Breeding Outcomes Attest to Success of Artificial NestBox Program at Laney Rickman Blue-throated Macaw Reserve

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Blue-throated Macaw chicks that successfully fledged from PBA-16 (E4).
Photo: Cesar Flores – Asociación Armonía.

Highlights from the 2019-2020 breeding season:

  • 12 Blue-throated Macaw chicks fledged, tying last year’s record
  • 9 Blue-throated Macaw breeding attempts, tying last year’s record
  • 7 banded breeding adults, evidence that offspring from prior years’ nestboxes are attempting to breed
  • Longest breeding period on record (207 days; Dec. 16, 2019-July 8, 2020) 
  • First ever record of clutch size with 4 eggs
  • 93 Blue-throated Macaws fledged since program initiation in 2005

The Blue-throated Macaw (Ara glaucogularis) is a Critically Endangered species with an estimated total population of 312-455 individuals, found only within the Llanos de Moxos ecosystem of the Beni department of Bolivia. The Laney Rickman Blue-throated Macaw Reserve, located south of the city of Trinidad, is the most important breeding area for the struggling species and home to one of three subpopulations of this rare, beautiful macaw.

Each time the calendar flips from one year to the next, hope builds for the future of the species, knowing it is breeding season. Armonía’s active nestbox program at Laney Rickman is offering the macaws additional nesting options, thereby relieving scarcity of acceptable nesting locations and easing competition from other species with artificial nests that through the years have been adapted based on the macaws’ observed preferences. 

PBA-21 (LA8) produced two fledglings. Photo: Asociación Armonía.

The availability of protected habitat and the understanding of breeding habits gained over fifteen years of efforts are reaping observable rewards for the species. This year’s breeding season was bountiful, with 12 Blue-throated Macaws successfully hatched, reared, and fledged, tying the record from 2018-2019 for the most successful fledglings in a season. 

Nine clutches of eggs were laid in the nestboxes, as in the previous year.  Of the breeding adults, seven (up from five in the 2018-2019 season) involved in this season’s activity were previous offspring from nestboxes, showing that overall the nestbox program is achieving conservation goals, increasing the number of healthy individuals in the population. This year’s young bring the total fledged from Armonia’s nestboxes to 93 fledglings since 2005. Macaws raised in nestboxes now comprise roughly 25% of the total Blue-throated Macaw population!

Blue-throated Macaw chicks in PBA 18 (LA2). All chicks successfully fledged. Photo: Cesar Flores – Asociacion Armonia.

Interestingly, this season was the longest recorded period for breeding activity at Laney Rickman. Even with the first egg laid a month later than in the previous year, breeding activities were documented for an additional 48 days over the year before. This record season ran from Dec. 16, 2019 to July 8, 2020, a total of 207 days. Another notable highlight was the largest-recorded clutch of four eggs. Although this nest was not successful due to predation, we now know that larger clutches are possible.

Largest-ever observed clutch of Blue-throated Macaw eggs. Photo: Cesar Flores – Asociación Armonía.

These achievements result from ongoing efforts to adapt techniques and protect and improve habitat. Nestboxes are attractive to many species; competition with the similar yet more stable Blue-and-yellow Macaw has been reduced, even eliminated this season, by altering the size of the nestbox entrance hole.  Fire breaks are a necessity to protect habitat; in 2019, a full 12 km of firebreaks plus an additional 2 km of road that double as firebreaks were implemented.

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#1 was occupied twice by Blue-throated Macaws and produced two fledglings. Photo: Asociación Armonía


Conservation measures at Laney Rickman Reserve are supported through a fund established by Laney Rickman’s family, the Bird Endowment, Asociacion Armonia, and The American Bird Conservancy to honor Laney’s legacy of advocacy for the Blue-throated Macaw. Donations made through ARTIS Zoo, Parrot Society UK, the Nido AdoptivoTM nestbox program and ZGAP provide for nestbox placement and monitoring, as well as supporting habitat conservation and reserve management. Park Ranger salary support is graciously provided through the Keepers of the Wild Program supported by the World Land Trust.

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For more information about sponsoring a nest box for the upcoming breeding season, please visit www.birdendowment.org.

For further details about conservation activities at the Laney Rickman Reserve, see the latest Annual Report.

Don’t miss the full video explanation of this year’s breeding activities!

Blue-throated Macaw chicks in PBA-21 (LA8). Photo: Cesar Flores – Asociación Armonía.


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