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Category — Blue-throated macaw

Enhancing the reproduction of blue-throated macaws in Bolivia

The Zoo continues to support the Bird Endowment’s Nido Adoptivo Saving the Blues program to enhance the reproduction of blue-throated macaws in the wild in Bolivia.

Blue-throated macaw pair

Blue-throated macaw pair

The critically endangered blue-throated macaw (Ara glaucogularis) is only known to survive on private ranches in one small region of northern Bolivia known as Los Llanos de Moxos with a population estimated at 350-400 individuals. It relies on cavities in palm trees as nest sites, but often loses out on nest sites due to competition from other macaws, toucans, bats and large woodpeckers.

The goal of the Nino Adoptivo Saving the Blues program is to increase the annual reproductive output of blue-throated macaws by providing nest boxes. The first nest boxes were installed in 2007, and more have been added over the past eight years to total 60 nest boxes in 2014-2015 season.  Nest boxes are monitored twice a month by a field biologist who records the nest box contents, usage and inter-species interactions.

Nest box adopted by the Cincinnati Zoo

Nest box adopted by the Cincinnati Zoo

The 2014-2015 season was the program’s most successful year to date. A total of 10 blue-throated macaws fledged out of four nest boxes. An additional nest box was used by a pair of blue-throated macaws, but no chicks were fledged.  This brings the total to 56 macaws fledged from nest boxes since the program’s beginning.

Young macaws in a nest box

Young macaws in a nest box

Other species continue to use the nest boxes as well, including blue-and-yellow macaws, white-eyed parakeets and black-bellied whistling ducks. However, changes made in the design of the wooden nest boxes to better suit blue-throated macaws over other species, such as reducing the size of the entrance hole, seems to be curbing some of the competition.

Blue-throated macaws using a nest box

Blue-throated macaws using a nest box

For this upcoming breeding season (2015-2016), the program will expand by placing 15 additional nest boxes in a new area. The program will also experiment with new, wider nest box designs to see if giving them more space will lead to a larger number of eggs laid per clutch. Another experiment will try using a more natural-looking nest box, essentially a hollowed out chunk of a dead tree trunk, to see if it is more attractive to the macaws since 36 of the current nest boxes were not used this past season.

saving the blues

September 9, 2015   No Comments

Saving the Blues in Bolivia

The Blue-throated Macaw, found in the tropical savanna of northern Bolivia, is considered one of the most threatened bird species in the world.  For the past three years, the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden has supported an effort to enhance Blue-throated Macaw reproduction in the wild through the Bird Endowment’s Nido Adoptivo project.. Initiated in 2007, Nido Adoptivo has installed hundreds of nest boxes to supplement natural breeding.


Nest Box Supported by the Cincinnati Zoo


Intensive research on the macaw’s flight and migration patterns determined placement of the nest boxes.  The box design was modeled after natural nests found in holes of palm trees where chicks successfully hatched and fledged. Nest box position, depth, vertical and horizontal lengths, and the size of access holes were studied.  Additional modifications will be implemented for the 2013-2014 season.


Chicks in the Cincinnati Zoo-sponsored nest



Nest box placed high up on the trunk of a palm tree



2012-2013 was the most successful year yet. Ten healthy Blue-throated Macaw chicks hatched and fledged from the boxes.

For the first time, a breeding pair was noted with leg bands, meaning they had been hatched some years earlier in the program.

A total of 39 Blue-throated Macaw chicks have been produced in Nido Adoptivo™ nest boxes during the previous six breeding seasons.

As a consequence of the program’s ongoing successes, we continue to see the population increase in the Southern Zone, with flocks of Blue-throated Macaws now traveling between five local private ranches (by marcus). This was unheard of in the area five years ago.

Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden is one of the 27 sponsors of the new and improved nest boxes being monitored during the 2013-2014 season which is underway.

Nido Adoptivo™ has begun the funding phase of the 2014-15 breeding season in anticipation of building upon seven consecutive years of success in Bolivia.

To learn how you can help support the Nido Adoptivo project, visit http://www.birdendowment.org/index.shtml.

January 23, 2014   1 Comment