Sunday, October 5, 2008

Copan - Part II

To continue. We arrived at the hotel (Don Udo's) where we were greeted by a lovely young lady who was most helpful in arranging for our various activities. We had activities in mind and the staff at the hotel made everything run smoothly. The room was a good sized one with one large bed and a bunk-bed, an ample armoire, a large bathroom with a tub/shower, A/C and outside the door, a comfortable looking hammock.

After settling in at the hotel, we wandered to the center of town, grabbed a tuk tuk (a small three-wheeled covered vehicle) which is the main mode of transportation for tourists. They are efficient, a little cramped, and provide for an exciting ride on the streets of Copan. The village of Copan is built on hill country, therefore, some of the streets are extremely steep and, since they are all cobble stone, it makes for a bumpy, hang on to your seat kind of ride!

Rates are reasonable - Lps. 20 per person ($1.05) and you can travel to most areas around and in town for that price. Of course, as in any tourist town in Honduras they will try and charge you a higher price, but if you put your foot down and know the going rate, it is easy to get them to back down. We had one driver come to the hotel when we were ready to check out to go to the Hedman bus station. I asked him how much the ride was as the bus terminal was not far. I misunderstood and thought he said Lps. 10 a piece. I thought this was rather cheap but since it was not far, I agreed. We piled into the tuk tuk with our 2 pieces of luggage and went the short distance. Imagine my surprise when he demanded Lps. 100! I said no, he said Lps. 10 a piece and I knew that the going rate was Lps. 20. He finally said, no, it was Lps. 20 each. I said then it would be Lps. 40. He said no, he had to charge for each piece of luggage! I said then it would be Lps. 80 not Lps. 100. He finally conceded and I paid him. I must point out that I do not try and gyp the drivers, I just do not appreciate being overcharged and drivers in Honduras have a tendency to do just that when they see a person they perceive to be a tourist.
Anyway, we told the driver we wanted to go to Macaw Mountain. Macaw Mountain Bird Park & Nature Reserve is an innovative tropical bird reserve in western Honduras that cares for rescued and endangered birds of the American tropics. The park offers a first class experience in an unspoiled part of the world. Here you learn about and interact with the intelligent, colorful birds of Central America. The birds in Macaw Mountain are either rescued or donated by people wanting better lives for these beautiful creatures. Once recovered, the birds are carefully maintained and are free to fly in the aviaries. According to the Macaw Mountain staff, they "house, care for and feed [the] birds at a very high standard."

One finds toucans, macaws, hawks, owls, aracaris in the park. There is a great deal of history between these birds and the Ancient Mayans, who lived between 600 BC and AD 1500. Birds such as quetzals, herons, eagles, and of course macaws are ever-present in Ancient Mayan art. The ruins of Copan, as well, show extensive bird images, and in fact, K’inich Yax K’uk Mo’, the name of the founder and first ruler of the Pre-Columbian Mayan Civilization means Resplendent Sun Lord Quetzal Macaw.
Part of the Copan property had been used as a coffee plantation prior to its purchase. The owners of Macaw Mountain decided to maintain many of the coffee plants. They can be seen along the shady forest trails, bearing red berries when ripe. Macaw Mountain also owns a high-altitude coffee farm called Finca Miramundo. The park is well thought out and being a wife of an engineer I must admit it is one of the best constructed places I've seen in Honduras. The lay of the land was relatively undisturbed. There is a lovely little stream running through the property which provides the area with the tranquil sound of running water, singing birds and a break from the heat of the mid-day sun.

The aviaries that house the birds are roomy providing sufficient area for the birds to fly around. There are native plants in each cage and one cage was set aside for breeding pairs of macaws. We were lucky enough to view some hatchlings which were about ready to appear in the world, fully feathered, for the first time. Special hatching boxes are built into the cage where the chicks are born and raised. It takes about 90 days for them to become fully feathered and ready to make their appearance.

As I stated, this park is a refuge for injured and/or abandoned birds. It is illegal in Honduras to capture these birds as many are endangered. Of course, the people here, desperate for money, capture and sell them along side the roads throughout the country not even realizing how stressful this is for the birds. They have absolutely no knowledge regarding the care and upbringing of birds and many are put in cages which are too small, fed tortilla dough and sunflowers and the caged bird is lucky if their Honduran owners give them fresh water and fresh food daily. Immature keeled billed toucans found being sold along side the road between San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa were rescued and brought to the sanctuary. The transport of these birds took several days and the younger, weaker birds died on the way. Baby toucans must be hand fed 6-8 times a day until they are 8-9 weeks old and will not eat alone or on their own during that time. Once the birds are on a diet of soft fruits and are properly rehydrated, they begin to regain their strength. They can then move on to feeding themselves and learning to fly.

In one cage were several magnificent hawks all of which were found injured and brought here to live out their lives. They tend to stay high in the roost and photographing them was difficult but I managed to snap a fairly good photo of one.

There was also a cage of new macaws that had arrived in the park but were very stressed and had resorted to picking themselves. Birds, when they become agitated or nervous tend to pick their feathers. Some will settle down and overcome this nervousness while others never recover and can pick all the feathers off their body and remain "naked" all their lives. As you can see from this photo, this particular macaw has picked his chest feathers but is gradually recovering as new down is growing in and he is leaving it alone.

There is a special area set aside where birds are brought out in the open to be fed, observed and, if the individual wishes, the staff will place several birds on your shoulders and outstretched arms for a photo session. For the most part these birds are accustomed to people and are not aggressive. Having raised parrots, however, I know that birds are unpredictable and people can still be bitten very easily by a parrot who perceives a different view of the situation. The staff is very knowledgeable and by working with the birds they can, for the most part, control the birds so there is little aggression.

One can wander all day, back and forth between the cages enjoying the birds, the tranquility of the area and, if the need warrants, there are a couple of areas set aside for sitting and relaxing with a cup of coffee or juice and simply enjoying the natural surroundings.

I highly recommend anyone visiting Copan to take in Macaw Mountain Bird is something you will always remember and give you a deeper appreciation of the lovely birds of Central America.


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  2. Wow, great article(s), Sharon! One of the things I truly regret is that during my time in Honduras I never got up to see Copan. I'll have to settle for seeing it through your eyes (and camera).

    Glad to have both ;)

  3. Sharon, Thank you so much for this article. I have been to Copan several times and did not know Macaw Mountain existed. I have added it to the list of must sees for when we get back home. The pictures are great, too. It bothers me to see the birds being sold on the roadside. I am glad to see there is a place to take care of some of them.


  4. Whoops - I had a comment from "anonymous" and deleted it by mistake. The individual asked if they could contact me personally for more information and I have no objection to that. Just sorry I pushed the wrong button whoever you were!

  5. I found the comment:
    Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Part I - My Trip to Copán":

    I think I need to read your blog more often as you offer many wonderful aspects of Honduras. And I enjoyed this uplifting post about your son. I'm still thinking of buying something in the area. Would you mind if I contacted you at some point in the future to ask some questions?

    Nice post.

    Soooo Kman - feel free to write me about our area if you have questions.