From The Westerner Blog

Native Americans may have kept a breeding colony of scarlet macaws in the American Southwest starting more than 1,000 years ago, a new study finds.

The birds were raised for their colorful plumage hundreds of miles from their native jungles. With their brilliant red, yellow and blue plumes, scarlet macaws are likely the best-known parrots of the New World.

These birds normally range from South America to eastern coastal Mexico and Guatemala. Yet, over the years, archaeologists have unearthed hundreds of scarlet macaws skeletons in the American Southwest.

These birds appear in the archaeological record of the area between 900 and 1200 AD, just as more complex societies were emerging in the region. These ancient civilizations include the Puebloan people at Chaco Canyon in present day New Mexico. Scarlet macaws figured prominently in ancient cultures throughout the American Southwest.

“Even now, ceremonial regalia in a lot of cases have macaw feathers in them,” says study co-author Stephan Plog, an archaeologist at the University of Virginia at Charlottesville. “If you go to see a Pueblo dance, there’s a good chance you’ll see macaw feathers on at least some of the dancers. Macaws can also mimic human speech, and so are often viewed as a bit more human-like, which could have enhanced their significance.”

In the past, archaeologists had suggested that ancient Puebloans went on long-distance treks to the bird’s natural breeding grounds and brought them back. Such expeditions likely would have proven challenging. Instead, Plog and his colleagues explored the possibility these scarlet macaws came from breeding centers… Read more here.