Great Green Macaws fly by on the main road between San José and Limón

Great Green Macaw (Ara ambiguus)

Great Green Macaw (Ara ambigua)

The estimated population (2009) of the Great green macaw was approximately 1,500 birds for Nicaragua and Costa Rica combined, so I consider a sighting of a pair flying over the main San José to Limón road, just west of Pocora, definitely worth reporting. We had spent our day away from home visiting Puerto Viejo de Sarapiquí down in the Caribbean lowlands. The idea was to buy koi from Costa Rica’s only importer, located between Puerto Viejo and La Virgen.

During the koi selection, owner Juan Carlos pointed out a plátano tree with ripe fruit, just 15 yards away from us, telling us that Great green macaws would arrive there in the late afternoon. It was just after midday and already the tree engaged the attentions of a Chestnut-mandibled toucan (Ramphastos swainsonii). This bird is a remarkable sight up close, a good bit larger than our local Keel-billed toucan (Ramphastos sulfuratus). While it was inserting the huge yellow and brown bill into the base of the plátano fruit, its large dark eye seemed to observe us warily.

The beady eye is partially obscured in this fine photo by Karel Straatman

The beady eye is partially obscured in this fine photo by Karel Straatman

When it flew off a short distance, a group of 4 Collared araçari (Pteroglossus torquatus) arrived to feast on the same fruit, a very sweet plátano variety. We had to leave a little too early for the date with the macaws, which are now also reputed to be easy to see in the centre of Puerto Viejo. Another nice bird, before we set off back to Turrialba, was a male Red-legged honeycreeper (Cyanerpes cyaneus), a species that is much harder to find in the Turrialba area.

Male Red-legged honeycreeper, courtesy of Karel Straatman

Male Red-legged honeycreeper, courtesy of Karel Straatman

But the real highlight, though maddeningly brief, was the glimpse of the Great green macaws flying over the heavy traffic of Costa Rica’s principal Caribbean Coast connecting highway.

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