Almendo Trees Are Home to Great Green Macaws

December 19, 2012
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Bird lovers planning to join International Expeditions’ Costa Rica ecotours will relish their time in Sarapiquí. The Sarapiquí region of Costa Rica's Heredia province is one of the few remaining locations where travelers can see the great green macaw. Keep your eyes on the trees to catch a glimpse of a macaw's nest, and listen for their crow-like call.

This endangered bird is a brilliant shade of green, as its name suggests. The tips of their tail feathers and wings are a vibrant blue, and they have bright distinguishing patches of red on their tails and another tuft of red feathers on their faces, which are accompanied by a few black feathers. Their large hooked beaks are perfect for snatching mountain almonds from the fruit of the almendro tree.

The almendro tree is the macaws' main source of food, as well as the ideal site for nest-building. It can support thousands of organisms, including the macaw, so travelers will likely see a number of different species swinging from its branches and scurrying around beneath it, gathering fruit. The sweet green pulp provides the perfect meal for many including the macaw, but small rodents can gnaw through the wooden pod and get to the tasty seed within.

These trees are hard to miss on small group excursions near the Sarapiquí River. They have large trunks that split off into smaller branches almost endlessly, which results in a large, rounded treetop. The bark of the tree is smooth and can appear pink or yellow, and the branches are covered in purple flowers for a month or two into the rainy season.

It is among the hollows of these trees that the great green macaws choose to build their nests. These South American parrots typically begin breeding in late summer and lay as many as three eggs at a time. They choose their nesting locations based on which trees are having fruitful seasons, as the almendros may produce lots of fruit one season and very little the next.

The great green macaw has been classified as endangered since 2006, but the Great Green Macaw Research and Conservation Project has been making strides to protect this colorful symbol of the Central American jungle since 1994. Conservationists are working to enact a ban on logging the almendro tree in an effort to protect the macaw.