The Unhappy Story of the Final Free Macaw in Rio de Janeiro

For the past two decades, Juliet the Macaw has visited the local zoo in Rio de Janeiro almost every morning to interact with others of her kind through the metal enclosure. She is the only wild macaw in the Brazilian metropolis, and this is her only social opportunity.

Macaws are social birds, so loneliness is a heavy burden for Julia, a beautiful blue and yellow macaw who calls Rio’s home. It is the only wild specimen seen in the city since 1818, and nobody really knows much about it. The zoo staff named the bird Julia, but they don’t even know if she is actually female. It’s really hard to tell with macaws, and to determine their true gender they would have to catch the bird and either examine their gonads or take blood or feather samples. And there’s really no need to get Julia through all this stress just to satisfy human curiosity.

Photo: Christopher Kuszajewski / Pixabay

All everyone knows is that Julia loves coming to the zoo every morning to be with others of her species. Sometimes she grooms herself through the metal fence, sometimes she just sits and enjoys the company before flying off to God knows where for the rest of the day.

Macaws have an average life expectancy of around 35 years, and Juliet has been around for at least two decades, so she is not a spring chicken. Still, she’s never had a partner, built a nest, or had chicks, and she probably never will because there simply isn’t anyone to do it with which is pretty sad when you think about it.

“They are social birds, and that means they don’t like to live alone, whether in nature or in captivity. They need company, “Neiva Guedes, president of the Hyacinth Macaw Institute, told AP, adding that Juliet is” very likely to feel lonely and because of this, goes to the enclosure to communicate and interact. “

Fortunately, there is hope for Rio’s loneliest bird. Through Refauna, an initiative that is reintroducing species to protected areas, scientists aim to raise around 20 chicks, who will receive training on wild food sources, predator avoidance and power lines before being released into the wild.

The birds will be released into the vast Tijuca Forest National Park in Rio de Janeiro, where Juliet will likely spend her nights. Scientists hope that the birds will help maintain the balance in the local ecosystem by using their large beaks to crack seeds that other birds cannot crack, thereby distributing those seeds. But they will also be welcome company for Julia, allowing her to fly with others of her kind for the first time in 20 years. And who knows, she might even find love.

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