Blue’s Adventure – Pt 1

Blue’s Adventure – Pt 1

Nyala & Simba are a pair of Scarlet Macaws who permanently live at our breeding and release center, they came to us, like many of our other non-releasable macaws, as confiscated ex-pets, after a law in Costa Rica made it illegal to own native wildlife. Unfortunately, Nyala & Simba were too domesticated to be rehabilitated for release. Despite their difficult start to life, they found love. They now have a large spacious flight aviary, mental and physical stimulation daily and their very own wooden nest box; all of which are only possible because of the generous donations from our supporters. Although these two beautiful Macaws can never fly free, they are directly helping save their species by raising chicks who will then be released into the wild. Nyala and Simba are accomplished parents, having raised 3 healthy Scarlet Macaw chicks in previous years, this year there were no exceptions, they would try again.

As soon as the air started to get warmer and drier, the inseparable pair started to make adjustments to their nest box, chewing wood to create soft bedding. The substrate will help keep the eggs warm and protected from being crushed. To help the hopeful parents to be, the team adjust their diets accordingly by adding Calcium, which is essential for egg laying and producing healthy chicks.

Nyala and Simba spent a lot of time in their nest box but months went by and still no chick, just as the team started to lose hope, Nyala finally laid her precious fertile egg.  A week before the egg was due to hatch, the team doubled the parent’s diet, helping them adjust to feeding another beak. Perseverance and hope paid off for the rainbow-colored couple, on June 21st, Blue hatched, a featherless bundle of joy, weighing just 20g. (That’s the same as four nickels!)

Blue won’t be sexed until before he is released, but the team naturally refer to blue as he, for now.

Blue couldn’t see or hear for the first 2 weeks after hatching and relied on round the clock care from mom and dad. Nyala and Simba are a well-oiled machine, they co-parent and take it in turns to regurgitate food to feed Blue. Macaws have notoriously big appetites and this little chick was no different, after 14 days, his weight had increased by 100%. With so much food and energy, he didn’t stay featherless for long and 4 weeks later, little rainbow-colored shoots started to appear across his entire body. At this point he was still resembling a dinosaur more than a beautiful graceful Macaw, it would be another 6 weeks before Blue’s body was covered in the iconic vibrant red, blue and yellow feathers.

 

Macaw Chicks typically fledge (leave the nest) at 3 months old, and can be seen poking their heads out of the nest entrance, and heard flapping their wings vigorously (wild&captive) days before they take the leap of faith from their home.

Blue, keen to start adventuring as soon as possible, tried to fledge early but found life outside the safety of his nest box a little too daunting and was found on the floor of the aviary with his parents anxiously watching from a perch above. The team decided to put little blue back into his nest until he was brave enough and ready to try again. A week later, Blue fledged successfully and proudly sat beside mom and dad in the aviary, stretching his wings and playing with his food, just like any other toddler! Blue at this age still needed mom and dad for a few more months to feed him and show him the ropes on how to be a Macaw.

Blue despite his below average size, is very characterful and fills the aviary with mischief and charm. Now 4 months old and seemingly confident in his perch hopping and short burst flying skills, its time for him and his parents to be moved into a social flight aviary with the other chicks born this year. A scary step for any Macaw chick, but until fully weaned mom and dad will be right beside him to help with any adjustments and squabbling.

It will be another month before Blue is fully eating on his own and when that happens, Mom and Dad will return to the peace and quiet of their own aviary to have a relaxing few months as just the two of them. Meanwhile Blue will be building his flight muscles in his spacious flight aviary with the other chicks. He will be introduced to wild foods, taught how to forage and to not come near humans, all essential skills to ensure survival in the wild. Macaws are intelligent and social birds, meaning they learn quickly from other Macaws. This is one of the main reasons we have to separate potentially releasable and non-releasable Macaws, to prevent any bad habits from transferring over, Such as talking. Yes, Nyala I’m talking about you!

Blue and the other chicks will go through a series of observation tests, health checks and disease screening over a course of 6 months, this will make up their survival assessment. If any of the chicks fail to meet the criteria for release they will remain at the project until they are ready. There are two main options for releasing birds, soft and hard methods. We opt for a soft release approach, meaning the Macaws have time to adjust to their surroundings and are gently introduced to the world outside their release aviary. They are offered supplementary feedings close to the release aviary twice a day, totaling to only 10% of their diet. This acts as a safety net for any Macaws struggling to find food in the first few months of flying free but still encourages them to find the rest naturally. Last year the team at the Punta Islita, captive breeding and release center, successfully released 11 Scarlet Macaws. They are now confidently flying around the surrounding area foraging for food and causing mischief by dropping fruits on people as they walk by!

We can’t wait to share Blue’s adventure into the wild and watch him flying free above the forest canopy. Wild Macaw populations are dwindling, every released chick counts in helping restore these beautiful intelligent parrots back to their historic range. Your support to the Punta Islita Breeding program means you are directly helping repopulate the forests of Costa Rica with Macaws, helping fill the skies with color once again.

Thank you for supporting our AChance4Chicks Campaign

Meg Hill

 

About the Author
Staff and volunteers at The Ara Project come from all over the world and all walks of life! Some of us have years of experience working with parrots and in conservation and for some of us, this work is brand new! But we all have one thing in common which is that we're dedicated to helping these beautiful birds roam free once again in Costa Rica.