Macaws are large colourful New World parrots, classified into six of the many Psittacidae genera: Ara, Anodorhynchus, Cyanopsitta, Primolius, Orthopsittaca, and Diopsittaca. They are the largest birds in the parrot family in length and wingspan, though the flightless Kakapo is heavier. Previously, the members of the genus Primolius were placed in Propyrrhura, but the former is correct as per ICZN rules. Parrots are zygodactyl, like woodpeckers, having 4 toes on each foot – two front and two back.
Macaws are native to Mexico, Central and tropical South America. Most species are associated with forest, especially rainforest, but others prefer woodland or savanna-like habitats.
They are called guacamayos or guacamayas in Spanish and araras in Portuguese.
Species in taxonomic order
- Anodorhynchus glaucus : Glaucous Macaw
- Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus : Hyacinth Macaw
- Anodorhynchus leari : Indigo Macaw or Lear's Macaw
- Cyanopsitta spixii : Little Blue Macaw or Spix's Macaw
- Ara ararauna : Blue-and-yellow Macaw
- Ara glaucogularis : Blue-throated Macaw
- Ara militaris : Military Macaw
- Ara ambiguus : Buffon's Macaw or Great Green Macaw
- Ara macao : Scarlet Macaw or Aracanga
- Ara chloroptera : Green-winged Macaw
- Ara rubrogenys : Red-fronted Macaw
- Ara severa : Chestnut-fronted Macaw or Severe Macaw
- Ara atwoodi : Dominican Green-and-yellow Macaw (extinct)
- Ara erythrocephala : Jamaican Green-and-yellow Macaw (extinct)
- Ara gossei : Jamaican Red Macaw (extinct)
- Ara guadeloupensis : Lesser Antillean Macaw (extinct)
- Ara tricolor : Cuban Red Macaw (extinct)
- Ara autocthones : Saint Croix Macaw (extinct)
- Orthopsittaca manilata : Red-bellied Macaw
- Primolius couloni : Blue-headed Macaw
- Primolius maracana : Illiger's Macaw or Blue-winged Macaw
- Primolius auricollis : Golden-collared Macaw
- Diopsittaca nobilis : Red-shouldered Macaw or Hahn's Macaw
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Phylum: Chordata
- Class: Aves
- Order: Psittaciformes
- Family: Psittacidae
- Subfamily: Psittacinae
- Tribe: Arini
The majority of macaws are now endangered in the wild. Five species are already extinct, and Spix's Macaw is now considered to be extinct in the wild. The Glaucous Macaw is also probably extinct, with only two reliable records of sightings in the 20th century. The greatest problems threatening the macaw population are the rapid rate of deforestation and the illegal trapping of birds for the bird trade.
Birds in captivity
Macaws eat nuts and fruit. They also gnaw and chew on various objects. They show a large amount of intelligence in their behavior and require constant intellectual stimulation to satisfy their innate curiosity.
Bonding: Macaws have been said to live for up to 100 years; however, an average of 50 years is probably more accurate. The larger macaws may live up to 65 years. They are monogamous and mate for life. In captivity unmated macaws will bond primarily with one person – their keeper. Pet macaws thrive on frequent interaction, and a lack of this can lead to their mental and physical suffering.
Other sub-bondings also take place and most macaws that are subjected to non-aggressive behavior will trust most humans, and can be handled even by strangers if someone familiar is also alongside.
Captive pet macaws sometimes display difficult behavior, the most common being biting, screaming, and feather-plucking. Feather-plucking does not normally occur in the wild, strongly suggesting that it is the result of a neurosis related to life in captivity, though some sources suggest that it is a result of inbreeding in captive populations.
Most pet macaws had ancestors living in the wild just two or three generations ago, and are not truly domesticated by any reasonable definition. (This is unlike, for example, dogs; some estimates put the domestication of dogs as far back as 40,000 years ago.)
All species of macaws have very powerful, large beaks and are capable of causing considerable harm to both children and adults. They tend to be extremely loud: in the wild their voices need to carry over long distances. This makes macaws very demanding birds to keep as a household pet. Additional complications arise from the intelligence levels of macaws and their negative responses to stimuli people generally use on domestic pets.
International trade in Macaws is illegal under the CITES agreement. Only captive-born birds may be sold as pets.
A common trend in recent years is hybridizing macaws for the pet trade. Hybrids are typical macaws, with the only difference from true species being their genetics and their colors. They tend to have intermediate characteristics of the parents', though the appearance seems to be influenced more by the father's genes. As for their temperament and behavior, they seem to inherit traits of both parents. Common hybrids include Harlequins (Ara ararauna x chloroptera) and Catalinas (known as Rainbows in Australia, A. ararauna x macao). As a number of species of macaws are endangered, it would be beneficial to maintain pure breeding stock of captive macaws to ensure species preservation. Hybridizing dilutes the available gene pool and could hasten a species extinction.
Macaws are known to eat clay, which is believed to work as an antidote to the poisonous seeds they eat. The chemicals in the clay mix with the poison allowing it to pass through the bird's digestive system without harming the bird.
Blue and Yellow Macaw
The Blue and yellow Macaw (Ara ararauna), also known as the Blue-and-gold Macaw, is a member of the macaw group of parrots which breeds in the swampy forests of tropical South America from Panama south to Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay and Trinidad. It is an endangered species in Trinidad.
It can reach 76-86 cm (29.9-33.9 inches) long and weigh 900 to 1300 g (2-3 lbs), making them one of the biggest parrots in the world. They are vivid in appearance with blue wings and tail, black chin, golden under parts and a green forehead. Their beaks are jet black and very strong for crushing nuts. The naked face is white, turning pink in excited birds, and lined with small black feathers.
There is little variation in plumage across the range. Some birds have a more orangey or "butterscotch" underside color, particularly on the breast. This was often seen in Trinidad birds and others of the Caribbean area, and appears to be due to environmental factors.
The Blue and yellow Macaw can live up to 60 years of age, and generally mate for life. They nest at the top of tree trunks and the female generally lays two eggs. The blue-and-yellow Macaw uses its powerful beak for breaking nutshells, and also for climbing up and hanging from trees.
The Scarlet Macaw (Ara macao) is a large, colorful parrot.
It is native to humid evergreen forests in the American tropics, from extreme eastern Mexico locally to Amazonian Peru and Brazil, in lowlands up to 500 meters (at least formerly up to 1000m). It has been widely extirpated by habitat destruction and capture for the pet trade. Formerly it ranged north to southern Tamaulipas. It can still be found on the island of Coiba. It is also the Honduran national bird.
It is about 81 to 96 cm (32 to 36 inches) long, of which more than half is the pointed, graduated tail typical of all macaws. The average weight is about a kilogram (2 to 2.5 pounds). The plumage is mostly scarlet, but the rump and tail-covert feathers are light blue, the greater upper wing coverts are yellow, the upper sides of the flight feathers of the wings are dark blue as are the ends of the tail feathers, and the undersides of the wing and tail flight feathers are dark red with metallic gold iridescence. There is bare white skin around the eye and from there to the bill. The upper mandible is mostly pale horn in color and the lower is black. Sexes are alike; the only difference between ages is that young birds have dark eyes, and adults have light yellow eyes.
Scarlet Macaws make loud, low-pitched, throaty squawks and screams.
Native to the forests of central South America, the Hyacinth Macaw (Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus) is the largest macaw and the largest flying parrot species in the world, though the flightless Kakapo of New Zealand can outweigh it at up to 3.5kg. In terms of length it is larger than any other species of parrot. Their unique size, color, and markings make the all-blue Hyacinth Macaw one of the most recognized species of macaw. Their popularity as pets has taken a heavy toll on their population in the wild. Birds in captivity fetch a price of around $9,000-$12,000 US.
These birds grow to a total length of 100 cm and weigh 1.4-1.7 kg. The wingspan is 130-150 cm. They have a beak pressure that can easily disassemble the bars of a welded wrought iron cage in a short time, it has together with the Green-Winged Macaw the strongest beak among all Birds . This powerful beak is ideal for its favorite foods, which include hard nuts and seeds that would otherwise be inaccessible. Their strong beaks are even able to crack coconuts and macadamia nuts. In addition, they eat fruits and other vegetable matter. Pine nuts are also one of the most popular foods. There are eight species of palm that are central to their diet. They are generally messy eaters.
The Hyacinth Macaw has a solid blue body of feathers, similar to the color of indigo. It has a solid black beak with bright yellow along the sides of the lower part of the beak and circling its solid dark eyes. Unlike other species of macaw, it does not have a white patch of featherless skin around the eye. The female and male are nearly indistinguishable, although the female is typically a bit more slender.
The Military Macaw (Ara militaris) is a medium sized member of the macaw family. Though considered “vulnerable” as a wild species, it is still commonly found in the pet trade industry. A predominantly green bird, it is found in the forests of Mexico and South America.
The Military Macaw is mostly green in color with the head a slightly paler shade. It bears a red frontal patch, with a white bare facial area barred with narrow black lines. The flight feathers are blue and the red tail bordered with blue. The large strong beak is grey-black and the iris yellow.
Military Macaws can often be heard long before they are seen. They are a very noisy bird making a variety of loud cracking and shrieking sounds, including a loud kraa-aak.
Blue headed Macaw
The Blue-headed Macaw or Coulon's Macaw (Primolius couloni) is native to eastern Peru (except in north), north-western Bolivia (mainly in Pando), and far western Brazil (only in Acre).
This parrot has a total length of ca. 40 centimeters (16 in), making it a member of the group of smaller macaws sometimes known as the mini-macaws, which includes any species of macaw with a total length of 50 centimeters (20 in) or less. As in all macaws, its tail is long and pointed and the bill is large and heavy.
This macaw has a generally green plumage (often tinged olive, esp. below) with the head, flight feathers and primary coverts blue. The upper tail has a maroon base, a narrow green center and a blue tip. The under tail and under wing are greenish-yellow similar to that of several other small macaws (e.g. Red-bellied and Golden-collared Macaw). The bill is pale grayish-horn with a black base (extend varies, but upper mandible in adults typically appears mainly pale). The iris is whitish with a narrow, often barely visible, maroon eye-ring. Unlike most other macaws, the facial skin and lores are dark grayish. The legs are dull pinkish. Juveniles resemble adults, but with the entire bill black, greyer legs, darker iris and the facial skin and lores white.
Its call is higher-pitched and softer than that of most other macaws.