Francisco José Sánchez Labrador was born in 1717 in Toledo in Spain. He joined the Jesuits in 1731 and went to South America as a priest in 1734 to work as a missionary there with the Guarani Indians. From 1746 - 58 he was active in the Jesuit reductions in what is now north-eastern Argentina and southern Paraguay. In 1759 he went to Asunción and in 1760 was transferred to found the reduction on the Rio Ipané some 200 km (130 miles) north of Asunción. From here he went on many expeditions. In 1767 he returned to Europe following the expulsion of the Jesuits from South America and died at Ravenna in Italy in 1798. His great work on the natural history of Paraguay apparently still lies unedited in Jesuit archives in the Vatican in Rome, however that part pertaining to fish and birds was published in paperback in 1968. A fellow Jesuit described Father Sánchez Labrador as follows " He was noted for his wisdom, diligence and patience, and was a painstaking investigator of the natural sciences."
There follows the original text in Spanish, concluding with a translation into English. A translation into German appears on the German pages of the website.
500]Guaa obi: Muy poco de vistoso sabresale en las plumas de estos guacamayos. Su tamaño iguala al de los precedentes, aunque son más delgados de cuerpo. Todo el color de las plumas es azul, por partes claro, y por partes oscuro. Hay muchísimas de estas aves en los bosques de la orilla oriental del rio Uruguay,en las selvas del rio Paraguay se ven raras.
Se amansan grandemente y hacen algunas cosas que sorprenden. En el pueblo intitulado La Concepción de Nuestra Señora, compuesto de indios guaraníes, habia un guaa de estos azules muy manso. Cuando arribaba algún misionero que venía de otra Doctrina, iba luego el guacamayo a su aposento; si le encontraba cerrado con picaporte, se subía por entre el umbral y la puerta, valiéndose de su pico y pies, hasta Ilegar a él; metía ruido como llamando, y a veces abría antes que por dentro se le abriese. Trepaba a la silla en que estaba sentado el misionero, profería tres o cuatro veces guaa, y le halagaba con la cabeza, hasta que se le hablase y como agradeciese la visita y atención. Hecho esto se bajaba y salía al patio muy contento.
Si hacía alguna cosa contra otras aves mansas, le Ilamaba el misionero, venía con sumisión, y con gran atención oía el cargo que se le hacía; la sentencia era de azotes. Al oírla, se volvía boca arriba y componía sus patitas como cruzados los dedos, hacíase el ademán de castigarle con un cingulo; estábase quieto hasta oír la palabra once en doce, ésto es, duodécimo, y al punto se revolvía y levantaba, y por la sotana subía hasta la mano del misionero que ejecutó la sentencia, halagábale y le hablaba con suavidad, y se iba el guaa muy contento.
Sánchez Labrador refers to the macaw by its Indian (Guarani) name. Guaa relates to its call; obi can mean green or blue. This entry translates into English as follows:-
Guaa obi: There is very little distinctive showiness in the plumage of this macaw. Its size equals those of the above (Ed: guaa picta or Green-winged Macaw Ara chloroptera), but with a slimmer body. All the plumage is blue with some parts light and others dark. There are very many of these birds in the woods of the eastern bank of the Uruguay River, but they occur rarely in the forests along the Paraguay River.
They tame very well and do surprising things. There was a very tame blue macaw in a village called La Concepción de Nuestra Señora (Ed: This was situated in what is now eastern Corrientes near the River Uruguay) inhabited by Guarani Indians. When a missionary arrived from another mission, the macaw would go to his lodging. If it found the door shut, it would climb up between the lintel and the door with the help of its bill and feet until it reached the latch. It then made a sound as if knocking and often opened the door before it could be opened from inside. It would climb on the chair in which the missionary was sitting, utter " guaa " three or four times, make alluring movements with its head until it was spoken to as if thanking him for the visit and attention. Then it would climb down and go into the courtyard very contented.
If it did anything untoward to other tame birds, the missionary would call it. It would approach submissively and listen attentively to his accusation, the punishment for which was supposed to be a beating. When it heard this it lay on its back and positioned its feet as if making the sign of the cross and the missionary pretended to beat it with a belt. It lay there quietly until it heard the words once en doce (eleven of twelve), which meant the twelfth, then it turned over, stood up and climbed up the robe to the hand of the missionary, who had pronounced the punishment, to be stroked and spoken to kindly before leaving very satisfied.
(Ed: Aviculturists, who keep Hyacinthine Macaws will readily recognise this behaviour.)
Monday 11th January 2021
Interesting paper on the Spix’s Macaw
A very interesting paper is available on-line about the Spix’s Macaw. It is entitled " Qualitative description of the submission and agonistic behaviour of the Spix’s Macaw (Cyanopsitta spixii) with special reference to t ... Read More »
" Naturam expellas furca, tamen usque recurret "
( If you drive out nature with a pitchfork, she will soon find a way back)
Horace (65-8 BC)