Great Green Macaw – reclaiming parts of its range

Great Green Macaw (Ara ambiguus):

On January 1st 2019 I wrote a post called Great Green Macaw – Good News. More recently, the situation continues to improve for a species that was not too long ago considered almost extinct in Costa Rica. Even now, however, precise locations of sightings of this species are still kept hidden from the general public because of the danger of their being captured for sale in the cage-bird trade.

Today’s post is occasioned by a fly-by of this species in a lowland area of our province of Cartago. John was a lucky boy to be on hand to capture the moment, more especially since it coincided with my birthday this year, October 17, 2020:

Two pairs (presumably) of Great Green Macaw flying near the Río Pacuare, Provincia de Cartago;

To prove that the species really is back with a bang in Costa Rica, I must now take the opportunity to add the following set of photographs taken in 2018 in the vicinity of Siquirres. The first one merely confirms what has long been known, that the Great Green Macaw is a breeding resident of the Costa Rican Caribbean slope:

Great Green Macaws: mating pair; photo by John Beer

This macaw is a large bird, one of the biggest parrots in the world , weighing in at 1.3 kilos and measuring up to 90 cm in length. Nonetheless, it can be awfully hard to spot among the foliage:

Great Green Macaw plays peek-a-boo: photo by John Beer

The favourite food of this macaw is the fruit of the almendro tree (Dipteryx oleifera), the presence of which is held by some experts to be indispensable to survival of the macaw. But many other fruits, especially nuts, are also taken. The Great Green Macaw’s heavy bill can cope with opening some that are not accessible even to other macaws, such as the Scarlet Macaw (Ara macao), the only other macaw species in Costa Rica. Here below, a Great Green is seen feeding on the fruit of Hura crepitans, the sandbox tree:

The heavy bill of the Great Green Macaw has no trouble opening this large fruit; photo by John Beer

The next bird, below, was photographed eating the fruit of the Indian almond (Terminalia catappa) – a huge tropical tree that is also in the almendro family but is a non-native species widely introduced in the Americas. This bird had been ringed by the Ara Project (its successor, as regards the Great Green Macaw, rather than the Scarlet Macaw) is now Ara Manzanillo on the Caribbean coast.

The Great Green Macaw, called lapa verde by Costa Ricans, is a splendidly large and colourful bird. Here it again displays its powerful bill:

Great Green Macaw near Siquirres; photo by John Beer

Yes, it’s great news: the Great Green Macaw is definitely back to some of its former haunts. We hope that Costa Rica continues its considerable efforts to conserve biodiversity in both habitats and species. There have been several very recent sightings of these birds in the Turrialba area. Seen in flight it is unmistakable and often very noisy with its loud, raucous calls, so I’m now going to keep my eyes peeled and my ears open in hopes of a view, close to my own home here in Turrialba, of this unforgettable bird .

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