Did pirates in the past keep macaws as pets?

     “Ahoy, ahoy!” said the macaw perched on the pirate’s shoulder. Is this just a myth brought to popularity by Robert Lewis Stevenson’s 1881 popular novel,” Treasure Island”?

Long John Silver Silhouette

In the novel, the one legged pirate named Long John Silver always had a parrot perched on his shoulder named Captain Flint. In the actual past could it be true that macaws and pirates have at times been sea faring friends? According to many theories and historical information available a mix of the two is likely the case.

 Macaw on Hook

During the 18th and 19th century pirate ships were rampant along the Atlantic Ocean. How macaws made it onto the ships are that the pirates raided and robbed merchant ships carrying these high priced exotic birds or they caught them in the Neotropical regions (South & Central America, Mexico and Caribbean Islands).

Pirate ship battle with macaws

A truth of the time is that during the 18th century there was a thriving trade of parrots as these birds were in high demand in Europe (amongst many other birds kept as pets).

Macaw on treasure chest

Macaws provided two benefits, they were a status symbol and the pirates made a hefty profit selling them to the wealthy upper class of Europe. So it was said that, since these parrots are highly intelligent and social, the pirates would entertain themselves and let them sit on their shoulders during the long voyages.

Pirate hyacinth on branch


But sadly enough, most of the parrots were treated as a high priced cargo and were sold upon reaching the ports. On some occasions a few pirates would keep them as pets but this was very likely to boast that they were also of a high status. Even so this illicit macaw trade by pirates did help to increase the birds popularity and desirability by owners. These exquisite parrots have fascinated humans for centuries. Macaws are beautiful, very sociable animals, are highly intelligent and have a unique mystique and mystery about them. 

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