Why I LOVE Animals: Beautiful Parrots

Why I Love Animals is a monthly column published by Michelle Mantor in Houston PetTalk Magazine. Each column focuses on a different species, their value to our environment and what makes them unique in hopes that their future’s are preserved. Photo by Photography By Prudence

What I love about animals is how they instill WONDER in me. I can’t really explain the reason why and I’m satisfied not to – I’m ok with just embracing the fact that God gave me a passion and I’m fortunate to have found it after years of searching. 

Some of my earliest childhood memories were of my dogs and cats and the feeling that I needed to help them and somehow protect them from the many harms that could (and did) come their way. It was a compulsion in a sense that made me hyper-aware of any animal’s plight. For instance, it was painful for me to see my pets, or anyone else’s for that matter, hurting or not allowed to come inside in the cold West Virginia nights. I felt such anger when the old man next door would kick my dog for daring to come into his yard;  I felt such sorrow when my kittens died of everything from being hit by a car to being killed by the neighbor’s dog. I wanted nothing more than to protect my pets but at a young age, there was only so much I could do. 

I lived in a world where i felt misunderstood. Didn’t anyone see that animals have emotions? Didn’t anyone feel their pain? Didn’t anyone see their value like I did? Obviously I still carry that pain or I wouldn’t be talking about it in my mid fifties LOL! So, yes, it is confirmed that I have the animal-empathy gene for sure! The pain still resonates because my love of animals is innate and heartfelt. 

Having said all of that, for one reason or another, I didn’t choose a career in animal welfare.  Instead, I got an MBA and went corporate. I slogged through that career path, never feeling quite at home. Then, in 2003, I got my break from the life of desks, spreadsheets, quotas, meetings and mega-egos when the opportunity to publish PetTalk manifested. I had no idea what I was doing. It was a huge learning curve but I took the leap and never looked back. For all of the gratefulness I have in finding this path, I decided to start a column in 2019 about my love of all creatures and to share the unique qualities of many species with you, in hopes that you too will celebrate the value of animals that make our world so interesting, sustainable and beautiful.

Fast forward to here and now, as I sit in the presence of this charming Yellow-Naped Amazon Parrot and this fantastically beautiful Green-wing Macaw. Their colors are so brilliant and defined, as if drawn by a meticulous artist. Not a single feather is misplaced on the landscape of color variations. Their body is artwork, yet they offer so much more.

Macaws, the largest type of parrot, are native to Central America and North America (only Mexico), South America, and formerly the Caribbean. Like other parrots, toucans and woodpeckers, macaws are zygodactyl, having their first and fourth toes pointing backward. Many macaws are “colors in the wind” with brilliantly defined plumage which is suited to life in Central and South American rain forests, with their green canopies and colorful fruits and flowers. They have large, powerful beaks to crack nuts and seeds, while their dry, scaly tongues have a bone inside them that makes them an effective tool for tapping into fruits.

Macaws are intelligent, social birds that often gather in flocks of 10 to 30.  Their loud calls, squawks, and screams echo through the forest canopy as they vocalize to communicate within the flock, mark territory, and identify one another. Typically, they mate for life and they not only breed with, but also share food with their mates and enjoy mutual grooming. In breeding season, mothers incubate eggs while fathers hunt and bring food back to the nest. 

When properly taken care of, some macaw species can live 60-80 years. For those interested in adopting a macaw, you must be willing to commit enough time to care for them and make provisions for their care in case they outlive you. 

Unfortunately, as with many majestic and amazing animals, some macaws are now endangered in the wild and a few are extinct. The greatest problems threatening the macaw population are the rapid rate of deforestation and illegal trapping for the bird trade. These playful birds are popular pets, and many are illegally trapped for that trade. The rain forest homes of many species are also disappearing at an alarming rate.

While natural evolution will inevitably lead to some bird extinctions, the negative impact of artificial threats cannot be overestimated. I for one do not want our future generations to miss out on these lovely creatures and it is incumbent upon all of us to protect endangered wildlife. 

First, it is helpful to focus on living in balance with the planet. You don’t have to become vegan or forsake all material possessions to help prevent bird extinctions, but conscientiously recycling, reducing your carbon footprint and taking other steps to conserve natural resources are great ways to minimize extinction threats. Some ways you can help include:

Find out everything you can about your bird’s species in the wild – conservation status and the poaching rate.

Educate and raise awareness in others to improve the way they care for birds in captivity and in the wild.

Donate time or money to conservation projects.

 Reduce your carbon footprint by at least 15%. 

 Find opportunities to enjoy ecotourism.

Support conservation projects that earn income through ecotourism.

Volunteer to care for rescued birds.

This list could go on and on regarding how to help birds in the wild – and not just macaws, but other types of birds like the Yellow-Naped Amazon Parrot pictured here. 

I recently watched a documentary about the tens of thousands  of birds that inhabit a small island between North America and Asia, called Midway Atoll. (The scene of the World War II “Battle of Midway”).  The island is rich with birds….and plastic!  The amount of plastic and ocean debris (everything from bycicle tires to barbeque grills) is astounding in the most alarming way. The documentary showed the many birds that perish and decompose on the island and their insides are filled with plastic pieces that they have ingested. It’s heartbreaking to see what humans are doing to innocent wildlife, who are valuable aspects of our ecosystem. 

As stewards of the planet, which includes all creatures, we have a responsibility to animals in the wild as well as those we choose to take as a pet. And once we make that choice to bring them into our house and heart, it’s not a decision to be made lightly that can be changed at a whim. Pets are not disposable, they are sentient beings that have much to say and add to the world if we only listen. 

Edifying ourselves about the expression and workings of nature helps us live in ways that come from our understanding of what’s real, not from cultural bias. The narrowed view of bias tends to minimize the value of anything other than humans because it makes our life more convenient to not live sustainably or eco-responsibly. Hence, our oceans are polluted with plastics and debris.

But, in my mind, if we can open up to the realization that animals are an equal part of the universe, a universe that is meant to be shared not accroached, we can stem the destruction through changing our habits. Like it or not, we are radically interconnected with other species, and as we witness their intelligence, emotions and connective tendencies, it is a call to welcome them into the family of things and a reminder to care for them. Which, in turn, helps ensure the ecosystem can sustain a wide variety of life, including us.

As for macaws and other parrots as pets, they are certainly not for everyone. They can be loud, possessive of their owner, or even harm you with their beak, so you need to be aware, educated and committed to take one as a pet. As with all animals, their behaviors are for a reason, typically self-preservation and procreation and those innate tendancies are needed for their survival. 

In the wild, their habitat is continually shrinking and to lose them would be a travesty. Macaws, in my opinion, define majesty when in flight, intelligence with their ability to mimic and “talk”, and most importantly, they remind us of the unique beauty of God’s creatures. Surely the feeling of WONDER they elicit within us is a message that we should love and protect them for future generations.

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *