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February 21, 2007

Macaws On Maui?

We've been in Maui, Hawaii this past week, so I figured we'd share a bit from our travels. So, Picture This...

We are enjoying our dinner in a window table overlooking the beautiful beach at sunset. We've literally de-planed and gone straight to our favorite restaurant on Maui, Mama's Fish House. Ok, so we were a tad early so we went wine tasting up at the Tedeschi Vineyards at 'Ulupalakua Ranch beforehand… but that's another story. We are contentedly sipping our Iwilei Refresher and the Hookipa Sunset when a noise shatters the laidback atmosphere.


That noise sounds familiar.... but we can't see its source. Surely it cannot be a...

mamasmeal.jpgOur dinner arrives. As we savor our excellent meal of the best Pua Me Hua Hana on the island (Old Hawaii Ono and Mahimahi sautéed in coconut milk, with slow-cooked Kalua pig, Grilled banana, ├é┬áMolokai sweet potato, poi, Island fruit and a fresh coconut) as well as the Crispy Kalua Duck (with mango-mui glaze, baby bok choy and lemongrass rice pilaf), we hear it again.

invasivemacaw.jpgThe unmistakable screech of a macaw, the largest of parrots. A few seconds later, a blue and gold sails down from above us and lands on a nearby palm frond. My father-in-law raises breeding macaws, but never have we seen one fly unencumbered before. No clipped wings here. It's quite a sight and we are intrigued.

Despite what most people would think (ooh pretty colorful bird, must be Hawaiian)… Macaws are not native to Hawaii but from the rainforests of Central and South America. By dessert (Banana Macadamia Nut Crisp, served warm with Tahitian vanilla ice cream, in case you cared), we have discovered from the restaurant staff that this particular macaw is a former pet set free. The blue and gold is fed by the nearby locals and so the bird sticks around. When my husband approaches, the macaw looks almost willing to jump down onto his arm, given the proper incentive.

Most species of macaws are endangered, mostly because their rainforest habitat is disappearing at alarming rates, but also due to capture of wild ones for the pet trade. A healthy blue and gold macaw can go for several thousand dollars in the US, and macaw feathers are often used in Native American tribal ceremonies.

The larger species of macaws like this blue and gold (Ara ararauna) have very long lives — often upwards of 75 years. Many people buy young hatchlings as pets only to find that a young macaw, if well cared for, is likely to outlive not only them, but their children as well. Unwanted pets are often released into the wild. Lucky for this blue and gold macaw, the Hawaiian Islands offer a similar habitat to what they require — including abundant fruit and nuts.

This particular bird looks very healthy and happy here, despite being non-native. It's charming personality, keen intelligence and brilliant plumage likely keep it from being harassed.

But while this macaw is unlikely to cause much trouble as a herbivore and a single individual, other non-native species have caused massive damage to the fragile island ecosystem. The mongoose is a prime example of a destructive invasive species.

Check out our Maui, Hawaii podcast - a video program that highlights this beautiful place!

Posted by sorsha at February 21, 2007 2:22 PM


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wow! a macaw! i volenter **volunteer at this animal santuary, and we arnt alowed to go to the parrot cages becuse they are so dangerous.

lol i like that SQUAAAAAAAK!

P.S by the way im 12 years old.

Hey Heather,

I think it's awesome that you volunteer at a shelter! What a cool job, even though I imagine some of the stuff they have you do may be less than glamorous! Feel free to tell us more about your work!

Macaws can certainly do a bit of damage if they chose to. Macaws are very smart and have powerful beaks (my father-in-laws are able to break out of heavy masterlocks with their beaks and need special locks on their cages). They also have sharp claws if they are not maintained by the owner. Lastly, like people, each macaw has its own personality. Some like to be petted but many won't let you fondle them if they don't know you well.

Not to mention their squawks can reach the decibel levels of a jet engine. You don't want to risk hearing loss by having one screech in your ear!

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