More Mysteries of Blue-throated Macaw Revealed Through Tracking Study

Lucas Carrara, Luciene Carrara, and Lisa Davenport place a tracker on a Blue-throated Macaw to learn more about its movements and migration. Photo by Tjalle Boorsma.

Lucas Carrara, Luciene Carrara, and Lisa Davenport (all trained professionals) place a tracker on a Blue-throated Macaw to learn more about its movements and migration. Photo by Tjalle Boorsma.

With support from American Bird Conservancy (ABC), Asociación Armonía (Armonía) has tracked, for the first time ever, Critically Endangered Blue-throated Macaws, which increases our understanding of the birds' migration patterns, local movements, roosting sites, and home range in Bolivia's Beni Savannah. This milestone was achieved after three years of attempts to trap and place satellite transmitters on this species.

Numbering fewer than 450 individuals, the endemic Blue-throated Macaw is a bird of mystery. For the last 12 years, Armonía has protected the most important roosting and foraging sites for the northern population of this rare species at the Barba Azul Nature Reserve. However, during the breeding season (November through March), this species leaves the reserve and “disappears” into unknown reaches of the Beni Savannah.

In order to better understand this species' ecology and conservation needs, Armonía partnered with independent researcher Dr. Lisa Davenport. For two consecutive years, Armonía's Conservation Director Tjalle Boorsma and Davenport tried to capture a few of these birds, with no luck. During year two, Wendy Willis, ABC's Deputy Director of International Programs, accompanied the research team at Barba Azul. No matter the techniques tried, the macaws would not cooperate. “The challenges and adventure were magnified by knowing that the satellite transmitters would allow us to learn so much more about the macaw's northern population breeding locations,” said Willis.

Positive outcomes finally came in August 2019, when Davenport, Boorsma, and Brazilian macaw scientists Lucas Carrara and Luciene Carrara attempted a new capture strategy based on a better understanding of the bird's behaviors and patterns. Four Blue-throated Macaws were captured and safely handled, and three received transmitters before all were released. Carrying off the transmitters with them, these birds provided long-awaited information on their movements and migration route.

Soon after, Boorsma and his Armonía colleagues pinpointed locations of two of the tracked Blue-throated Macaws during their breeding season. It's taken a lot of sweat and dedication to reach this point: So far, three field teams have logged 340 miles (550 kilometers) of horseback exploration in their efforts to locate and study the macaws' movements in the northern Beni.

Armonía is also working directly with ranch owners to implement sustainable ranching techniques that help protect the breeding, roosting, and feeding grounds of this majestic species. A sustainable ranching handbook has been published and distributed. The document, in Spanish, can be found here: Sustainable Ranching Guide aims to increase Habitat Conservation in the Beni.

ABC is grateful for the generous support of David and Patricia Davidson and an anonymous donor, who helped make the tracking study possible.


Media Contact: Jordan Rutter, Director of Public Relations, 202-888-7472 | | @JERutter
Expert Contact: Wendy Willis, Deputy Director of International Programs, 540-253-5780 |

American Bird Conservancy is a nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. With an emphasis on achieving results and working in partnership, we take on the greatest problems facing birds today, innovating and building on rapid advancements in science to halt extinctions, protect habitats, eliminate threats, and build capacity for bird conservation. Find us on, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (@ABCbirds).