Because in this edition we also
report on the commissioning of the Chalillo Dam in the Cayo District
which many environmentalist believe has destroyed the main nesting
sites for the Scarlet Macaw, a bird highly sensitive to its environment,
we thought is would be a great opportunity to research the status
of the Ara macao, the Scarlet Macaw population in Belize.
With a range from South Central Mexico to Bolivia and Central
Brazil, the Scarlet Macaw prefers a habitat that consists of forest
area, lowland tropical rain forest up to 90m and mountains. Here
in Belize, the Scarlet Macaws that has a population of somewhere
between 24 and 200 birds are primarily located in the deep reaches
of the Maya Mountains. In the wild their diet consists of tropical
fruits, figs, berries and nuts. During the breeding season, the
Scarlet Macaw is also known to have a taste for insects and their
As with most species of Parrots, the Scarlet Macaw is also threatened
with extinction because humans are destroying much of their habitat
at an increasing alarming rate. With their large, red, yellow
and blue feathers, their pointed tail and huge bill, the Scarlet
Macaw is probably the most strikingly beautiful of all the macaws.
The Scarlet Macaw is sometimes confused with the Green Wing Macaw
because they both are primarily red, but this is their only similarity.
Generally, the Scarlet's red is not as dark as that of the Green
Wing. The Scarlet is not as heavy bodied as the Green Wing, although,
it is usually six to eight inches longer because of its long,
slender tail. Other Macaw species include spixs, lears, blue throated,
red fronted, hyacinth, great green or buffons, military, green
wing, blue and gold, scarlet, yellow collared, chestnut fronted
or severe, red bellied, blue winged or illigers, noble, hahns
and, blue headed, glaucous (probably extinct).
According to Ms. Sharon Matola, the founder and director of The
Belize Zoo, "The Scarlet Macaw is arguably the most magnificent
bird of the parrot family. With their wide strong wings, macaws
can reach speeds of 35 miles per hour. They often fly in pairs
or small groups and often call to each other in raucous hoarse
voices. Macaws appear to prefer higher elevations and riparian
(riverine) forests. They are known to have very large territories.
They prefer to nest in holes high up in trees and usually lay
one or two eggs. They feed on specific fruits such as polewood,
roaming large areas searching for clumps of their favorite foods.
As recent as 1989, the reported Belizean population of Scarlet
Macaws was a total of 24 birds. But in 1996, a new population
of over 100 birds was "discovered" south of the Cockscomb
Basin Wildlife Sanctuary. Unfortunately, over most of its range,
the Scarlet macaw is endangered, a victim of human greed - many
have been taken as a commodity in the pet trade".
Known to be excellent climbers, the average size of an adult
Scarlet Macaw is 3 feet from head to tail and weigh up to 2.5
pounds. They produce up to four eggs over an incubation period
of 24 to 25 days. The young fledge at 105 days and stay with parents
up to one year. With the establishment of the World Parrot Trust
in 1989 private breeders are now providing feathers to try to
slow the poaching of birds for feathers. Sadly, these days in
Belize, the chances of seeing the Scarlet Macaw while doing some
quality tropical backyard birding is slim to none.