Manzanillo de Talamanca de Limón, COSTA RICA
Love is in the air for the Great Green Macaws. It is that special time of the year, the season of love. What does that mean? For a Great Green Macaw (Ara Ambiguus), it means that it’s time to find a mate and start a family. That, as we all know can be challenging. It is believed that Macaws mate for life and are monogamous, and as a result, they take their time finding that perfect partner. Choosing just one can be a challenge, and sometimes, a macaw will live with two partners for a good deal of time, before settling on that perfect bird.
Dating, as with we humans, is a time to bond and get to know your partner for macaws. Romance macaw style means doing nearly everything together and being practically inseparable.
They dine together, even feeding each other through regurgitation as they will later do for their young.
These two actions are extremely strong bonding activities and are very important to macaw partnerships. The actions are believed to act as familiarizing behaviors as well, the theory being that the more familiar the pair are with one another, the stronger their bond will be and thus will be more successful parents in the long run.
Macaws even house hunt together. They can be observed testing and inspecting tree cavities and nest boxes, preferably in very high trees, especially in the mountain almond trees that their lives seem to revolve around. Indeed, the breeding season for the great green macaw coincides with the fruiting of the mountain almond tree. If the mountain almond fruits earlier than usual, the macaws also can be observed exhibiting breeding behaviors earlier in the season than is typical. Sometimes the birds might spend a week in a location before moving on to a more suitable spot.
Occasionally younger or recently sexually mature birds will “play house” meaning that they go through all of the behaviors of a parenting pair of macaws without actually being parents.
This behavior usually includes finding a home and even sitting on imaginary eggs.This “play” behavior is very important, as it also serves as practice for when they are older and actually ready to have a family.
After finding a suitable home that is up to their very high standards the female usually lays two eggs and broods them while the male forages and procures food for her.
Also similar to humans, macaws typically co-parent their young. This means sharing the parental responsibilities such as feeding, protecting and educating them for survival in their adult lives. The young leave the actual nest after about three months. After leaving the nest, young macaws stay with their parents for between one year to a one and a half years of age, in some cases up to two years, until they become completely independent and can fend for themselves.
So, at this time of year, if you see a pair of macaws who appear to be doing nearly everything together, they might very well be in the process of starting a family and adding a new member to their flock.
The ARA Project is an organization devoted to the repopulation and conservation of both macaw species indigenous to Costa Rica through captive breeding and gradual release and monitoring with the ultimate goal of having our released birds repopulate on their own accord in the wild.
Buffie Biddle is an author, illustrator, photographer and nature lover, as well as a lover of all wildlife everywhere. She is also a devoted volunteer of ARA Project Manzanillo