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Scarlet Macaws Find Refuge After Two Hurricanes

Updated: Feb 11, 2023

First the heavy winds and rain came to the village, and then the parrots seeking refuge.

The indigenous people of La Moskitia, Honduras wondered what they would do when Hurricane Eta was close to landfall in Northern Honduras. They could not leave, so they took refuge in the strongest homes in their village of Mabita. I spoke with our project leader in the village, Santiago Lacuth, the day before the hurricane hit, wanting to help them with their plan for safety, not that there was much I could do from so far away in New York, USA. In their area there were no deaths or injuries, although there was flooding and loss of much of their crops. This is a serious situation because they are sustenance farmers. No crops mean they do not eat, but they were hopeful they could replant soon and restore their food security. The village Parrot Rescue and Liberation Center was unharmed, as were the parrots whom the people care for.

Two weeks later -- with much of Honduras still experiencing flooded lands, destroyed infrastructure, and lost homes -- I was back in contact with Santiago about Hurricane Iota, which was due to make landfall in his area only several miles from where Eta had landed. Iota, as it turns out, gave a much bigger punch to the communities in our parrot conservation area. He said it reminded him of the times his father told him about when they had to dig a cave into a hillside to evade the wind and falling trees. After a night of no sleep and over the next several days, the villagers surveyed their damage. I was glad to hear that no one in our 11 collaborating communities was harmed, nor were the Center’s parrots, though again crops were lost, and the forest became much thinner with the numbers of trees downed.

Then new scarlet macaws started to show up at the Center. There is always a resident flock that is learning to fly or feed on their own that comes in every day for the food offered by the community. After two hurricanes, this number swelled by tens of birds, leading us to believe that their food trees and possibly roost trees were gone. But they remembered who had saved them before, and they sought out the village for refuge. Where before returning birds would fly in to eat and then return to the forest, this time, they are spending the night near the village. Perhaps the devastation is much worse than we thought. To understand what has happened to La Moskitia, we currently have rangers out surveying the trees to see how many macaw nests are down and the condition of the forest.

Co-director of the Rescue and Liberation Center, Anayda Panting, patiently

feeding the shier and wilder birds

The people have had to double the amount of food offered to the parrots every day, and they do this at a time when their own food security is at risk. They also have to spend longer with the birds during the twice a day feeding, because there are so many birds – up to 75 scarlet macaws reported just a few days ago. Two sets of parents even brought their chicks who were raised in the wild and had never been to the Center. These youngsters are shy around people and have a hard time finding a place at the table with all the mass of squabbling rainbow birds who crowd out the space. So, the people patiently approach these skittish youngsters, making sure they eat.

Hurricanes are hard are on people, and on wildlife. Historically parrots have been hard hit by hurricanes, especially those on Caribbean islands, such as the endangered parrots on Puerto Rico and Dominica after Hurricane Maria in 2017. On both islands and in La Moskitia, people have come to the rescue, even when they themselves need help and support.

We give thanks to them, for when they give refuge to the vulnerable, we too find sanctuary in their actions, for it helps affirm that we can build a better world together.

If you’d like to help these people with their parrot refuge, please considering donating, and join us for our “Hope in Hard Times” free virtual event this Friday, December 4, at 7:00 p.m. (registration is still open). During this time, you can come to know the parrot rangers and rescuers of La Moskitia through song and story.

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