The Macaw Project

The Macaw Project is an ongoing research project on the macaws of Peru. The project has always been headquartered at Tambopata Research Center (owned by Rainforest Expeditions). In fact, our company, Rainforest Expeditions most likely would not exist if it were not for the macaws of Tambopata.

Discover how The Macaw Project all started…

It all started, back in 1989, when one of our founders, Eduardo Nycander, traveled to the little known Colorado clay lick in the Tambopata River. As a wildlife photographer, the massive clay lick and the incredible number and varieties of parrots that visited it awed him. Concerned with their protection, he identified a sizable patch of pristine forest near the clay lick, to build a research center, protecting it from the threats of illegal hunting of macaws. This also included an application for a 10,000 hectare forestry concession, to legally protect as large an area as possible.

In 1990, the research center was complete. It consisted of a floor raised on stilts, a palm thatch roof, no walls, mattresses on the floor, an earthen stove and latrines – just the basics. The 1.5 million hectare conservation unit called the Tambopata Candamo Reserved Zone is declared by the Government of Peru, with TRC in the middle of it. During this year, Eduardo bootstraped macaw research out of TRC. With a team of enthusiastic and courageous research assistants, the team got to work, hanging burnt PVC pipes 30 meters above ground to supplement natural nesting sites.

Researchers for The Macaw Project
Researchers for The Macaw Project

During the early years, the founding research team of the Macaw Project learned to identify specific birds and even couples.  They could track the comings and goings of macaws, based on the individual characteristics identified through photographs.

In 2002, Dr. Donald Brightsmith of Texas A&M University, took over the macaw project, and continues to manage it today. Studies on the food habits and behavior have developed over the years. TRC and the Macaw Project have hosted dozens of researchers, filmmakers and photographers – all interested in the colourful birds that inspired the original Macaw project team so many years ago.

Today, we continue to support macaw research and specifically the Tambopata Macaw Project. This is a long term research project which studies the ecology and conservation of macaws and parrots.

Did you know:

  • Macaws are among the most effective flagship species for ecosystem conservation in the Amazonian rainforest.
  • Nearly 30 % of the 398 parrot species (Psittaciformes) are classified as threatened (critically endangered, endangered, or vulnerable) according to IUCN RedList 2014.
  •  At least three species of macaws have already gone extinct in the wild with 16 species remaining (1 Critically Endangered, 3 Endangered, 3 Vulnerable, 1 Near Threatened, and 8 Least Concern).

The Macaw Project hosts volunteers throughout the year. If you are interested in becoming a volunteer please contact us at and we will forward your request to the lead researchers.

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As Seen in

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