Member Login



Auto-login for future visits

Join or Renew Today!

Membership Benefits:

Close Button


Tree in Multiple Occupation

Steve Brookes | Jun 25, 2013


Welcome to my first blog for the World Parrot Trust. It is my intention to tell you about my experiences as they happen on my Parrot Watching Trips however in between trips I want to write about some of my special Parrot encounters from past trips.

As my next Parrot Watching Trip is not until September when Rosemary Low and others will be joining me in pursuit of Pfrimer's and Grey-breasted Conures (Pyrrhura pfrimeri and Pyrrhura griseipectus) as well as Lear's Macaws (Anodorhynchus leari) and many other Parrots and Birds in the North-east of Brazil then I am starting with some amazing Parrot adventures in Costa Rica -- so here goes -- I hope you enjoy.

In February 2012 the destination for my Parrot Watching Trip was Costa Rica and quite by coincidence I read an article in a magazine, just before leaving, about a tree in multiple occupation by Scarlet (Ara macao) and Great Green Macaws (Ara ambiguus) at a lodge called Laguna del Lagarta which fortuitously happened to be a lodge already in my itinerary due to it being known as the 'Best place in the world to see Great Green Macaws'.

On my many travels I had only seen one other tree with several nests of different species purely in the one tree and that was in Peru at Tambopata very near to the dining area of the lodge which was inhabited by Scarlet Macaws, Chestnut fronted Macaws (Ara severus) and Black Vultures (Coragyps atratus) so my thoughts were that we should see if we could gain access to this tree in Costa Rica when we spent our 4 days at the lodge to check it out.

Before going to Laguna del Lagarta we had several other lodges to visit first to enable us to see as many of the parrot and bird species of Costa Rica that was possible and during this time we saw Scarlet Macaws in several places and were lucky enough to have really close encounters in Carara on the main roadside with 6 individuals playing in a tree using the wind to move from branch to branch. There were many others in the trees around but we were right next to this particular tree.

Again in Palo Verde National Park in the Guanacaste region we were able to photo and video Scarlet Macaws, under the tree canopy, from the bottom of the tree.

At this stage I should say that the Scarlet Macaws in Costa Rica are a different sub-species to the ones I had seen on many occasions in South America. This one was Ara macao cyanopterus and differs from the nominate species in a subtle way in having its yellow wing feathers tipped blue instead of green. See my photos for a comparison.

Scarlet Macaw (Ara macao macao) in Peru

Scarlet Macaw (Ara macao cyanopterus) in Costa Rica

Laguna del Lagarta was the last lodge on the main itinerary for this trip and is situated close to the Nicaraguan border on the Caribbean slopes. The road here is very rough taking far longer to reach than all the other places we visited within Costa Rica in fact we had to stop several times to remove the large stones that had wedged between the twin wheels of our 20 seat coach that we had for our small group of 9 including driver and guide.

We arrived just as it was becoming dark and really did not appreciate the beauty of the lodge and its surroundings until the following morning. Within about 50 metres of our en-suite rooms we were amazed by the amount of bird species including parrots that could be seen. Great Curassows, Tanagers, Toucans, Red lored (Amazona autumnalis) and Mealy Amazons (Amazona farinose) as well as Olive throated Conures (Aratinga nana) and Brown hooded Parrots (Pyrilia haematotis) and most amazingly a pair of Great Green Macaws in a nesting tree.

It was difficult to tear ourselves away from all the bird activity in the immediate area around the lodge itself but we were keen to see 'The Tree' as it became known as we had discussed it on our travels around the country.

So on the second afternoon we set off on what was to be a 45 minute hike through the rainforest on a relatively easy trail again encountering many more species of birds with a few frogs for a bit of diversity.

At the far end of the rainforest was a large clearing used for cattle grazing although no cattle were encountered and there towards the far side of the clearing was 'The Tree' an Almendro (Dipteryx panamensis) the favoured tree for Macaw nesting.

The Almendro is an extraordinarily hard tree which can grow to a height of 60 metres but this one had been estimated to be about 45metres and fortunately, until recently, mid-1980s, because of the hardness of the tree there had been nothing physically able to fell such a tree so when the clearings were originally made then these large trees remained.

From my photo of the actual whole tree it is difficult to judge how big this tree is however you can appreciate the size when I have zoomed in to the Macaws on the tree.

This particular Almendro had 2 nests of Great Green Macaws and 1 nest of Scarlet Macaws as well as 2 or 3 nests of Crimson fronted Conures.

On this first visit in February 2012 we saw 1 pair of Great Greens entering and leaving a nest hole regularly whilst in another a young Great Green was waiting patiently at the nest hole for its parents to return with food and several of the Crimson fronted Conures going in and out of various smaller holes around the tree. Unfortunately on this occasion we did not see the Scarlet Macaws on the tree but were assured by Adolfo, the manager of the lodge who originally discovered this productive tree in 2011, that they were still visiting the nest here. We did actually see a group of 6 Scarlet Macaws fly over the lodge the following day.

So onto January 2013 when I took another group Parrot Watching to Costa Rica and naturally Laguna del Lagarta lodge was included in the itinerary again which meant another chance to see this stunning tree and its inhabitants.

Adolfo wanted to accompany us on the excursion to the Almendro this time as he thought we may be a little more surprised as to what it had to offer this year.

We allowed ourselves more time to get into a comfortable position so we could observe for longer but not too close to disturb any of the activity around the tree and when we arrived there was only one Great Green Macaw to be seen perched on the outside of a nest hole. Within a short time another Great Green flew into the tree to join the one we could already see and after a bit of mutual preening one of them flew into the forest, we assumed that they probably had eggs in the nest and whilst one was guarding the nest hole the other went off to feed and presumably they took it in turns as we never saw them feeding each other which is usually an indicator that they have chicks in the nest with the adult subsequently feeding the young.

After a while 3 Great Green Macaws flew onto the tree and then into a different nest hole which we assumed to be an adult pair with their older youngster which was still learning from its parents.

Then to our amazement a third pair of Great Green Macaws was seen flying towards the tree with a pair of Scarlet Macaws approaching from a different direction. They met mid air part way across the clearing with the Scarlet's submissively flying away to a tree on the edge of the clearing whilst the Great Greens landed and entered a third nest hole on the main tree. After a short time the Scarlet Macaws continued their flight to the tree and into a fourth Macaw nest hole.

Absolutely amazing 4 nests of Macaws in the one tree -- 3 pairs of Great Greens and 1 pair of Scarlet's!!!!

Apparently multiple nests in one tree is not uncommon in Costa Rica but Scarlet's and Great Greens in one tree is unheard of and I have struggled with words to describe such an amazing experience of seeing all this in action.

I will be going back in 2015 to check on the progress of this tree and all the other parrots, birds and wildlife -- anyone want to join me?

Incidentally, going back to my forthcoming trip to Brazil in September, I have just been informed by my guide in Brazil that a hide/blind has recently been built at a feeding station for the Lear's Macaws and it will be possible to take photos of these magnificent Parrots in the wild at only 10 feet away from them. An experience I am really looking forward to myself but if anyone wants to join me then I have a couple of places still available and please remember every Parrot species and sub-species seen on my trips means money being donated to the World Parrot Trust.

All Photos © Copyright Steve Brookes