Macaw (Ara militaris)
in Puerto Vallarta
By Griffin Page
Naturalist ~ Eco-guide
species of Macaws can be encountered in Mexico. The Military
Macaw (Ara militaris), which used to be found in three regions
(the Pacific slope, the Huasteca and mid-south of the country)
and the Scarlet Macaw (Ara macao) in the south of the country.
Mostly because of the fragmentation of their population, habitat
and their exploitation that has been ongoing since pre-Hispanic
times, their range and numbers have drastically decreased
and are still declining. The species is considered by IUCN
(Hilton-Taylor, 2000) as Vulnerable and is found in CITES,
Appendix I (CITES, 2003), which prohibits their commercialization
and is defined as endangered by the Mexican government, (SEMARNAT,
The current distribution of the Military
Macaw worldwide is as follows: Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia,
Ecuador, Mexico, Peru and Venezuela. The total population
is estimated at a little over 10,000 individuals (BirdLife
International, 2003) but has not been studied extensively.
However, a census has been made in Jalisco and some studies
were done in the States of Sinaloa and Querétaro and
they have been found to be a rare species in its distribution
range. So we are blessed to have them in the south part of
our Bay. Let’s take care of them.
species requires big extensions of forests for feeding and
nesting. Since they eat only a few species of flowers, fruits,
sheaths, seeds, new buds of leaves and sometimes insects,
this leads us to believe that they are particular about their
diets which will include Bromeliads, Orchids, Mimosas, Leguminous
plants and certain Palms just to name a few. They prefer to
nest in secondary holes of tree trunks where they can enlarge
those left by other birds such as woodpeckers or use naturally
made holes like the rotten base of a branch. They may also
use holes in clay walls or build their own in rotten tree
trunks and their nest can be up to 40 meters in altitude but
in nature, the availability of adequate nesting cavities is
very limited. At right: "Tequila" with the author
No more than 19% to 30% of a Macaw population
reproducing can raise 1 to 1.5 young birds in the wild per
season. Depredation and habitat loss caused by humans and
other natural factors like storms, illnesses, parasites, natural
predators and competition for nesting cavities are all threats
to the survival of this species. It has disappeared from many
regions of Mexico where it once deployed its extensive colorful
wings. Two major populations remain: Tamaulipas and Jalisco.
The area of Cajón de Peñas (one hour south of
Vallarta) was determined, through research, to be an adequate
area for their protection should a wildlife refuge be established.
Conservation efforts in the
case of Military Macaws should include:
Communication and Education - Awareness
Research actions - Population numbers and range
Research actions - Biology and Ecology
Research actions - Trends/Monitoring
Habitat and site-based actions - Protected areas - Management
Species-based actions - Sustainable use - Harvest management
left: "Tequila" * Tequila is a rescued military
Macaw, which is happily living free on the premises of a restaurant.
It survived but will unfortunately never reproduce.
I don’t know of anyone who wouldn’t
be sad to see these extraordinary colorful birds vanish. There
is still time to stop this decline. Get involved and help
save this species from extinction.
could be such a wonderful teacher if only we saw it for what
it really is” ~ Monachí