual and flock flights.

The Ara araurana, with blue and yellow plumage, is the most common parrot in the city.

You can also spot Ara chloropterus (red and green), Ara macao (yellow, blue and red) and Ara severus, with reddish and blue brushstrokes.

A red and green macaw (Ara chloropterus) is seen on the dish of a parabolic antenna
A red and green macaw (Ara chloropterus) is seen on the dish of a parabolic antenna
YURI CORTEZ, AFP

"It all gives you mixed feelings. On the one hand, it is nice to see them approach houses and welcome them nicely with food; but on the other hand, it is worrying that they do not find the food they need in nature," Diaz explains.

He says that it's actually best to avoid direct contact with these animals "because they end up being a kind of pets, dependent on human beings."

But faced with inevitable proximity, veterinarians say they could be fed fruit, vegetables or sunflower seeds, but never processed foods such as cookies, which is what they get in many houses.

This Ara araurana clearly was ready for his close-up
This Ara araurana clearly was ready for his close-up
YURI CORTEZ, AFP

In Caracas, macaws live with other parrots that give their own shows -- and hundreds of birds from El Avila, an imposing mountain that separates the city from the Caribbean Sea.

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