BirdLife species factsheet for Great Green Macaw
Great Green Macaw occurs from Honduras through Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama south to Colombia and western Ecuador. It inhabits humid and wet lowland and foothill forest, but is also found in dry deciduous forest and occasionally in edge habitat and open areas (Fjeldså et al. 1987, Juniper and Parr 1998, Berg et al. 2007). It is found mainly below 600 m, but occurs to 1,000 m and occasionally up to 1,500 m. It nests in tree cavities, preferably in Dipertyx panamensis (Macaw Recovery Network 2020).
The species has a disjunct range and localised distribution. The population in Honduras currently numbers c. 400 individuals (H. O. Portillo Reyes per S. Nazeri in litt. 2020), which roughly equates to 260 mature individuals. The population in northern Costa Rica and southern Nicaragua numbered less than 200 individuals, equating to c. 130 mature individuals, in 2019 (Macaw Recovery Network 2019). In Ecuador, Great Green Macaw occurs in two disjunct subpopulations, with a total of up to 50-70 individuals, equating to 35-50 mature individuals, in 2020 (M. Moens per S. Nazeri in litt. 2020). The species’s strongholds are thought to be the Darién region in Colombia and adjacent Panama. In 2014, the population in Colombia was estimated at up to 1,700 mature individuals (Renjifo et al. 2014); however recent population data are not available for either Colombia or Panama (S. Lopez Serna and B. Schmitt per S. Nazeri in litt. 2020). The global population is tentatively placed here in the band 1,500-2,500 mature individuals, though this number requires confirmation.
Great Green Macaw is very sensitive to habitat disturbance (Collar et al. 2020). Throughout its range, forests are logged mainly for agricultural use, conversion into plantations, settlements, expansion of the road network and mining (Stattersfield et al. 1998). The species is furthermore captured for the pet trade, for food and feathers, and shot as a crop pest (Juniper and Parr 1998, Collar et al. 2020). Despite intensive conservation efforts particularly in Costa Rica and Ecuador, the species is in rapid decline (Collar et al. 2020).
Great Green Macaw is currently listed as Endangered under Criterion A2cd+3cd+4cd (BirdLife International 2020). However, new information regarding the population trend in Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Ecuador as well as uncertainty over the population size and trend in Honduras, Panama and Colombia require a reassessment against all Red List criteria:
Criterion A – The species is undergoing a decline caused by habitat destruction and capture for the cagebird trade, but the overall rate is difficult to assess. The timeframe relevant to calculate the population reduction for Criterion A is three generation lengths, i.e. 33.6 years (see Bird et al. 2020)*.
Based on currently available information, we can quantify the rate of the decline for the subpopulations in Ecuador and in Nicaragua-Costa Rica: While the overall population in Ecuador numbered c. 60-90 individuals in 2002, it declined to 50-70 in 2020 (Benítez et al. 2002, E. Horstman and M. Moens per S. Nazeri in litt. 2020). This equates to a rate of decline of 34% over three generations for the national population in Ecuador, which meets the threshold for Vulnerable. The subpopulation in Nicaragua and Costa Rica numbered 834 individuals in 2009, but was estimated at only up to 200 individuals in 2019 (Monge et al. 2010, Macaw Recovery Network 2019). This equates to a decline of 99% over three generations for Nicaragua and Costa Rica, which meets the threshold for Critically Endangered.
We have no information on the rate of population changes in Honduras and in Panama-Colombia. In view of the threats that the species is facing, it is highly likely that the species is undergoing rapid declines also in these countries. The national population in Colombia has been estimated as declining by 50-79% over three generations in 2014, which led to a national assessment as Endangered (Renjifo et al. 2014). However, studies are lacking to assess the current population trend and rate of decline of this subpopulation. We therefore ask for recent information on the population trend in Honduras and in Panama-Colombia. Does the estimated decline by 50-79% over three generations in Colombia still hold true? What is the rate of population change in Honduras?
Criterion B – The Extent of Occurrence (EOO) for this species is 1,100,000 km2. The maximum Area of Occupancy (AOO), calculated as a 4 km2 grid over the area of mapped range, is c. 117,000 km2. The range is too large to warrant listing as threatened, and Great Green Macaw is hence considered Least Concern under this criterion.
Criterion C – The global population is preliminarily estimated at 1,500-2,500 mature individuals. This meets the threshold for Endangered under Criterion C; however in order to be listed under this criterion further conditions must be fulfilled.
Great Green Macaw is undergoing a decline, but the overall rate of decline is not known. Hence, with the currently available information the species cannot be assessed against subcriterion 1. The species is thought to form several disjunct subpopulations, the largest of which is found in Colombia and Panama. In 2014 this subpopulation was thought to number around 1,700 mature individuals and to be in fast decline (Renjifo et al. 2014), but we have no recent information on the status of this subpopulation. Therefore, in order to fully assess the species against Criterion C, we are asking for up-to-date information on the size and trend of the subpopulation in Panama and Colombia. What is the current population size in Colombia and Panama? Is the species still undergoing a decline by 50-79% over three generations in Colombia, as stated in Renjifo et al. (2014)?
Criterion D – The population size is estimated at roughly 1,500-2,500 mature individuals. Assuming that the true population size is closer to the lower end of the estimate, the species qualifies as Near Threatened, approaching the threshold for listing as threatened under Criterion D1.
Criterion E – To the best of our knowledge no quantitative analysis of extinction risk has been conducted for this species. Therefore, it cannot be assessed against this criterion.
Overall, it is highly likely that Great Green Macaw (Ara ambiguus) warrants listing as threatened under Criterion A and potentially also under C; however, the currently available data does not allow a full assessment against these criteria. We therefore ask for recent information on the size and trend of the populations in Honduras, Panama and Colombia.
Please note that this topic is not designed to be a general discussion about the ecology of the species, rather a discussion of its Red List status. Therefore, please make sure your comments are relevant to the discussion outlined in the topic. By submitting a comment, you confirm that you agree to the Comment Policy.
*Bird generation lengths are estimated using the methodology of Bird et al. (2020), as applied to parameter values updated for use in each IUCN Red List for birds reassessment cycle. Values used for the current assessment are available on request. We encourage people to contact us with additional or improved values for the following parameters; adult survival (true survival accounting for dispersal derived from an apparently stable population); mean age at first breeding; and maximum longevity (i.e. the biological maximum, hence values from captive individuals are acceptable).
An information booklet on the Red List Categories and Criteria can be downloaded here and the Red List Criteria Summary Sheet can be downloaded here. Detailed guidance on IUCN Red List terms and definitions and the application of the Red List Categories and Criteria can be downloaded here.
Benítez, V.; Jahn, O.; Valenzuela, P. M.; Berg, K. 2002. Guacamayo Verde Mayor (Ara ambigua). In: Granizo, T.; Pacheco, C.; Ribadeira, M. B.; Guerrero, M.; Suárez, L. (ed.), Libro rojo de las aves del Ecuador, pp. 83-84. SIMBIOE/Conservation International, Quito, Ecuador.
Berg, K. S.; Socola, J.; Angel, R. R. 2007. Great Green Macaws and the annual cycle of their food plants in Ecuador. Journal of Field Ornithology 78(1): 1-10.
Bird, J. P.; Martin, R.; Akçakaya, H. R.; Gilroy, J.; Burfield, I. J.; Garnett, S.; Symes, A.; Taylor, J.; Šekercioğlu, Ç.; Butchart, S. H. M. 2020. Generation lengths of the world’s birds and their implications for extinction risk. Conservation Biology online first view.
BirdLife International. 2020. Species factsheet: Ara ambiguus. http://www.birdlife.org (Accessed 29 April 2020).
Collar, N.; Boesman, P. F. D.; Sharpe, C. J. 2020. Great Green Macaw (Ara ambiguus), version 1.0. In: del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A.; Sargatal, J.; Christie, D. A.; de Juana, E. (eds.). Birds of the World. Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.grgmac.01 (Accessed 29 April 2020).
Fjeldså, J.; Krabbe, N.; Ridgely, R. S. 1987. Great Green Macaw Ara ambigua collected in northwest Ecuador with taxonomic comments on Ara militaris. Bulletin of the British Ornithologists’ Club 107: 28-31.
Juniper, T.; Parr, M. 1998. Parrots: a guide to the parrots of the world. Pica Press, Robertsbridge, UK.
Macaw Recovery Network. 2019. Great Green Macaw roost count, October 2019. Internal report.
Macaw Recovery Network. 2020. Great Green Macaw (Ara ambiguus) wild breeding. Internal report.
Monge, G.; Chassot, O.; Ramírez, O.; Alemán, I. ; Figueroa, A. 2010. Censo poblacional durante el periodo reproductivo de la subpoblación de Ara ambiguus en el sureste de Nicaragua y norte de Costa Rica 2009. Zeledonia 14(2): 12-24.
Renjifo, L. M.; Gomez, M. F.; Velasquez-Tibata, J.; Amaya-Villarreal, A. M.; Kattan, G. H.; Amaya-Espinel, J. D.; Burbano-Giron, J., 2014. Libro rojo de aves de Colombia, Volumen I: bosques humedos de los Andes y la costa Pacifica. Editorial Pontificia Universidad Javeriana and Instituto Alexander von Humboldt, Bogota, Colombia.
Stattersfield, A. J.; Crosby, M. J.; Long, A. J.; Wege, D. C. 1998. Endemic bird areas of the world: priorities for bird conservation. BirdLife International, Cambridge, U.K.