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Field Volunteer Assistant working with wild macaws in Costa Rica

The Macaw Society
Costa Rica (CR)
Volunteer position
Closing date
May 25, 2023

Job Details

Volunteer Field Assistant monitoring Scarlet Macaws in Costa Rica with The Macaw Society


The Macaw Society has been doing psittacine research in the lowlands of southeastern Peru for more than two decades. A long history of dedicated research and monitoring has provided many insights into various aspects of wild parrots and macaws.  Drs. Brightsmith and Vigo-Trauco from the Schubot Center from Avian Health from Texas A&M are now leading its expansion to new areas in the Neotropics through a broad array of collaborative projects focused on the ecology and conservation of psittacines. In Costa Rica, we have partnered with the Punta Leona Hotel ( which has been hosting long-term monitoring efforts working with wild macaws on the Central Pacific coast for the last 25 years. We have also partnered with RESCATE Wildlife Rescue Center ( ), one of the oldest and most prestigious wildlife rescue centers in the country that has been leading psittacine reintroductions in the country for over 20 years. We are always looking to collaborate with anyone with a passion for conservation and biology.

There are no qualification limitations, although most volunteers come from a biological or environmental sciences background. All applicants are welcome, as we can find a role for almost any type of volunteer. If you are responsible, enthusiastic, self-disciplined, and patient PLUS you enjoy being outdoors and working with wildlife, we encourage you to check out our volunteer assistantship opportunities. We have different volunteer assistantships programs that require different levels of experience from amateur enthusiasts and birdwatchers to graduate-level professionals.

We are receiving volunteers in our two locations in Costa Rica: Bosque Escondido (Nicoya Peninsula) and Punta Leona (Central Pacific Coast).

Our different volunteer programs allow you to be part of our research team in one location or in both locations. As an ongoing research project, our positions are available year-round. Daily volunteer activities are specific to each location.


Bosque Escondido Wildlife Refuge (BE) – A 1,800-acre dry tropical forest in the Nicoya Peninsula is one of the two release sites owned and operated by Rescate Wildlife Rescue Center (

Hotel Punta Leona (PL) – A beach hotel located in the district of Tárcoles, Garabito County, Province of Puntarenas, just 60 minutes from the city of San José; It has an exuberant tropical forest and beautiful beaches with white sand and green-emerald waters of the Pacific Ocean. (


In general, we have two different types of positions that are available year-round. Daily volunteer activities are specific to each location.

POSITION #1: Long-term volunteer assistant (8 weeks minimum, 3 months stay preferred)

•Activities: You will be trained to identify all parrots by sight and sound in the area, to conduct wild parrot censuses in the forest and in roosts, to locate foraging parrots plus enter data into computers. During the macaw breeding season, you will be trained to climb trees using rope systems to check on macaw nests and chicks. You will be trained to monitor macaw behavior around nests/ inside nests using surveillance video cameras (PL) and around feeding stations (BE). You will also help measure and prepare food items and refill wildlife feeding stations (BE).

• Qualifications: (1) Previous field experience, (2) Previous experience working with birds, (3) Degree in Biology, Ecology, Forestry, Wildlife Sciences, or related careers or close to graduation, (4) Intermediate/advanced Spanish level (useful but not required).

• Additional requirements: Good physical condition, able to carry a 40 lb (18 kg) pack over moderate terrain for up to 2 km, no fear of heights (Dec-May). Good disposition for facing new and challenging situations, able to work in a team under stress. Have both live and accident insurance coverage.

POSITION # 2: Short-term volunteer assistant (15 to 42-day stay preferred)

•Activities: These assistants will be quickly trained to identify all the local parrots by sight and become experts at parrot/macaw behavior monitoring around nests and around reintroduced wildlife feeding stations(BE). They will also help measure and prepare food items and refill wildlife feeding stations (BE). Due to the short length of stay, volunteers will have only minimal involvement in activities requiring higher training levels like parrot censuses and tree climbing. Assistants will also help with data entry.

• Qualifications: Previous experience observing animals (captivity/wildlife), (2) appreciation for nature and wildlife, (3) basic knowledge of Spanish (not required but useful)

 • Additional requirements: Average physical condition, ability to walk 2 km over moderate terrain, good sense of observing animals, ability to stay seated for long periods of time, and some background knowledge of birds in general


Essentially, volunteering is free. We take care of research permit costs, cover the costs of all staff, work to maintain training material, and also deal with all correspondence and various aspects of project management. However, our budget does not extend to being able to pay for all aspects of volunteer participation. As such you only need to cover food, accommodation, and other services provided by the field station. The costs are very reasonable. The daily fee is according to the position and experience:

• Position #1: 30 USD/day

• Position #2: 45 USD/day

*A one-time processing fee of $30 will be added for all volunteers.

The lodging payment includes food, non-alcoholic beverages, unlimited tea and coffee, and accommodations with bedding provided. Additionally, all volunteers are required to pay for airport transfers, either $20 for pick-up or $10 for drop-off, and extra transportation costs to the release site in the Nicoya Peninsula or Punta Leona Hotel in the central Pacific coast. After being accepted, volunteers will receive an email invoice from Texas A&M University and must pay 20% of the total cost upfront, which is non-refundable and required to secure the reservation. The remaining 80% must be paid at least two weeks prior to the assistant's arrival at the release site. Payment can be made in cash with prior permission from the coordinator. Availability and season may affect daily fees. Domestic and international flight fees to the release site are not covered. For more information, please refer to our website's refund policy.



To apply please send an email to with the following information:

  1. A letter of interest explaining why you want to work with the society
  2. Your CV or resume
  3. Email addresses for at least 3 references
  4. The location(s) you have chosen as your volunteering destination(s). For example, you may say “I would like to help just in Costa Rica, just in Punta Leona”, or “I choose to help in Costa Rica in both Bosque Escondido and Punta Leona”.
  5. The range of dates when you will be available and how long you can participate. For example, you may say something like “any 20-day period between March and July 2018”.



The Macaw Society (previously known as the Tambopata Macaw Project) is a long-term research study of the ecology and conservation of macaws and parrots lead by Dr. Donald J. Brightsmith and Dr. Gabriela Vigo-Trauco of the Schubot Center for Avian Health at the Texas A&M School of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (VMBS). It started in 1999 in Tambopata, Peru and has expanded to Costa Rica and other areas in the Americas. Its mission is to collect scientific information that produces clear documentation of the natural history, ecology, and conservation of parrots and macaws in the Neotropics and make it available to scientists, researchers, and the public. Its vision is to efficiently use our findings to direct the conservation of parrots and macaws in Peru and other areas where psittacines are declining and at risk of extinction as well as to establish new research and conservation alliances in the Americas and beyond.


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