Community and Survival among the Macaws and Chimpanzees

We have interrupted our discussion on community humanity-style to wander a bit into the sense of community among whales and then among the Macaw parrots of South America.  Our excellent guide has been the powerful book by Carl Safina, Becoming Wild: How Animal Cultures Raise Families, Create Beauty, and Achieve Peace.  This rich and special study brings forward advanced knowledge of these species that science has brought to the fore in the past fifty years or so.  Safina visited these creatures in their habitat and lived with people who have committed their lives to living among them to observe and learn from them.

Short segment showcasing some of the most beautiful Macaws. Posted originally to YouTube by 4 Ever Green.

Safina tells us more of the socializing ways of the Macaw parrots and their version of community this way.  Macaws do have enemies but they are very smart about defending themselves.  They “set higher standards for their own safety and security.  It’s almost as if they want to be really sure that they won’t die for a rumble of clay” (clay being among their favorite delicacies—and healthy foods—especially for the sodium it contains).  Who are their natural enemies?  Crested eagles.  Ornate hawk eagles.  Black and-white hawk-eagles.  Forest falcons.  The harpy eagle.  Cats, including margays and ocelots, jaguars and pumas.  “The size does not fully exempt them from dangers.” 

Carl Safina’s book Becoming Wild on the interrelationship of non-human animals and building peace. To purchase a copy, click here.

But their vigilance pays.  “It is nearly impossible for a sharp-clawed hunter to surprise such a sharp-eyed group.  ‘They’ve developed a very predator-resistant system.”  The community defends its own.  To go to the clay is to create a big social scene. 

And parrots are very social.  As people head to a bar ‘for a drink’ when they are really going to socialize, there is more here than just clay and sodium.  It’s a place to see who’s around, maybe who’s up for pairing.  Parrots need to socialize, and like us they spend time and energy to go places simply to be with others of their kind. 

It’s worth it.  In parrot cultures, as in human cultures, socializing is important. 

They also have lots of free time.  “They never seem to be in a rush,” one reason being that food is plentiful and while they can fly about 30 miles an hour, they don’t have to go far for food.  Flowers and fruit are easy to spot while flying, so they “can keep track of what’s ripening, where, and when.  They have ample time for socializing.

Blue, Yellow, and Green Macaw. Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

When meeting a stranger, they first create personal space; then tolerate some proximity with anther; the two interact, their feet touching.  Then they look about together and start operating as a pair.

The third part of his book treats chimpanzees, their warfare and their efforts at peace-making.  Of course, as we all know, chimps are the animals closest to the human in DNA—we share 98% of DNA in common, so we can expect to learn a lot about ourselves by observing the efforts at community among the chimpanzees. 

Alas!  The lessons are not always uplifting.  To be continued.

See Carl Safina, Becoming Wild: How Animal Cultures Raise Families, Create Beauty and Achieve Peace, pp. 166-168.

See Matthew Fox, A Spirituality Named Compassion, pp.158-175.

Banner Image: A Red, blue, green macaw found in Quezon City, Philippines. Photo by Jose Mari Gimenez on Unsplash..

Queries for Contemplation

What is this story-telling about macaws teaching you about being a fuller human being?  Is it a pleasure to re-connect to beings that are fifty million years older than we are, but are about similar goals such as building community and socializing?

Recommended Reading

A Spirituality Named Compassion: Uniting Mystical Awareness with Social Justice

In A Spirituality Named Compassion, Matthew Fox delivers a profound exploration of the meaning and practice of compassion. Establishing a spirituality for the future that promises personal, social, and global healing, Fox marries mysticism with social justice, leading the way toward a gentler and more ecological spirituality and an acceptance of our interdependence which is the substratum of all compassionate activity.
“Well worth our deepest consideration…Puts compassion into its proper focus after centuries of neglect.” –The Catholic Register

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1 thought on “Community and Survival among the Macaws and Chimpanzees”

  1. Avatar

    No, No, Noooooooooo! Don’t throw us in with the chimps. We’re just as closely related to the Bonobos and they are so much more fun. Bonobos are gentler than chimps, playful and very sexy. They’re the absolute hippies of the primate order (monkeys, apes, lemurs etc), always preferring to make love not war – or just make love and make love and make love. Sexual contact is part of most normal Bonobo social interaction and it’s carried on male with female, male with male, female with female. Bonobos present us with an alternate version of what humans might have evolved into – a vision that must appall patriarchal originalists on the right.
    Jo Anne

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