As far as beautiful tropical birds go, Scarlet Macaws are the kings and queens. There is nothing quite like the flash of brilliant red, blue and yellow of wild Scarlet Macaws flying overhead or their loud raucous squawk to let you know you are in the jungle.
An endangered species, Scarlet Macaws (Ara macao) live in tropical forests from Mexico to South America. In Costa Rica, they live in dry, moist, and wet tropical lowland forests along the Pacific Coast where large mature trees provide nesting holes and food of nuts, fruits and flowers. Macaws especially like Costa Rica’s coastal almond trees.
Their distinctive noisy cry carries for miles, so you usually hear them before you see them. When you do sight a Scarlet Macaw in the wild, they are a breathtaking rainbow of colors – fire engine red bodies with sunshine yellow and royal blue wing feathers tinged with a bit of green, and a distinct stark white patch around both eyes. Unfortunately, the birds’ striking colors makes them a favorite on the world illegal pet market, tagging prices of up to several thousands of dollars. Poaching and loss of habitat from deforestation are the main factors for the Macaws’ declining numbers, according to the ARA Project.
The non-profit ARA Project operates a breeding and wilderness release program for the Great Green Macaw (Ara ambiguus) and the Scarlet Macaw (Ara macao) in Costa Rica. Over the past 13 years, the ARA Project has freed 70 Scarlet Macaws in their Tiskita release site on Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula. “These macaws have survival rates of about 85% and have successfully reproduced in the wild,” said Project co-director Chris Castles. “There are over 100 macaws there now including the babies born in the wild.”
Macaws can live to be over 60 years old and mate for life. There are an estimated 1,500 Scarlet Macaws living in Costa Rica. You can see them along the Central Pacific Coast from the Carara National Park to Manuel Antonio, and throughout the Osa Peninsula and Golfo Dulce region in the South Pacific.
At Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge on the Golfo Dulce, Scarlet Macaws like to hang out in the almond trees by the beach, munching on the tasty almond fruit. Including the Macaws, at Nicuesa you can see more than 250 species of birds. Nicuesa Lodge is actively involved in wildlife conservation and protects 165 acres of rainforest in a private reserve bordering the Piedras Blancas National Park. The area is a biological corridor connecting to the Osa Peninsula and Corcovado National Park to the west and Panama to the south.
Nicuesa eco-lodge is a great place for travelers interested in ecotourism, nature and adventure. We offer guided birding walks and hiking in the rainforest, among other adventure tours.
Article by Shannon Farley