With the release of “Rio 2”, we get to have another look at some of our beautiful feathered friends from the South American Continent. They sing, they dance and cause the usual amount of drama, this time in a new locale, the Amazon. Now although real birds don’t wear bottle caps on their heads and dance to pop music, the characters featured in Rio and Rio 2 are based on actual species which exist in the wild today. So let’s take a look at some of the birds whom we meet in these movies, and what they are like in reality.
1. Blu – Spix’s Macaw
The main protagonist of the movies, Blu is a male Spix’s Macaw who has a little problem; he can’t fly! But don’t let that fool you. The real Macaw is completely able to fly, and it is a native of Brazil. It is critically endangered, and according to the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) may even be extinct in the wild. It is considered one of the rarest birds in the world. Blu and Jewel (his partner in the movie) may have been inspired by a single male which was found in the wild in 1990, who was paired with a female bred in captivity. Sadly, both of them have not been sighted since 2000! Currently, it is believed that only 100-150 individuals of this species exist, that too only in captivity.
2. Nigel–Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo
Nigel is the villain of the tale, and he will stop at nothing to capture the very rare pair of Spix’s Macaws and bring them back to his master. Cockatoos in general are known to be very temperamental, and they can be pests as well as pets. They are not native South American, but instead are very common in Australia, New Guinea and some islands of Indonesia. They are known to be loud and intelligent; no wonder the creators of Rio cast him as a villain! There is a very large population worldwide, and it is classified as a Least Concern species by the IUCN.
3. Rafael – Toco Toucan
The romantic of the movie, Rafael is a very striking bird. The Toco Toucan, or Common Toucan, is found naturally in a large part of Eastern and Central South America. They are extremely fond of fruits, and even eat insects or small rodents. But be careful if you ever keep one as a pet, they are extremely susceptible to bacterial infections from other animals. They are the largest of all Toucans, and can grow up to 2 feet. They are not great fliers, and will usually hop or walk to their food, which can then be reached by their long bills. They are a Least Concern species when it comes to conservation (IUCN).
4. Nico – Yellow Canary
My favourite character in the entire movie, Nico is a tiny bundle of latin flavor with his hat/tambourine and his sultry dance moves. Yellow Canaries are mostly residents of Central and Southern Africa, and they are very popular as pets. They are essentially songbirds, and can learn a great variety of songs, although they can’t be taught to speak words. Of course, there is a bit of a gender gap in the avian world, and only the male of the species sings and has the brilliant plumage. In some parts of the world, miners used to carry canaries with them into the coalmines as animal sentinels. If methane or carbon monoxide gases are emitted, it becomes toxic and fatal to the canary, which then alerts the miners that they should evacuate.
5. Pedro – Red Crested Cardinal
Will.i.am from the band the Black Eyed Peas voices this character, so you can be sure there’s some seriously good music involved. Red-Crested Cardinals don’t usually rap, but both the male and female do sing. Unlike most other bird species, there’s gender equality too, and both the male and the female have the red crest. It is a native of Brazil, and it can be very interesting to watch the parents teach their young to look for food, as the baby birds usually end up eating a strange variety of things before they learn what’s good for them. Kind of like us humans when we are infants!
So there you go, a closer look at some of your favourite characters from Rio!
1. IUCN Red List (May, 2006) – www.iucnredlist.org