Scarlet Macaws of Costa Rica

I just returned from Costa Rica on my latest Photography Workshop to the Osa Peninsula. The wildlife was excellent including Capuchin, Spider and Howler Monkeys, Red-Legged Honey Creepers, Coatis, Green Iguanas, Magnificent Frigate Birds, Tiger Herons and of course – Scarlet Macaws! The Macaw photography was particularly good this year – see below for some of my images.

The Scarlet Macaw soaring above the canopy along the humid coastline of Costa Rica is a sight to behold. A true testament to the wilderness and the wild spirit of the lands they inhabit – especially since these birds are endangered in many areas due to habitat destruction and the exotic bird trade. Although technically endangered in some areas these animals can be easily photographed in certain regions of Costa Rica – namely the Osa Peninsula.

The Scarlet Macaw is a large parrot with striking bold colorations of red, yellow, and blue. Native to the humid evergreen forests of Central and South America and you can typically hear them when you are nearby as they have a raucous call that echoes for miles. Male Macaws will be quite vocal at sundown telling the rest of the birds to get ready for the night.

The Scarlet Macaw can easily be distinguished from other macaws by a few key differences in their appearance. The first and easiest way to distinguish them is the tell-tale bold coloring on their feathers.  The other way of telling these birds apart is that Scarlets have a much greater percentage of tail in percentage to their body. In addition, the Scarlet Macaw has a white patch which differentiates it from some of the other Macaw species.

They range from Southeastern Mexico to Brazil and can be found in humid lowlands (below 3000 feet in elevation), open woodlands, river edges, coastlines, and jungles. These birds have a remarkable average lifespan of approximately 50 years and average about 32 inches long with more than half of their overall length being the tail.

Scarlet Macaws diet includes nuts, fruits, seeds, leaves, flowers, and stems. An interesting note about Macaw’s behavior is that due to the toxicity of some of the food they ingest the Scarlet Macaw can be seen licking clay off of river banks to help neutralize the potential of toxins in their diet. While not unique to the Scarlet Macaw their clay licking is an interesting sight to behold.

If you want to photograph these strange and beautiful creatures join Backcountry Journeys in Costa Rica for our  Wildlife of Costa Rica. 


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