Two subspecies present differing widths in their yellow wing band:
- A. macao macao South American Scarlet Macaw, the nominate subspecies
- A. macao cyanoptera (Wiedenfeld 1995) North Central American Scarlet Macaw
The Central American scarlet macaw is larger and has blue on its wings instead of green.
It is native to humid evergreen forests of tropical South America. Range extends from extreme south-eastern Mexico to Amazonian Peru, Bolivia, Venezuela and Brazil in lowlands up to 500 m (1,640 ft) (at least formerly) up to 1,000 m (3,281 ft). It has suffered from local extinction through habitat destruction and capture for the parrot trade, but locally it remains fairly common. Formerly it ranged north to southern Tamaulipas. It can still be found on the island of Coiba. It is the national bird of Honduras.
Because the Scarlet Macaw has such a large range, it makes it easier to plan a trip to see them in the wild. I have personally seen them at Carara National Park in Costa Rica (use a Central American award), Tambopata in Peru (use a nothern South American award) and Alta Floresta & Cristalino in Brazil (use a southern South American award). Carara can also be accessed by cruise ship passengers, a great way to get your feet wet if you are new to bird watching! Book a Panama Canal cruise that stops in Puntarenas.
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The Ara Project in Costa Rica releases some Scarlet Macaws who were bred to fly free and replenish the wild population.
The filmer cut off the best part, where the Chicos of Tambopata raid the breakfast table!