Lesser Antillean Macaw - Extinction


In 1534, the writer Johann Huttich mentioned that the forests were full of this macaw, which was apparently as abundant as grasshoppers, and was cooked together with human flesh and that of other birds by the natives of Guadeloupe. In 1654, Du Tetre stated the flesh was tough, and that it was considered unpalatable by some, and even poisonous. He claimed he and the other inhabitants of the island often consumed it, and that he did not get ill effects from it. He also stated the natives wore the feathers as head decoration, and as moustaches through the septum of the nose. He described how it was hunted by the natives as follows:

The natives make use of a stratagem to take them alive; they watch for a chance to find them on the ground, eating the fruit which has fallen from the trees, when they approach quietly under cover of the trees, then all at once run forward, clapping their hands and filling the air with cries capable not only of astounding the birds, but of terrifying the boldest. Then the poor birds, surprised and distracted, as if struck with thunderbolt, lose the use of their wings, and, making a virtue of necessity, throw themselves on their backs and assume defensive with the weapons nature has given them - their beaks and claws - with which they defend themselves so bravely that not one of the natives dares to put his hand on them. One of the natives bring a big stick which he lays across the belly of the bird, who seizes it with beak and claws; but while he is occupied in biting it, the native ties him so adroitly to the stick that he can do with him anything he wishes...

Since Du Tetre mentioned the macaws were prone to sickness, an outbreak of a disease may have contributed to its demise, along with hunting. In 1760, Mathurin Jacques Brisson quoted a letter by M. de la Borde, which stated that macaws had become very rare in all the Antillean islands, because they were hunted for food. They could by then only be found in areas not frequented by man, and were probably extinct soon after. Parrots are often the first species to be exterminated from a given locality, especially islands.

Read more about this topic:  Lesser Antillean Macaw

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