With a flash of color and a resounding screech, macaws have taken this campus by surprise.
The red and gold macaws are native to Central and South America, but they have made their home in the treetops around the University of Miami’s Lake Osceola and the Rock. Their brightly colored feathers and loud calls capture the attention of passersby.
Sophomore Pooja Dharwadkar usually encounters these exotic birds while walking to the UC from class.
“When you are walking around campus, you usually have a place to be, and your thoughts are in your own head,” Dharwadkar said. As she is walking, she said she is startled from her thoughts by a “huge screech.”
“They are screeching and flying in a flock and you think they are going to attack you,” Dhardwadkar added. “They scare me.”
William Searcy, a professor of ornithology, said the macaws may be loud, but they would never attack humans unprovoked. The blue and gold macaw is only one of several species of parrot and parakeet that reside on campus, he said. However, they are the most noticeable, he adds, because they are “large and formidable.”
“There is speculation that they escaped from Parrot Jungle during Hurricane Andrew, but that is just a rumor,” Searcy said.
There is speculation and debate about the origin of these birds, but Brigitte Grosjean, the public relations manager for Jungle Island, said that despite the circulating rumors, the animal theme park did not lose any birds during Hurricane Andrew.
Searcy believes the macaws we see on campus are likely to have escaped as a result of pet trade.
According to Gabriela Ferraro, the public information coordinator of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, there is a large breeding population of parrots and macaws in Miami-Dade county, and most of them were pets that were released.
“Many of these animals were purchased at exotic pet stores,” Ferraro said. “When their owners realize they can’t handle them anymore they release them.”
In the case of the macaw, owners release them because they are very noisy.
On campus, students like senior Brian Perez undeniably agree that the birds cause “quite a ruckus.” Perez was taking a nap between classes when he was suddenly awoken by a loud flock of macaws flying overhead. But for Perez, the surprise was a pleasant one.
“I think they are awesome,” Perez said. “Personally, I wish I was one of them.” Perez likes the fact that the macaws perch on campus because, he said, “It gives the campus personality.”
“It adds to the exotic feel; makes things exciting when you are going to classes,” he said.
Students react with both amazement and alarm to these new inhabitants, but there is agreement that the macaws have become a distinctive part of our campus environment.
Senior Natalia Vanegas said she’s happy whenever she sees the birds. “They’re gorgeous and they fly wild and free,” Vanegas said. “And when they are screaming, to me, it feels like they are laughing.”
Vanegas said it is nice to have a reminder that there is wildlife living among us. “It reminds us that we are not alone,” she said.
Blue and gold macaw – Ara ararauna
Did you know:
- Origin: Central and South America
- Valued price: $800-$2,000
- They have a 3.5 ft. wingspan
- Live for 30-50 years
- Highly monogamous, they mate for life
- Can be trained to talk
- Careful, they bite!
If you need to release your exotic pet, turn them in on Amnesty Day, on March 21, at the Miami Metro Zoo.