Macaws are the symbols of the Amazon Rainforest. Seeing the large and brightly colored macaws flying free above the rainforest is a fantastic experience and definitely worth a photo or two. And seeing macaws in large groups at colpas, where they feed on medicinal clay in a raucous display of sound and color, is then worth a few more.
To help your find where is best to see macaws In Peru, below this article we provide a selection of the best Peruvian Amazon lodges to see different macaws. Above the lodge contact bubbles is some info on the protected areas to show you which species you are likely to find on amazon tours. We will then summarise some favorite clay licks to see macaws and parrots in Peru.
Macaw species in Peru include the better known Blue-and-yellow Macaws, Scarlet Macaws, and Red-and-green Macaws, but lesser known species like Red-bellied, Red-shouldered, Military, Chestnut-fronted, and Blue-headed Macaws also call Peru home.
As a bit of an intro, Macaws are very intelligent birds and can recognize, remember and count different objects. Researchers have found that after their observations, some macaws can communicate accurately what they have discovered to the human observer. They have powerful beaks to crack open seeds, nuts and fruit, and they also have a bone in their tongue to easily access the fruit’s delicious pulp. You can recognize a macaw from other parrots by their white facial patch, and they are also long-lived, living to around 60 years in the wild.
Often nesting in tree-holes, there are different conservation projects in the Amazon to recover macaw populations by providing more nesting locations. Their populations were severely threatened by the pet trade, hunting, and habitat destruction. After seeing them free, it’s often stressful to see these symbols of freedom caged.
Macaws are frequent visitors to clay licks, which are exposed areas of clay often on the banks of rivers or areas where rivers once flowed. The birds feed on clay to get some much needed salt and to detoxify food they have eaten in the forest. For example, some unripe fruits and seeds are known to contain toxic compounds.
Many animals are known to feed on clay and other compounds directly from the earth. Even people consume antacids to steady our stomachs and the Roman physician Galen used to give clay tablets to soldiers for gastrointestinal problems. There are even suggestions of clays being used to treat cholera and other conditions.
Macaws seem to visit clay at a cycle coinciding with availability of forest fruit, as the Amazon Rainforest fruits and flowers in the wetter months which is when the clay licks are most active.
Clay licks provide almost guaranteed macaw sightings and are great places to visit if you have an interest in seeing macaws in Peru. You are also fortunate as the majority of clay licks in the entire Amazon are located in southern Peru, near the Tambopata National Reserve and Manu National Park area. To visit these areas to enjoy the clay licks, both Manu and Tambopata are accessed from the Amazon base town of Puerto Maldonado in southern Peru (a short flight from either Lima or direct from Cusco).
Activity at clay licks seems to coincide with fruit availability, but this changes dependent on which clay lick you are at. Generally, macaws at clay licks are most active between August to October and less so during the months of May and June. This is the average pattern, but there are complicated influences from the availability of food in the forest, the difference in fruiting time, and the ratio of food between the protected areas e.g. Manu and Tambopata. We recommend asking the lodges for their advice who will be able to compare this year’s activity and let you know.
Macaws To See in Tambopata National Reserve Region
Tambopata National Reserve is a highly biodiverse forest containing many animals and plants. Here you can see several different monkeys, including Howler Monkeys, Capuchins, Tamarins, and Squirrel Monkeys. The macaws of Tambopata include Blue-and-yellow Macaws, Scarlet Macaws, Red-and-green Macaws, Chestnut-fronted Macaws, Red-bellied Macaws, Blue-headed Macaws, and Red-shouldered Macaws.
Of the macaws to see in Peru, only the Military Macaw hasn’t been seen at these Tambopata lodges, but the bird has been seen in the Manu region near the Manu Tented Camp (contact bubble below Manu section). To see these macaws, the best lodges in the Amazon Rainforest for the Tambopata National Reserve have been selected below. Selection is based on environmental and cultural responsibility, excellent service, comfort, and wildlife watching. You have direct contact to each lodge for accurate and up-to-the-minute help and advice.
Macaws To See in Manu National Park Region
One of Peru’s first national parks, Manu is central to a larger biosphere reserve and is often considered the country’s most pristine protected area. At 18,811 km², this is also one of the largest national parks in Peru.
The macaws found in the Manu region are the Blue-and-yellow Macaw, Military Macaw, Scarlet Macaw, Red-and-green Macaw, Chestnut-fronted Macaw, Red-bellied Macaw, and Blue-headed Macaw.
It’s only the Red-shouldered Macaw that hasn’t been seen at the following Manu lodges, but they have been seen in Tambopata. Blue and Yellow Macaws haven’t been seen at the Manu Tented Camp, but they are seen at Manu Wildlife Center regularly. From the suggested lodges, the Military Macaw has been seen near the Manu Tented Camp in the reserved zone of Manu National Park, which you can visit on the Manu Adventurer tour.
Parrot & Macaw Claylicks in Peru
The Colorado Claylick: As one of the world’s largest macaw claylicks, the Colorado claylick in Tambopata National Reserve is one of the most recommended sights in the Amazon Rainforest. Enjoy seeing different macaws and other parrots visiting the lick to obtain medicinal compounds, salts, and also to socialise. See the large red-and-green macaws and blue-and-yellow macaws visiting the clay alongside the smaller species, such as the blue-headed and chestnut fronted macaws. You can also see the many smaller parrot species. Enjoy visiting this claylick from the Tambopata Research Center.
The Chuncho Claylick: Another large macaw claylick, the Chuncho claylick in Tambopata National Reserve is a great area to see macaws. The claylick is also visited by different mammals, such as monkeys. You can visit Chuncho from both the Refugio Amazonas Lodge on their ‘a la carte’ program and from the Tambopata Research Center.
The Tambo Blanquillo Claylick: Located near the Manu Wildlife Center in an area of connected rainforest with Manu National Park, enjoy spotting the red-and-green macaws and smaller parrot species visiting the lick. You can also see different predators patroling the lick for prey, such as ocelots and sometimes even jaguar. You can visit this claylick from the Manu Wildlife Center.
The Gato Claylick: This is a small claylick near the Refugio Amazonas Lodge where you can spot different parrot species.
The Colpa de Loros: This is a small claylick near the community owned Posada Amazonas Lodge to see smaller parrot species, but also the larger red-and-green macaws.
The Heath River Claylick: This is a large claylick between the Madidi National Park and Tambopata National Reserve. The claylick is visited by different macaw species and you can enjoy visiting the lick from the Heath River Wildlife Center.