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Great Green Macaw

 (Ara ambiguus)
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© Allan Taylor

Project Status: Active | mid-1990s - current


The Ara Project, Pro-Forest Foundation, Fundación Ecológica Rescate Jambelí, HARI (Hagen Avicultural Research Institute), Natural Encounters Conservation Fund, Paradise Park, Macaw Landing Foundation, Tracy Aviary, Zoo de Doue, In Defense of Animals (IDA), Kilverstone Trust, Shared Earth Foundation, Lynn Chase Wildlife Foundation, Adelaide Zoo, In Defense of Animals, American Bird Conservancy (ABC), Barbara Delano Foundation, Kyle Brown Legacy

Populations reduced by half in last 50 years

In its native Central America loss of habitat has reduced the Great Green Macaw’s (Ara ambiguus) population to less than a thousand. In Ecuador, it is fairing far worse.

Progress and outcomes:  Since the mid-1990s the World Parrot Trust has supported several scientists and in-country organisations to help save the species.

Projects include protecting unique lowland Atlantic forest in Costa Rica to benefit the birds, funding Fundacion ProBosque for an honorary warden program to protect the macaws in Ecuador, and partnering with The Ara Project in Costa Rica, and Fundación Ecológica Rescate Jambelí in Ecuador to help increase Great Green Macaw populations through captive breeding, rescue, release, and reforestation efforts. In 2016, Fundacion ProBosque, in conjunction with Jambelí Rescue Foundation, released a total of five Great Green Macaws (Ara ambiguus) to the wild after a stint in a pre-release flight. Three have stayed together as a flock near the feeding stations, even though one flew off and has since been brought back to be with the others. The organisation is hopeful that it can bolster the wild population of at least six macaws, which visited the pre-release flight cage where the macaws were being held last year. At Manzanillo in Costa Rica, released birds are taking to new nest boxes installed by the Ara Project team, and as of 2017 have successfully fledged young.

Focus on future work: Efforts undertaken in the next few decades will likely decide the fate of this species. WPT will continue to support its partners and their work towards:

  • Aiding in the confiscation of Great Green Macaws from the wildlife trade
  • Rescuing and rehabilitating confiscated birds
  • Encouraging captive reproduction of the species
  • Releasing birds to the wild to supplement wild populations
  • Educating locals about sustainable use of lands
  • Assisting with habitat restoration efforts

With your help we can complete these important tasks to better understand the species, and continue to deliver effective solutions to further their conservation. 

IUCN/CITES Status: Endangered / Appendix I

Wild Population: Fewer than 3700 individuals.

Where found: A.a. ambiguus: Caribbean lowlands of E Honduras to NW Colombia.
A.a. guayaquilensis: W Ecuador, Esmeraldas; smaller numbers in the Cordillera de Chongon-Colonche, Guayas.

History: Once prevalent throughout the entire Caribbean, Great Green Macaw (Ara ambiguus) populations have declined alarmingly in recent years due to poaching and deforestation, in particular the cutting of Mountain Almond trees. BirdLife International states that over the past 50 years global populations have been reduced by half. A census conducted in the Cordillera de Chongon Colonche and Esmeraldas Province in Ecuador in 2010 found only 8 birds, with the current population in all of Ecuador suspected to be 30-40 birds (E. Horstman in litt. 2012). Recent conservation efforts in Costa Rica have stabilized numbers with less than 300 birds and an estimated 25-35 breeding pairs remaining (PsittaScene Aug. 2011).


  • Unsustainable exploitation for the wild bird trade
  • Subspecies guayaquilensis reportedly shot as a crop-pest
  • Conversion of forest to oil-palm and banana plantations, causing the loss of the large Mountain Almond
  • Increased impact of logging, agriculture, illegal coca plantations, gold mining and hunting
  • Illegal trapping for in-country trade, food and feathers

Ecology: This macaw prefers lowland humid forest and also strongly deciduous forest; in Costa Rica lowland primary forest. It is found at altitudes to 600m (1968 ft) in Costa Rica and1000m (3280 ft) in Panama. Less gregarious than other large macaws, it is found in pairs and groups of 3-4 birds, foraging on fruits, nuts, bulbs and flowers.

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