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Data from: Diet composition of reintroduced Red-and-Green Macaws (Ara chloropterus) reflects gradual adaptation to life in the wild

Cite this dataset

Volpe, Noelia et al. (2021). Data from: Diet composition of reintroduced Red-and-Green Macaws (Ara chloropterus) reflects gradual adaptation to life in the wild [Dataset]. Dryad.


Over the last two centuries, the Red-and-Green Macaw (Ara chloropterus) has become locally extinct in Argentina. In an attempt to restore its key ecosystem functions as both disperser and regulator of large-seeded plants, a reintroduction project was initiated at the Iberá National Park in northeastern Argentina. The ability of released individuals to find food is crucial, especially when working with captive-bred animals, as long-term establishment of a self-sustaining population depends on their short-term ability to exploit wild food sources. Monitoring of feeding habits is usually conducted through behavioral observation, but in recent years DNA metabarcoding has emerged as an alternative for obtaining highly resolved data on diet composition. In this study, we use a combination of both techniques to characterize the breadth and composition of the reintroduced macaws’ diet. In addition, we compare the efficiency of both observational and molecular techniques to assess diet composition in a frugivorous bird. Individuals fed on a variety of plant species (n = 49) belonging to a broad phylogenetic spectrum (28 families). Dietary richness estimated by direct observation and DNA metabarcoding was similar, though smaller than the combination of the two datasets as both techniques detected at least 15 species not recorded by the other method. While the total number of detected species was higher for observational data, the rate of species-detection per sampling day was higher for DNA metabarcoding. These results suggest that a combination of both methods is required in order to obtain the most accurate account of the total diversity of the diet of a bird species. The ability of reintroduced macaws to successfully exploit local food resources throughout the year indicates a good level of adjustment to the release site, an important step towards the creation of a stable, self-sustaining population of Red-and-Green Macaws in Northern Argentina.

Usage notes

Reference library.fasta: plant species sequences included in the reference library. The sequence names consist of a combination of GI numbers and species names.

Macaw_diet_dataset.xlsx: consists of three spreadsheets:

  • Observational data: observed feeding events by reintroduced Red-and-Green Macaws
  • Fecal samples: date and time of collection of fecal samples
  • Metabarcoding results: taxa detected in fecal samples