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great green macaw perched on tree branch
 - Costa Rica

Great Green Macaws

Great Green Macaws


  • Scientific Name: Ara ambiguus
  • Status in the Wild: Endangered
  • Habitat: Rainforests, Tropical Dry Forests
  • Diet: Herbivore

An endangered member of the parrot family, the great green macaw (Ara ambiguus) has limited distribution in the Atlantic lowlands from Honduras to northern Columbia, with an isolated population and sub-species on Ecuador. They live solely in forests where the almendro tree (Dipteryx panamensis) exists, depending on it for both nesting and as a primary source of food. The green macaws are now extinct throughout most of their historic range.

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Great green macaws are beautiful, brightly colored birds. Their head, back and upper wing are a luminous, olive green and their lower wing and tail tip are blue. There is a scarlet red patch on the tail and forehead. Their faces are bare with distinctive lines of small black feathers.As adults, they are 31 inches beak to tail. Nesting from December through June, they produce one or two offspring annually, though not every year.


In Costa Rica, their range is limited to the Northern Zone between San Carlos and the Sarapiqui River extending into the northern foothills of the Central Volcanic Mountain Range.They may also be sighted in Tortuguero utilizing the green corridors for migration, but they do not nest there. By the early 1900s, their original nesting range had already been reduced by 90% by uncontrolled deforestation. Only 10% of its original habitat remains in Costa Rica.

Status in the Wild:

As this species of macaw is endangered, conservation efforts are underway in Costa Rica to unite the San Juan - La Selva Biological Corridor with the El Castillo in Nicaragua, essentially connecting the Northern plains and Caribbean coast of Costa Rica to the Nicaraguan ecosystems.This would consolidate 29 protected areas, creating a total area of 1.3 million hectares of protected habitat for the macaw. The challenge is re-uniting fragmented forests that are privately owned.Re-forestation with native trees and paying landowners for their environmental services are the basic principles in this project.

Also, the establishment of a new National Park, the Manquenque National Park would protect most of the Costa Rican territory where the green macaw reproduces, an estimated 1,120 square km.This project is still underway.

Great Green Macaws in Pictures

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