Rio's Last Wild Macaw 'Juliet' in Search of Her Romeo

She's often seen visiting her kind at the city zoo
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 9, 2021 8:30 AM CDT
Rio's Last Wild Macaw 'Juliet' in Search of Her Romeo
A pair of macaws perch on the top of a passageway as people visit the aviary at BioParque, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Wednesday, May 5, 2021. Refauna, which reintroduces species into?protected areas with an eye on rebuilding?ecosystems?is participating?with?BioParque?to breed blue-and-yellow macaws.   (AP Photo/Bruna Prado)

A blue-and-yellow macaw dubbed Juliet is believed to be the only wild bird of its kind left in Rio de Janeiro, where the birds once flew far and wide, per the AP. Almost every morning for the last two decades, Juliet has swooped onto the Rio zoo enclosure where macaws are kept and, through its fence, engages in grooming behavior that looks like conjugal canoodling. Sometimes she just sits, relishing the presence of others. Blue-and-yellow macaws live to be about 35 years old and Juliet should have found a lifelong mate years ago, according to Neiva Guedes, president of the Hyacinth Macaw Institute, an environmental group. But Juliet hasn’t coupled, built a nest or had chicks, so at most she’s “still just dating.” Aside from Juliet, the last sighting of a blue-and-yellow macaw flying free in Rio was in 1818.

Being boisterous with brilliant plumage helps macaws find each other in dense forest, but also makes them easier targets for hunters and animal traffickers. They're often seen in other Brazilian states and across the Amazon, and it is suspected Juliet escaped from captivity. Biologists at BioParque aren’t sure if Juliet’s nuzzling is limited to one caged Romeo, or a few of them. They’re not even certain Juliet is female; macaw gender is near impossible to determine by sight, and requires either genetic testing of feathers or blood, or examination of the gonads. Either would be interference merely to satisfy human curiosity with no scientific end, biologist Angelita Capobianco said inside the enclosure. Nor would they consider confining Juliet, who often soars overhead and appears well-nourished.
(Read more macaw stories.)

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