Scarlet Macaw in Belize

Endangered Scarlet Macaws in Red Bank, Belize


Secondary Cavity-Nesters

Scarlet Macaws are arguably the most magnificent bird of the parrot family. With their wide strong wings, macaws can reach speeds of 35 mph. They often fly in pairs or small groups and call to each other in raucous hoarse voices.

2 subspecies can be found in Central America:

  1. Ara macao cyanoptera – range from Guatemala – Belize to Costa Rica.
  2. Ara macao macao – range from Costa Rica through Panama into South America

The total population throughout its range of Ara macao cyanoptera– is estimated to be approximately 5,000 birds. Some local populations are in serious decline, while others are thriving.

Scarlet Macaws in Belize

One of the many ecologically majestic events here in Belize is the arrival of beautiful Scarlet Macaws to certain hotspots in the foothills. A large percentage of the population migrate from the Maya mountains to the foothills of Red Bank Village in Southern Belize from December to March. This is a prime location for feeding on the various seeds and nuts of the local trees.

Macaws travels away from their breeding area in the Maya Mountains to local seasonal food hot spots as in the area around Red Bank Village and the protected Chiquibul National Park. The breeding distribution has been primarily documented in the riparian areas of the Chiquibul National Park.

Feeding in Belize

Polewood Tree – Fruit – Seed

The birds with chicks from the former year seasonally migrate to concentrated food sources – such as Red Bank, Bladen and Cockscomb. The large majority migrate to the hills around Red Bank village where a high concentration of Polewood – Xylopia frutescens produce fruits for several months. Other trees like Wild Annatto, Symphonia, Prickly Yellow, Mountain Trumpet and Cramanthee add to the menu. These are nice supplements between fruiting waves of the Polewood.

Threats to Survival

Largest threats to all populations are poaching for the pet trade and food. Second largest threat is habitat loss to agriculture and other development.

Scarlet Macaws are described as ‘endangered’ in Belize, with fewer than 250 individuals. They exhibit low fecundity so even low rates of poaching and other causes of nest failure may significantly affect population viability. Parrot poaching is generally an opportunistic source of income. In Belize the largest threat to the species is poaching by Guatemalans engaged in various illegal activities like Gold mining, looting of Maya sites, harvesting Xate leaves, timber or growing Marijuana. Scarlet Macaws are high priced items on the pet market and it is an extra catch along with the other activities. Adult Macaws often become meal in their bush camps

Over the years Scarlet6 team– now Belize Bird Conservation– and Friends of Conservation and Development (FCD) have organized teams of volunteers and FCD rangers to camp under active nests during the breeding season in the Chiquibul National Park. Nests found in locations that cannot be protected are harvested for chicks. They are taken to a rehabilitation facility to be reared for later release back in the wild. It is difficult to estimate the results of this tremendous effort. The numbers are vague. Importantly, it has changed poaching rates from 90% to less than 15%. In general it is expected that the population is slowly increasing due to conservation efforts.

Unique Opportunity to Tour with Christian

March is the final countdown before their return to the higher mountain regions in the Chiquibul National Park. Barebones Tours professional seasoned guide Christian Bech will take you on a journey to see these rare and brilliant birds. You will also be treated to an authentic Maya caldo meal in a local Maya village. This is an experience you will surely remember for a lifetime. Christian’s knowledge is sure to impress. He provides adventurous and fun learning environments for novice and experienced birder. He comes highly recommended.


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