New system for tracking macaws emphasizes species’ conservation needs

Texas A&M University

New data on macaw movements gathered by the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences’ (CVMBS) The Macaw Society has the potential to greatly improve conservation strategies for the scarlet macaw, as well as similar species of large parrots.

While the overall conservation status of the scarlet macaw is listed as “least concern” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the species is declining across much of Central America and in other parts of its range in South America. The species also shares its habitat with numerous endangered species and influences the ecosystems in which it lives.

The Macaw Society’s paper, recently published in Avian Conservation & Ecology, is the result of the long-term research study of the ecology and conservation of macaws and other parrots in Peru’s Tambopata National Reserve.

Historically, the migratory movements of large parrots and macaws have largely remained a mystery because of the difficulty of tracking them over the long distances they travel. The recent publication describing the discoveries made using satellite tracking of individual birds over large areas has shed some light on this mystery.

The research team — consisting of associate professor Donald Brightsmith; adjunct associate professor Janice Boyd; Elizabeth Hobson from the University of Cincinnati; and Charles Randel from the Southwestern Wildlife Survey in California — used ARGOS satellite telemetry (orbiting satellites that detect signals emitted from a transmitter attached to an animal) to track six scarlet macaws and four blue-and-yellow macaws over a period of eight years.

They found that both macaw species had very large home ranges, consisting of thousands of hectares (with 1 hectare equaling 2.471 acres), and often traveled 20 to 40 km (approximately 12 to 25 miles) per day. Individuals of both species moved up to 160 km (99 miles) during the periods of low food availability, likely searching for areas with dense patches of food trees.

New data on macaw movements gathered by the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences’ (CVMBS) The Macaw Society has the potential to greatly improve conservation strategies for the scarlet macaw, as well as similar species of large parrots.

While the overall conservation status of the scarlet macaw is listed as “least concern” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the species is declining across much of Central America and in other parts of its range in South America. The species also shares its habitat with numerous endangered species and influences the ecosystems in which it lives.

The Macaw Society’s paper, recently published in Avian Conservation & Ecology, is the result of the long-term research study of the ecology and conservation of macaws and other parrots in Peru’s Tambopata National Reserve.

Historically, the migratory movements of large parrots and macaws have largely remained a mystery because of the difficulty of tracking them over the long distances they travel. The recent publication describing the discoveries made using satellite tracking of individual birds over large areas has shed some light on this mystery.

The research team — consisting of associate professor Donald Brightsmith; adjunct associate professor Janice Boyd; Elizabeth Hobson from the University of Cincinnati; and Charles Randel from the Southwestern Wildlife Survey in California — used ARGOS satellite telemetry (orbiting satellites that detect signals emitted from a transmitter attached to an animal) to track six scarlet macaws and four blue-and-yellow macaws over a period of eight years.

They found that both macaw species had very large home ranges, consisting of thousands of hectares (with 1 hectare equaling 2.471 acres), and often traveled 20 to 40 km (approximately 12 to 25 miles) per day. Individuals of both species moved up to 160 km (99 miles) during the periods of low food availability, likely searching for areas with dense patches of food trees.

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