Scarlet Macaws

One of the largest and most brilliantly colored macaws, the scarlet macaw inhabits the tropical forests of Central and South America. Despite its large range, scarlet macaw populations in Central America suffer greatly. The scarlet macaw is an endangered species, with only 300-400 individuals estimated to survive in the wild in Guatemala, Mexico and Belize. They are victims of habitat loss, wildfires and the illegal wildlife trade, where they are highly sought-after for their brilliant plumage. The Zoo supports scarlet macaw conservation in Guatemala through the Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Centre (ARCAS).

ARCAS collaborates with other organizations to ensure the survival of the scarlet macaw within the Mayan Biosphere Reserve. In addition to rescue and rehabilitation of wildlife, ARCAS also conducts environmental education activities as well as breeds scarlet macaws with the aim of reintroducing them to bolster the wild population, which is estimated at fewer than 150 scarlet macaws in Guatemala.


Funds supplied by the Zoo have been also used to construct an incubation house for chicks requiring special care and new flight cages that enable the fledgling birds to fly and strengthen their muscles in preparation for their eventual release into the wild. The Zoo also funds field trips for local students to visit the ARCAS center and learn about the scarlet macaw program.


First-Ever Release of Endangered Scarlet Macaws

scarlet macaw Crissi Lanier

ARCAS carried out the first-ever release of endangered scarlet macaws (Ara macao cyanoptera) in Guatemala on October 5th, 2015. Nine individuals were released in the Sierra Lacandon National Park in the Maya Biosphere Reserve in the northern Peten region of the country with the objective of reinforcing the local macaw population there. Five of the macaws were fitted with satellite transmitters in order to monitor their movements and success in adapting to the wild.

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These nine macaws were graduates of ARCAS´s breeding program, initiated in 2004 utilizing birds confiscated in the illegal pet trade. They are the result of years of hard work in the different stages of the program, including determining the genetic origin of the founder animals, developing successful breeding methodologies and elaborating rehabilitation protocols. Laboratory exams were carried out to confirm the health of the birds and prevent the spread of illnesses into wild populations. In this program, the chicks are raised by their parents so they are less likely to become imprinted on humans and will have a better chance at surviving in the wild. They are fed wild food so that they know what to eat once they are released. Funds were raised for the necessary equipment for the monitoring of released birds, and an environmental education program was established in order to gain the support of local communities in the release site.

Project Updates

Blue and Gold Macaw

Globally threatened from poaching for the pet trade and habitat loss, the blue and gold macaw was extirpated from Trinidad in the early 1960s. CREW Scientist Bernadette Plair brought together the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, the Centre for the Rescue of Endangered Species of Trinidad and Tobago (CRESTT), the Trinidad and Tobago government and local people to restore the blue and gold macaw to the island. 

Thirty-one wild-caught blue and gold macaws were translocated from Guyana to the Nariva Swamp in Trinidad between 1999 and 2003. To ensure the long-term success of the reintroduction, the program involves continuing research, habitat protection, community outreach and education.

Post-release survival and nesting success have been high. Local villagers from communities bordering the reintroduction site were trained to monitor and protect the released birds. Poaching has been mitigated through community involvement, conservation education and national public awareness campaigns. Local government, private sector, corporate and international support helps to sustain the project.

The blue and gold macaw has become a flagship species for stewardship of the Nariva swamp. The people of Trinidad take pride in protecting the habitat and diversity of their island home.

Blue-throated Macaws

The Zoo supports the Bird Endowment’s Nino Adoptivo Saving the Blues program to enhance the reproduction of blue-throated macaws in the wild in Bolivia.

The critically endangered blue-throated macaw (Ara glaucogularis) is only known to survive on private ranches in one small region of northern Bolivia known as Los Llanos de Moxos with a population estimated at less than 130 individuals. It relies on cavities in palm trees as nest sites, but often loses out on nest sites due to competition from other macaws, toucans, bats and large woodpeckers.

The goal of the Nido Adoptivo™ (“Nest Adoption”) Program is to increase the annual reproductive output of blue-throated macaws by providing nest boxes. The first nest boxes were installed in 2007, and more have been added over the past nine years to total 68 nest boxes in 2015-2016 season. Nest boxes are monitored twice a month by a field biologist who records the nest box contents, usage and inter-species interactions.

macaws using nest box

In the 2015-2016 season, a total of six blue-throated macaws fledged out of three nest boxes, which brings the total to 62 macaws fledged from nest boxes since the program’s beginning.

Follow the project on: The Bird Endowment’s Nido Adoptivo™ page.

The Nino Adoptivo Saving The Blues Mission

Their mission is to increase the wild population and well-being of the critically endangered Blue-throated Macaw Ara glaucogularis, in accordance with the species recovery plan, by supporting and developing efforts to:

  1.  Research, monitor and protect nesting and foraging habitat
  2.  Educate local and global interest groups about conservation activities

Highlights from 2019-2020:

  • 12 Blue-throated Macaw chicks fledged, tying last year’s record!
  • New record clutch size of 4 eggs
  • Record-breaking 7 banded breeding birds returned to use nest boxes!

The Cincinnati Zoo supports The Bird Endowment and its efforts to save the critically endangered blue-throated macaws and even sponsors a nest box! Habitat loss and loss of nesting sites are the biggest threats to these beautiful birds. The Bird Endowment has installed 125 nest boxes and camera traps to monitor the boxes since 2006. 113 chicks have successfully fledged from the nest boxes since the program began. With only 400-450 blue-throated macaws in the wild, this number is really significant! That’s 25% of the wild population!