LEARN ABOUT THE BIRD SANCTUARY IN RIVIERA MAYA
DISCOVER THE MAJESTIC SPECIES THAT GIVE COLOR TO XCARET
Xcaret is an eco-archaeological park in Riviera Maya that celebrates the great culture of Mexico and offers you the opportunity to live an unforgettable experience in the jungle. In addition to being a theme park, it is also an amusement water park that, apart from offering activities in underground rivers and cenotes, gives you the opportunity to visit a natural sanctuary. Here you can visit the Coral Reef Aquarium, the sea turtle area, the Butterfly Pavilion, the Rainforest Trail, the Living Museum of Orchids and Bromeliads, and the Xcaret Immersion Aviary.
Xcaret has worked for many years to direct efforts for the research, protection, and conservation of many species of flora and fauna. The aviary is the result of this since in this area you can visit the natural habitats that were created and that currently allow the development of more than 1,500 Mexican birds, some of them in danger of extinction.
Due to the danger of extinction of many bird species, Xcaret has developed and implemented reproduction, conservation, and monitoring programs to contribute to the protection of threatened species and at the same time seeks to share it with the visitors and provide environmental education. Among the birds that have their own reproduction program at Xcaret are the scarlet macaw, the caribbean flamingo, the golden eagle, the king vulture, the royal toucan, and the quetzal. All these birds can be found in the Xcaret Aviary!
The scarlet macaw is the only bird that has a conservation program, while all the other species have reproduction programs with a view to reintroduction. To find out more about it, we spoke with the zootechnical veterinarian Jessica, who is in charge of coordinating the aviary, so that she could tell us more about these species and the care they receive. In this blog, we share everything you need to know about these six birds and their reproduction programs at Xcaret.
Scarlet macaw (Ara macao)
The red macaw is a bird species that is distinguished by its scarlet and yellow plumage on the covert and secondary feathers of its wings, as well as by the absence of feathers on its face. This bird usually feeds mainly on different fruits and grains, but also usually eats tender shoots of leaves, pods, flowers, and some insects such as larvae.
The red macaw mostly inhabits lowland rainforest and savannah near rivers and is distributed from Mexico to Brazil. In our country, this species inhabited from the south of Tamaulipas to the states of Veracruz, Oaxaca, Tabasco, Campeche, and Chiapas; however, it is now in a status of minor concern since its populations have been decreasing. This has been caused mainly by the rapid destruction of their habitat, and it is precisely for this reason that the Red Macaw Conservation Program at Xcaret seeks to help repopulate their natural habitats.
Through this program, 104 specimens have been reintroduced in Chiapas and 189 specimens in Veracruz. This work has 92% success in reintroduction and a survival rate of macaws in their natural habitat of 78.5%. Within the park, reproduction is carried out in a safe and natural environment for the specimens and after an adaptation process so that they can survive independently, they are reintroduced to the jungle.
If you are lucky, you’ll be able to see chicks of this majestic bird inside the aviary in the Artificial Breeding Room.
It may interest you: Flying home: All about the scarlet macaw conservation program at Xcaret
Caribbean flamingo reproduction program (Phoenicopterus ruber)
From your entrance to Xcaret and throughout the park you will be able to meet this incredible species. The Caribbean flamingo is one of the oldest living groups of birds. This species reaches a height of 1.50 meters and is mostly recognized by its characteristic pink plumage. Their coloration is due to the accumulation of pigments in their skin and feathers that comes from the foods they eat and that contain beta-carotene. These are found in foods such as insects, worms, shrimp, plankton, algae, cyanobacteria, crustaceans, and fish, among others.
In Mexico it can be found on the Yucatán Peninsula and in the rest of America in the Bahamas, the Greater Antilles, the Caribbean coast in Colombia and Venezuela, as well as the Galápagos Islands. Currently, the Caribbean flamingo suffers from the decline of its population, so it’s considered an endangered species. This is due to the destruction of their habitat and especially of their nesting areas and for this reason, the Pink Flamingo Reproduction Program has been developed.
In 1999 we participated in the rescue of eggs displaced by floods, tides, or any kind of disturbance, and in the rescue of offspring in wildlife in support of the reserve of Río Lagartos. Later, in 2004, the reproduction program of this species began in our facilities. You can visit the Habitat of Flamingos at Xcaret and you can see the Reproduction Area designed to promote their well-being and in turn, favor their reproduction. In these facilities, you can see the breeding flock, which is carefully monitored during the nesting season. Likewise, artificial incubation of their eggs is carried out and the chicks are fed and measured every day.
Throughout the history of the reproduction program, a total of 222 pink flamingos have been born in the Xcaret park facilities. These chicks remain at the facility to form part of the park’s breeding flock.
These are the only birds that you won’t be able to find inside the Xcaret Aviary, so make sure you visit the Flamingo Sanctuary and keep your eyes open as you may have the opportunity to see some chicks of this species. You can easily identify them by their white and gray plumage, which when reaching adulthood will change to their characteristic pink color.
Golden eagle reproduction program (Aquila chrysaetos)
We can see this emblematic species of Mexico on our flag, but you can also find it in the Xcaret Aviary. The golden eagle is considered one of the largest species of its genus. The female usually measures between 90 centimeters and 1 meter, with a wingspan of up to 2.27 meters, and her weight can be from 3.8 to 6.6 kilograms. On the other hand, the male varies between 80 and 87 centimeters in length, with a wingspan of 1.82 to 2.12 meters, and usually weighs from 3.5 to 6 kilograms. The golden eagle mainly feeds on rodents and can eat other types of prey such as small mammals and birds.
This species is distributed mainly in arid, semi-arid and mountainous areas with coniferous forests and prefers temperate environments. The distribution of the golden eagle covers Europe, Asia and North Africa. In Mexico, it can be found in the northern states such as Baja California, Sonora, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo León, Tamaulipas, Sinaloa, Durango, Jalisco, Aguascalientes, Zacatecas, San Luis Potosí, Guanajuato, Querétaro and Oaxaca.
This species is classified as a minor concern according to the IUCN; however, its populations in the wild have significantly decreased. The main cause of this happening in Mexico is the loss or deterioration of their habitat and the consequent reduction in the availability of prey and nesting sites. These conditions are mainly caused by agriculture, extensive livestock farming, and urbanization in areas where the species is distributed.
Due to its current conservation status, Xcaret has the Royal Eagle Reproduction Program. In the aviary you can visit the habitat that has been designed to cover all needs and replicate the natural habitat of our two specimens. In Mexico, egg-laying occurs between January and early February, although in some cases it can occur in March.
During this reproductive period, the environment of the eagles is adapted with oyamel pine branches and other elements to encourage the construction of the nest and the laying of eggs by the reproductive couple in the park. We always seek to promote animal welfare which promotes their reproduction.
King vulture reproduction program (Sarcoramphus papa)
This imposing bird is called king vulture. It is a species of scavenger bird that is medium in size with 86 centimeters and a wingspan of almost 2 meters, reaching its full adult plumage after five or six years. The king vulture’s plumage is white, with a slight shade of pink and yellow, and its flight and tail feathers are black. Its head and neck are featherless, but its skin has shades of red and purple on its head, orange on its neck, and yellow on its throat. Apart from its imposing eyes, the king vulture has the most robust beak of any American vulture.
The king vulture lives in jungles, semi-arid zones, and tropical forests that occupy areas from southern Mexico to northern Argentina. In Mexico, it can be found in Veracruz, the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, Chiapas, and the Yucatán Peninsula. Currently, this species is under special protection because its conservation status is of minor concern, according to the IUCN. The dangers faced by this species lie in the drastic decrease in its natural habitat, indiscriminate hunting, illegal trade, and probably pesticide contamination.
The king vulture also has its reproduction program, which has resulted in egg layings. These happen at the end of the year and have culminated in the birth of four chicks. These have been born under natural and artificial incubation without any inconvenience.
Be sure to visit the king vulture habitat and learn more about this species.
Royal toucan reproduction program (Ramphastos sulfuratus)
The royal toucan has a conspicuous, soft, and light beak, as well as bright colors that allow it to camouflage itself. The male toucan usually measures 47 centimeters and the female 44 centimeters; both weigh an average of 500 grams and can live up to 20 years. Their diet is based on small mammals, birds, insects, seeds, eggs, and fruit.
The species is distributed from Mexico to Argentina. In our country, it is found mostly in the Huasteca Potosina, the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, and the Yucatán Peninsula. It inhabits temperate and warm humid climates and normally prefers low-lying tropical rain forests. Unfortunately, the royal toucan is threatened by the destruction and fragmentation of its habitat and poaching for which it is of minor concern and its population has been declining notably.
Due to its conservation status, Xcaret has the Royal Toucan Reproduction Program. Inside the aviary you will be able to see specimens of this species; however, inside these facilities, you will not be able to see postures. This is because toucans are very nervous birds and during the reproduction and incubation period stressful situations for the pair of toucans must be avoided at all costs. Due to this, the couple is alone in an enclosure where the reproduction team gives them the corresponding care and acclimatizes the environment to create the right circumstances for the reproduction process.
As with the scarlet macaws, if you are lucky, you will be able to see chicks of this species inside the aviary in the Artificial Breeding Room.
Quetzal reproduction program (Pharomachrus mocinno)
The quetzal is a species that was sacred to the Maya and Aztec civilizations, and its plumage was used to adorn the clothing of kings and priests. Its name comes from the Nahuatl quetzalli, which means beautiful feather. Its most outstanding characteristic is its striking green plumage, as well as the long tail of the male that shines when it flies from one tree to another.
The quetzal feeds on fruit, insects, lizards, and other small creatures and lives in the tropical and mountainous forests of Central America. It is mostly found in Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica, Panama, Nicaragua, and El Salvador. In Mexico, this species is distributed in the state of Chiapas. Unfortunately, the quetzal is in danger of extinction due to illegal trafficking and the decrease in its natural habitat, since its distribution is not continuous and is conditioned by the presence of patches of cloud forest vegetation.
Due to its alarming conservation status, the Quetzal Conservation and Reproduction Program seeks to recreate the habitat of this species with all the aspects required to guarantee its effective care and, subsequently, begin working to achieve the reproduction of the quetzals.
Currently, you’ll only be able to see our female specimen in the aviary. The habitat of our quetzal has a temperature regulated to what she needs; her favorite glass bowl, the orchids that she likes so much, and her own artificial waterfall. In the same way, her habitat has a special glass that blocks the entry of any type of artificial light or flash that could damage or bother her.
These are the six birds that have their own reproduction program; however, the incredible thing about the aviary is that this area of the park also functions as a reproduction program. This bird sanctuary seeks to emulate the conditions of wildlife to favor the reproduction of birds.
Inside the Aviary, you can find specimens of yellow-headed parrots, royal ducks, Oriental chachalacas, Yucatecan parrots, roseate spoonbills, parakeets, pelicans, herons, white ibis, red cardinals, pigeons, various types of colorines, blackbirds and many more.
Within these facilities, you can also find specimens of the green macaw (Ara militarist).
Inside the aviary, as part of the preventive medicine plan, all the birds are checked and monitored once a month to learn about their behavior, and feeding points, among other aspects that help the team create the best conditions for the birds. To carry out this check-up in the most meticulous and careful way possible, our team relies on the rings that each of our specimens has, which are placed without pain and without affecting their health, walking, or flight. These rings work as an identification that allows the monitoring and recording of the conditions of each of these birds, which guarantees a great personalized medical attention. Similarly, this ring means that all birds are registered with SEMARNAT and demonstrate their legal origin.
Within these facilities, food is creatively placed for our birds to simulate the conditions of wildlife. You’ll be able to find feeders, nurseries, and if you decide to look up, you’ll be able to see some beautifully decorated houses that serve as a refuge for the smaller birds. You can also find in certain strategic points, some silver trays where the food for our passerines is placed. Seeds are placed here, as well as a concentrate called milro, which includes mashed banana and egg and is prepared by the nutrition team of Xcaret park.
The Aviary has four zones. In the Low Forest Habitat, you can find an area that refers to an ecosystem with trees shorter than 15 meters which is typical of warm climates and has a unique diversity as it has a large number of endemic species. In the Mangrove Habitat, you can find the recreation of a community that extends along the coast of the Yucatán Peninsula and that is important since it provides feeding, refuge, and growth areas for many species. Finally, the Medium Jungle Habitat is made up of a tree stratum whose average height is between 10 and 15 meters.
Here you can also find the Artificial Breeding Room. In this room the chicks receive all the care to achieve their development; temperature, humidity, and feeding are taken care of, and constant medical check-ups and weight controls are carried out. Our specialists take care of each birth for at least 6 months, stimulating their development, taking care of their health, and allowing the expression of natural behaviors.
During your visit to the Xcaret Aviary, visit the Artificial Breeding Room as you could be able to see chicks of various species such as scarlet macaws, parrots, and quails, among others.
The aviary is a fairly large bird conservation area and we understand that sometimes you can get lost inside it. For this reason, take a look at our map and find out what the symbols that you’ll find throughout the aviary consist of. With them you’ll be able to know the habits, distribution, feeding, and status of the different bird species.
The Xcaret Immersion Aviary is open from 8:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. every day, the tour lasts approximately 30 minutes and it’s an ideal activity to do as a family. We recommend you visit these facilities in the morning, since at that time there are more birds, and, as it gets later and the sun reaches its highest point, the birds will begin to hide from it and it will be more difficult for you to find them.
This is everything you need to know about the bird conservation work carried out at Xcaret and the programs that help us guarantee it. Now during your visit to Xcaret, dare to be an ornithologist for a day, study and identify our birds, and live an experience full of color and wildlife in the Immersion Aviary of our park.
What else would you like to know about the Xcaret Aviary or our Bird Reproduction Programs? Tell us in the comments.
Read more: 10 birds you can see in the Aviary of Xcaret
Film lover and curious by birth who is always looking for the next adventure.