New Collaboration: One Parrot, Two Parrot, Red Parrot, Blue Parrot
Updated: Jul 25, 2020
I recently travelled to Campo Grande in Brazil to kick off a new collaboration with the Instituto Ara Azul (Hyacinth Macaw Institute). The team at IAA, lead by the amazing Neiva Guedes, have been studying Hyacinth Macaw (Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus) for more than 30 years. Their main study site is in the Pantanal, the world’s largest tropical wetland which is teeming with biodiversity as well as extensive cattle ranching operations. Through their tireless work the IAA have managed to bring the hyacinth macaws back from the brink and even moved them off the endangered species list. Their work is focused on the breeding biology of the macaws and includes intense monitoring of nest hollows, providing artificial nest boxes and passionate public outreach and engagement with ranchers and local people.
I visited the IAA to see if our research group at SCBI could bring some of our expertise and resources in animal tracking and GIS analysis to bear on the study of macaw ecology. I am particularly interested in developing hardy GPS tracking units that can survive the crushing bill and powerful brain of the world’s largest parrot species. We also hope to use satellite imagery or even drone imagery to map and quantify the Acuri palm trees around their main research site. The macaws are heavily reliant on this species throughout the year and mapping this resource across large areas would be a big step forward in understanding their movement ecology. The IAA’s research has revealed much about the lives of macaws in and around the nest but we hope to broaden that understanding and track individuals as they mature and move away from home.
In Campo Grande itself, the IAA are also working on the charismatic and beautiful Blue and Yellow Macaw (Ara ararauna), the symbol of the city. Nesting in cavities made in ornamental palm trees this species appear to be colonising the city at an increasing rate. The study looks at nest characteristics, parasite loads, breeding biology and growth rates of chicks. They also study hybridisation between the Red and Green Macaw (Ara chloropterus) and the Blue and Yellow.
At both study sites the natural hollows and nest boxes are often occupied by other species including falcons, other parrot species like the red bellied macaw and small passerines or even waterfowl.
Nest cameras have revealed that nest predators are a constant threat with one of the most common being the comical looking Toco Toucan (Ramphastos toco) which is a formidable nest predator and will displace macaws.
Hopefully this visit marks the beginning of fruitful collaboration and a big step forwards in the study of these magnificent birds.