The Great Green Macaws of Nicaragua

Found in the Bosawas Biosphere Reserve and Indio-Maíz Biological Reserve of Nicaragua, the Great Green Macaw (Ara ambiguous)is a large parrot found in a number of South and Central American countries, including Nicaragua, Honduras, Brazil, Panama, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Colombia. With vibrantly colorful plumage, the Great Green Macaw is primarily olive green, with its wing-tips and tip of its tail being blue. It has a scarlet red patch on its tail and forehead with the rest of its face around and below the eyes having lines of sparse black feathers. As one of the largest parrots in the world, Great Green Macaws can reach a length of between 85 and 90 centimeters and can weigh up to 1.3 kilograms.

Found in the forest edges of lowland tropical rainforest, the Mountain Almond Tree (Dipteryx panamensis) is essential to the survival of these large parrots, as they feed almost exclusively on the large almond nuts the trees produce, while building their nests in the hollows of the trees. They live in family groups of five or six birds and are fairly territorial over their chosen area. Breeding season generally starts in August each year with a clutch of one to three eggs being laid.

Although these magnificent birds were once plentiful in the wild, loss of habitat and other factors have resulted in an estimated 50 percent decrease in numbers over the past three generations and they are now listed as ‘Endangered’ on the IUCN Red List. They are also listed on Appendix I of CITES which details the most endangered of CITES-listed plants and animals. Animals and plants on Appendix I are prohibited from trade, however, trade in exotic species persists and contributes to the decline in Great Green Macaws in the wild. As humans continue to encroach on the untamed areas of Nicaragua, forests are cleared to convert to plantations and for cattle ranching.

In Costa Rica, the Great Green Macaw Research and Conservation Project has been carrying out research on the Great Green Macaw and has been working to raise awareness of the plight of these spectacular birds. Bearing in mind that birds do not recognize borders, conservationists in both Nicaragua and neighboring Costa Rica are working toward the preservation of Great Green Macaws in an effort to stop their numbers from dwindling any further.