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Submitted by: J.T. and H.C.
A beautiful Sunday morning, a lovely day to do some bird watching, enjoying nature or not, as two friends ventured out to do some undercover birding in Guadalajara’s Sunday Baratillo. What they discovered was heartbreaking.
The following was submitted to us by them; our collective aim is to raise awareness of the plight of our wildlife. Remember what you see at any market is just the tip of the iceberg. Never buy any wild bird, or any fauna.
In their words, this describes their early morning bird watching excursion, in a most unnatural place, far from nature.
In February, my friend and colleague and I visited this thriving market in the heart of Guadalajara to see what might be found in their captive bird section. We are both experienced birders, one of us known for species identification and the other more focused on bird conservation.
First of all, most cities in areas where there are abundant and colorful local avifaunas have outdoor markets where captive species (not only birds) are sold usually in depressing and squalid conditions. Some of the worst we have seen are in Asia, for example Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta.
It turns out Guadalajara is no exception. Despite being illegal under the wildlife regulations of Mexico, we identified at least 24 species of local birds and upwards of 500 individuals being held in small wire cages, all looking like pale and frantic versions of their wild cousins.
Not wanting to attract too much attention to ourselves, a quick walk through the market revealed the following 24 species, many of which are rare as well as Mexican endemics: Green jay, Black throated magpie jay, Blue mockingbird, Northern mockingbird, Brown back solitaire, Cardinal, Rufous backed robin, Hooded oriole, Altamyra oriole, Streaked back oriole,Yellow headed blackbird, Red winged blackbird, Common dove, Ruddy ground dove, Kiskadee, Rust crowned sparrow, Black headed grosbeak, Aztec thrush, Painted bunting, Lazuli bunting, Varied bunting, Grey silky flycatcher, Blue rumped parrotlet, Curved bill thrasher.
No doubt there are more that we didn’t see. Prices for the birds ranged as high as 1,500 pesos for a pair of magpie jays. Several private dealers also approached us and noted they had additional collections outside of the market including local parrots. We managed to take a few furtive photos of some of the sad specimens all destined for short half-lives.
We are anonymously passing on this information to local bird and wildlife groups in the hope that SEMARNAT and PROFEPA, the agencies responsible for enforcing wildlife laws, will be encouraged to act to eliminate or at least reduce the trade in wild birds that so many residents and visitors to Mexico come to see.
“For anyone with the fortitude to visit the market, which is one of the largest in Latin America and carries the full range of goods from antiques and clothing to motorcycles, and can tolerate the sadness of caged wild birds, go to the northwest corner of the market next to the puppy mill section—in itself another depressing scene.”
Note: Despite the urge to buy these unfortunate creatures, to save them, the best thing to do is report it to the officials. Do not buy these animals, as it only encourages vendors to capture more and once again the vicious cycle of death continues.