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Scarlet Macaw

 (Ara macao)
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© Steve Milpacher

Project Status: Active | Early 1990s - current


Macaw Recovery Network, Asociación Copán, Macaw Mountain Bird Park and Nature Reserve, HARI (Hagen Avicultural Research Institute), HUGO BOSS/BOSS Orange, In Defense of Animals (IDA), Salvanatura Fundación, Program for Belize, American Bird Conservancy (ABC), Kyle Brown Legacy, Barbara Delano Foundation, Keefe Family Foundation, UNAM (National Autonomous University of Mexico), Xcaret Eco-Archeological Park, Birdland UK, Dudley Zoo

Macaw species at serious risk throughout its range

Scarlet Macaws (Ara macao) are threatened by illegal harvesting for the wild bird trade, hunting and habitat loss.

Progress and outcomes: From the mid-1990s WPT has supported direct conservation, education programmes, captive breeding and release, and rehabilitation and release of birds caught in the trade, with in-country partners in Mexico, Honduras and Costa Rica. With the Macaw Recovery Network in Costa Rica, WPT supports the confiscation of Scarlet Macaws from the wildlife trade, the rehabilitation of confiscated and surrendered birds, and captive breeding and release of birds to the wild to increase wild populations. Over a dozen juvenile macaws have been released. In 2018 during the breeding season in Honduras, Scarlet Macaws released at Copán Ruinas produced seven chicks, with four chicks hatching at partner facility Macaw Mountain Bird Park. "Patrulla Con Alas” (Winged Agents), is a project involving children from local communities in highly biodiverse areas as guardians of their natural resources, including the Scarlet Macaw. The initiative helps raise awareness of and protection for the species while producing future birding guides, thus developing a sustainable alternative livelihood. Elsewhere in Honduras, macaws have been released at the Finca Santa Isabel outside of Copán Ruinas; the first into a 870 square kilometre protected zone designated "The Sacred Valley of the Scarlet Macaw." A second group of macaws was freed on a private island off the coast of Honduras to add to a population currently residing there, and are now breeding. In Mexico, a multi-year project to restore macaws to Los Tuxtlas Reserve with birds from Xcaret Eco-Archeological Park's breeding centre has seen over 160 Scarlet Macaws released there.

Focus of future work: WPT will continue to support local groups fighting to save the Scarlet Macaw.

With your help we can continue to support actions to conserve this species.

IUCN/CITES Status: Least Concern / Appendix I

Wild population: 20,000 – 50,000; total C American population no more than 4000.

Where found: A. m. macao: Costa Rica on Pacific slope; S Panama, on Azuero Peninsula and Isla Coiba, then scattered through N South America, east of Andes, from Rio Magdalena valley, Colombia to Guianas and south to E Ecuador, E Peru, E Bolivia and N Mato Grosso, Brazil.
A.m. cyanoptera: Oaxaca and S Tamaulipas, SE Mexico, scattered to NE Nicaragua.

History: The Scarlet Macaw (Ara macao) is found in Mexico, Honduras, Costa Rica, Colombia and Venezuela.  Although the Scarlet Macaw is listed by IUCN as Least Concern there is evidence of a population decline in the wild. It is listed by CITES as Appendix I. The declines in this species' population are due to habitat loss and fragmentation (expected to lose 20-35% of habitat within its range over 40 years (Soares-Filho et al. 2006, Bird et al. 2011)), the wild bird trade and hunting for feathers and food.


  • Habitat loss and fragmentation
  • Trapping for the wild bird trade
  • Hunting for feathers and food

Ecology: The Scarlet Macaw is found in lowland rainforest and savanna, in Mexico remote portions of humid forest, on the Pacific slope in Honduras, in Costa Rica deciduous and humid forest, Colombia in lowland rainforest and gallery forest and Venezuela in rainforest and savanna. Birds are encountered in pairs, parties of 3-4 or flocks up to 30 individuals as they forage on fruits, fruits and nuts of various palms, and seeds, flowers and nectar.

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