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Scarlet Macaw

 (Ara macao)
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© World Parrot Trust

Project Status: Active | Early 1990s - current


ARA Project, Asociacion Copan, Macaw Mountain Bird Park and Nature Reserve, HARI (Hagen Avicultural Research Institute), HUGO BOSS/BOSS Orange, In Defense of Animals (IDA), Salvanatura Fundacion, ARCAS, Program for Belize, American Bird Conservancy (ABC), Kyle Brown Legacy, Barbara Delano Foundation

Macaw species at serious risk throughout its range

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

Progress and outcomes: From the mid-1990s WPT has supported direct conservation of subspecies cyanoptera, education programmes, captive breeding and release, and rehabilitation and release of birds caught in the trade, working with many partners to achieve these outcomes. Conservation efforts receiving logistical or financial support from the WPT are underway in Mexico, Belize, Honduras and Costa Rica. At Ara Project in Costa Rica WPT has been supporting the confiscation of Scarlet Macaws from the wildlife trade, rescuing and rehabilitating confiscated birds, encouraging captive reproduction of the species, and releasing birds to the wild to supplement wild populations. In 2016 at Punta Islita the birds began to utilize nest boxes constructed by the team.

WPT has supported an ongoing release project in collaboration with Macaw Mountain Bird Park and Nature Reserve, the Honduran Institute of Anthropology and History (IHAH), and the Copan Association. To date, there have been five releases, including one at a private hacienda outside of Copan. In 2016 WPT supported increased staffing and construction at Macaw Mountain to build capacity for a breeding program to increase the population in this area.

Focus of future work: WPT will continue to provide support for local groups fighting to save the Scarlet Macaw from the wildlife trade, and for in-country captive breeding and release programmes to restore the species to areas where it is locally extinct.

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: 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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