Birds of Prey: South Florida macaws targeted by poachers

(WSVN) - Consider yourself lucky if you have seen them. The blue and gold macaws are usually spotted flying over a small part of South Florida, but soon you may not see those magnificent parrots at all. Patrick Fraser with his special report on why these parrots are in peril.

You only need one word to describe them: beautiful. Just that word — beautiful.

Daria Feinstein, parrot advocate: “It’s like watching the sunset. When they fly, it’s particularly exciting. They look like giant, huge helicopters that are blazing across the sky.”

The blue and gold macaws are native to Central and South America, and for decades have also been found in one small part of South Florida.

Karen Lee, trying to protect parrots: “I don’t think there’s any other place in the United States besides Coral Gables, Coconut Grove that has wild blue and gold macaws that you can see on a daily basis.”

For the past 15 years, several macaws have come to Karen and Daria’s yard every day for dinner.

Daria Feinstein: “How thrilling is it to live in South Florida and be willing to witness this every day? That’s why I spend a lot of money on walnuts.”

A different group of macaws comes to eat at Daria Feinsteins backyard a few miles away

But the thrill is disappearing, because the beautiful birds may be too beautiful.

Ron Magill, Zoo Miami wildlife expert: “The problem is they are highly prized birds. As pet birds number one, and now there is a huge market for feathers.”

To fill that demand, South Florida poachers are trapping the macaws.

Daria Feinstein: “I’m so upset. I cried when I saw this macaw.”

In September, poachers targeted three of the birds that come to Daria’s yard every day. They set glue traps where the birds roost a few miles away.

Daria Feinstein: “On the limb or inside the nest, and the bird gets stuck.”

Two of the birds must have been caught in the glue trap, and hauled away. The third escaped and showed up at Daria’s with feathers missing and dirt sticking to the glue on its chest.

Daria Feinstein: “And the bird comes every other day and cries and calls for its flock mate.”

The trappers in South Florida also use net guns to catch the blue and gold macaws, and they steal their eggs or chicks from their nests on the top of palm trees.

The macaws will fight to protect their eggs, and in those cases, if the trappers cannot catch them, they kill the macaws. One pair was shot in Coral Gables, right off U.S. 1, near their nest.

Ron Magill, wildlife expert: “People will do whatever it takes, no matter how cruel it is to the animal, to get the dollars from them.”

Since the birds are not native to Florida, they aren’t protected, and it’s also legal to catch them on your own property.

You can even get a license from the state to trap and sell the birds. Illegal poachers, though, grab them wherever they can, and sell them to people who want to have that beautiful bird in a cage in their house. Which is why the number of macaws in South Florida is shrinking .

Daria Feinstein: “We have gone from 44 in 2010, and there are 11 left.

Patrick Fraser: “So they are close to being extinct?”

Daria Feinstein: “Yes.”

Daria and other macaw lovers have tried and failed to get the state to make it illegal to trap the majestic birds.

But there are other options. If people stop buying them, the poachers will stop trapping them.

Ron Magill: “I have said it over and over again, ‘These birds do not make good pets,’ which is why many people let them go.”

Karen has another solution: Since the macaws nest in the top of royal palms like this one, she is starting a GoFundMe page to plant those palms in backyards like hers, where the birds come to eat.

Karen Lee: “I think it would help them and deter the poachers, because you’re not coming on my private property — or we’re going to have a problem.”

Hopefully the poachers and the bird killers can be stopped, so Daria can continue to see this every day.

Daria Feinstein: “They light up my day.”

A South Florida phenomenon that hopefully can live to fly another day, and not become birds of prey.

If you want to donate so Karen can hire a crew to plant royal palms in their backyard — click here.

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