photo of scarlet macaws during ecuador birding tour
Scarlet Macaws in the Deep Amazon

Ecuador Birding – Macaw Habitat

We embarked on an incredible Ecuador birding adventure to find the Scarlet Macaw. Macaws are the largest members of the Parrot family and can be found from Southern Mexico to Peru, Bolivia, Brazil and Venezuela. When not on the hunt for food or visiting mineral licks, Scarlet macaws spend their time in tall trees in the forests usually near rivers.

Locating the Scarlet Macaw

One of the most beautiful of the Macaw family to photograph is the Scarlet macaw. Finding it is not as easy as one would think and then getting the right opportunities to photograph this bird in the wild is even more difficult.

We journeyed in the deep Amazon forest in Eastern Ecuador for a six day adventure with a focus on finding as many species of birds as we can. Among the primary targets for photography was the Scarlet Macaw. With our guide, cooks and boat driver we set out along a tributary of the popular Yasuni River for this expedition.

Birds and Macaw Species in the Deep Amazon

Along the way we saw countless bird species including King Fishers, Tinamou, a variety of Manakins, Blue and Yellow/Gold Macaw and Red-bellied Macaw just to name a few of the major birds seen. Aracari seem to be everywhere and at every turn we were seeing Amazon Toucans.

On the third day we entered a very narrow channel with our motorized canoe and headed deep and off the main river. Here we saw a very strange looking bird which we have never seen before in the jungle of Northern Venezuela. It was a nesting zone for the Hoatzin. We counted twenty five. At this point we had not seen a single Scarlet Macaw.

On day six we woke up at four in the morning and headed downstream towards a known Scarlet Macaw Breeding ground. Here numerous species of birds can be found in addition to the Macaws. It is simply a haven for bird watching and wildlife photography. Along the route and as the sky lightened, a variety of Monkeys can be seen along the river’s edge. Caiman, River Turtles and countless Toucans could be seen all over. After a couple of hours we came to the trail-head and headed deep in the forest for a two hour hike.

We arrived at a very remote animal clay-lick and sat quietly for an hour. Hundreds of Mealy Parrots were flying around overhead and before we knew it, a flock of Scarlet Macaws came in and landed on the tree above us in grand style. The loud raucous they created to announce their arrival simply added to the excitement. They were nestled on the tree tops waiting to come down on the ground for the mineral rich clay, we could see them from where we were and counted seven. After another thirty minutes of waiting, the were finally looking like they were about to hit the ground and we were able to see them about 20 meters away from us on the lower branches of the trees. It was an incredible sight and one that made us forget about our cameras for a while and stared in amazement at these beautiful birds.
In a future posting we will share the unbelievable surprise we got while waiting for this flock of Scarlet Macaw at the clay lick.