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Red Bellied Macaw Chronicles Part 4: Jake

Evet Loewen | Mar 10, 2013


The First Red Bellied Macaw is the Best, Until One Gets the Next One or Two, That Is

Orthopsittica manilata were uncommon in 2000, eight years after the Wild Bird Conservation Act of 1992 was in effect.  Howard Voren's article on the difficulties of formulating a diet for this species was on the web then, and still is today.  That was virtually the only information I had at the time concerning the differences in diet and temperament for this species in comparison to other parrots and especially in comparison to my other mini-macaws. 

Manilatas have been notoriously hard to keep in captivity.  Ignorance for most humans does indeed still constitute bliss, however.  I am sorry to say that I am no exception to this rule.

P.A.S.[1] was in full swing the Spring of the year 2000.  I began an extensive internet search for Red Bellied Macaws for sale.  There were very few leads on the internet, and I was diligently searching for any mention on lists of parrot breeders, listservs, and such print media as had classified ads by aviculturists. 

Then, on some listserv pertaining to macaws, a participant named Michell mentioned that she had a Red Bellied Macaw.  One thing led to another – I emailed Michell to inquire about her bird.  She replied that she had just sold the Red Bellied Macaw (named "Jake") back to the lady from whom she had purchased him, whose name was Judi.  I was advised to contact Judi directly, and promptly did so. "Jake" was still with Judi, and was available for sale.

Michell had thought Jake to be a very neat bird.  She indicated that he liked to spend time in her kitchen, on the top of the refrigerator as I recall.  He seemed to have some freedom inside the house.  There was some family complication that made it not possible to keep Jake, although Michell was clearly charmed by him.

The back story to "Jake" is a bit fuzzy.  Michell thought that Jake was handraised and was only two years old, and was a male.  Judi indicated that this red bellied macaw was a wild-caught, with an open band, had been DNA tested as a female, and the age was not really clear.  It didn't matter.  He/she was a Red Bellied Macaw, the first I could locate, and that was that.

Ancient emails indicate that a first contact with Michell occurred on April 13th, 2000.  By April 27th, a deal had been struck with Judi and "Jake" was shipped from Minneapolis Airport to San Jose California arriving at 1:43 PM.  I was instructed to look at him/her before I left the cargo area – the health paper was on top of the carrier and her DNA paper was to be mailed to me.

Everyone knows not to purchase a bird sight-unseen, right?  All ya'll reading this blog post know that, right?  It didn't matter.  Here was a Red Bellied Macaw.  The first search had been successful.

"Jake" arrived in a state of high anxiety, it seemed to me.  Red bellied macaws have a high pitched voice and make continual nearly staccato "beeps" when anxious.  At least, that is my analysis of the sounds I've heard mine make.  They are known to be stress-prone, tautly- strung birds.  He/she was inside of a wired, specially made cage that itself was placed in a carrier, and very securely put together so as to prevent an escape.  It must have seemed very claustrophobic to a bird, a creature of light and air.

Releasing "Jake" from the carrier and the interior cage was not easy (and not intended to be).  Disassembling the carrier and taking pliers to the wired cage were necessary.  When freedom finally arrived, this bird burst out of the carrier cage while crying loudly, and definitely looked straight at me with alarm and fear.  I felt extreme concern for this beautiful bird who seemed so glad to be out of that enclosure, and at the same time, so frightened of me. 

As quickly as I could manage, "Jake" was taken to his new cage located in a room with sunshine and an open window, set up with water and food, and then was left alone.  I couldn't resist looking in on him frequently, but in general I understood that this bird needed time to adjust and as much quiet as could be managed in a house with other parrots and an open floor plan.

"Jake" was my first "wild caught" parrot.  It was only 8 years since the importation of exotic birds had been banned in the US, so obtaining a wild-caught bird was not uncommon.  Since then, there have been three other wild-caught parrots of different species that I have cared for.  This Red Bellied Macaw seemed different from my captive-bred parrots in two particular ways:  he did not want to be held; and he was notably more responsive and attentive to what requests I made of him, as long as I gave him plenty of physical space.  As much space as I could give a creature of light and air who was now inside my small house, with hardly an outdoor patio for fresh air and sunshine.

Believing in matters of science (DNA testing) and in the certificate I received from Judi, "Jake" was thus renamed "Sophia".  Of course, it didn't matter to Sophia what human name I gave her.  I thought her to be a beautiful bird, and Sophia to be a beautiful name, so that's the name she received, based on the gender I then believed her to be.

Next up in Part 5:  Sophia (aka Jake) Gets a Health Check

1 Parrot Acquisition Syndrome – See Red Bellied Macaw Chronicles Part 3