The sound of the motor fades as the boat nears the opposite shore of the Tambopata River. Dawn has just broke and a group of lucky guests have settled in to chairs set up on the river bank. Although the air retains the quiet of the dark, jungle night, that calm will shortly be shattered by the screeches and cries of hundreds of parakeets, parrots, and macaws as they fly in to the Tambopata Research Center colpa. This is why most of these guests have gone so far up river and since the Tambopata clay lick is one of the largest in the world, the trip will be more than worth it.
It doesn’t take long before the birds begin to arrive. The macaws announce their presence long before they are seen with cries of dinosaur proportions. As a pair come flying in on steady wings, they suddenly seem to glow with red as the first morning rays of the sun light up their plumage. They continue to fly closer and the guests marvel at the combination of flaming scarlet, blue, and yellow feathers. Their long tails slightly wavering behind them, the first Scarlet Macaws of the day alight in a tall tree above the clay lick. While admiring these wild, exotic beauties through a telescope, more pairs of brilliantly plumaged Scarlet Macaws fly in for their morning colpa visit. It’s a fantastic way to start any day and at TRC, the spectacle of Scarlet Macaws is commonplace.
Some interesting facts about the Scarlet Macaw (Ara macao):
- The macaw with the largest range: The historic range of the Scarlet Macaw was from eastern Mexico south through Central America and throughout most of the Amazon rainforest. Formerly common in southeastern Mexico, they have disappeared from much of that country as well as several other parts of their range in Central America. They are still fairly common in remote parts of the Amazon such as the Tambopata Reserve.
- How to tell them from the similar Red and Green Macaw: Scarlet Macaws are similar in appearance to the Red and Green Macaw (Ara Chloroptera) but can be separated from their slightly heavier cousin by the yellow in their wings, long tail that wiggles in flight, and by the lack of feathering on the face. Red and Green Macaws also have larger heads than Scarlet Macaws.
- Scarlet Macaws need extensive, old growth forest: These large birds require huge areas of forest with plenty of big trees that can provide food and nesting sites. They eat a variety of seeds and fruits.
- A small percentage of Scarlet Macaws nest each year: A rather small proportion of the Scarlet Macaw population in Tambopata nests each year due to the lack of adequate nest sites. They require tree cavities of a certain size and this appears to be one of the main limiting factors for their population in the region.
- Long-lived: Scarlet Macaws can live for 30-40 years in the wild and some individuals might reach 60 years of age. Their longevity makes up for the low percentage of birds that raise young each year.
How to see Scarlet Macaws during your trip to the Peruvian Amazon:
- Visit the clay licks or “colpas”: Scarlet Macaws are regular visitors to the clay licks near the Rainforest Expedition lodges for much of the year.
- Watch from a canopy tower: Scarlet Macaws frequent the canopy of the rainforest and this is one of the best places to watch them as they fly past or perch in the tops of giant jungle trees.
- Visit a nesting site: Rainforest Expedition guides are happy to bring guests to accessible nesting sites to get good looks at Scarlet Macaws. Nests are watched from an appropriate distance to avoid disturbing the birds in any way.
Visit Tambopata for your Peruvian jungle adventure and you can expect to see Scarlet Macaws because these spectacular birds are encountered on most trips to the Rainforest Expedition lodges.