One of our released birds recently came back into our care. He is a male around 10 years of age who was one of the first birds to be released in Punta Islita back in 2011. It is unusual but occasionally these birds run into trouble and luckily for them, have a willing group of human staff on call to patch them up!
We were alerted to the fact that a bird might need our help by a couple of local guys who’d spotted him while working in the area. They told us they’d seen him the day before on the ground (not usually where you see a macaw!) and he appeared to have a problem with his wing. So, Fabio and I jumped on their quad with them with net and towel in hand and went to check it out!
He may have been on the ground the night before but by the time we got there he’d climbed right up to the top of a spindly tree! We could see him up there but were not able to tell much about him from that distance. He was on his own and hadn’t moved from the area in 24 hours which suggested he couldn’t fly so we decided we needed to get him down and check him over – but how on earth were we going to do that?!
I gave Sam, our director, a call and 10 minutes later he was there with his climbing gear. But it was a pretty skinny tree and hard to access in the dense jungle. Undaunted,, we started helping Sam to get his gear set up and figuring out a way to shoot the rope over a strong enough branch (we have a very cool catapult just for that!) when all of a sudden the macaw started climbing down towards us!
Unfortunately we hadn’t thought to bring food with us but I put some small pebbles in a bowl Sam keeps in his car for his dogs and rattled them around, hoping they sounded a bit like irresistible sunflower seeds. And believe it or not, it worked; he came right down the trunk of the tree. Pretty quickly too and to just out of arms reach where he suddenly got a bit suspicious! But while I kept shaking the ‘sunflower seeds,’ Sam managed to sneak up with net and towel and grab him without too much trouble.
Once out of the bushes we could see that he had an open, but superficial wound on his right wing. He was also extremely thin, which would explain his hunger and inability to put up much of a fight when caught. The wound wasn’t fresh so we suspect that he lost the weight since he received his injury and was not able to fly. In general our released birds are very healthy and find plenty to eat in the area.
So we popped him in a pet carrier, took him home and cleaned him up! He’ll stay with us for a week or two while we fatten him up a bit, give him a course of antibiotics and make sure the wing is healed so he can fly again. Further examinations revealed no damage but as to the cause, who knows? A predator such as a large bird of prey? A disagreement with another macaw? It will remain a mystery!