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There are approximately 17 unique species of macaws in the wild and in captivity today. All these birds belong to the psittacidae, which translates to "true parrots". This family of parrots has further split into two subfamilies: Psittaciinae and Psittaciinae , or Old World Parrots and New World Parrots, respectively.
Old World parrots include gray parrots, cape parrots and Senegal parrots, which are mainly found in Africa. In contrast, New World parrots include the six genera of macaws that live and roam in Mexico, Honduras, Brazil, and other countries in Central and South America. These birds include scarlet macaws, blue and gold macaws, green-winged macaws, red-shouldered or Hahn's macaws, and harlequin macaws.
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Unlike their Old World cousins, both have brightly colored plumage in shades of green, blue, yellow, gold, and red. While very vibrant and attractive to humans, these colors allow macaws to camouflage themselves among the green foliage of the Amazon rainforest and other forests they call home.
Amazing Birds: 4 Facts About Macaws
- These birds are long-lived; they can live up to 60 years or more , even in the wild.
- They are playful birds that use their feet, beak and tongue to explore new objects .
- The hyacinth macaw is the largest of all flying parrot species . It can grow up to three feet long and weigh up to four pounds.
- There are more than 17 different species of this bird, many of which are endangered .
Read other interesting macaw facts here.
where to find them
The blue, gold, and hyacinth species of these birds are native to Central and South America. They can be seen in the wild in countries such as Mexico, Honduras, and Brazil. Their distinctive plumage and bright colors help them blend in with the Amazon rainforest and other natural habitats.
Macaw Health and Recreation
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These birds generally live monogamously, but also form families of up to 30 individuals in a flock. They usually settle in crevices of tall trees or live on the sides of cliffs for protection. They have also been known to dig depressions in river banks or other hills made of soft soil.
Due to the large number of extant species, these birds have many scientific names. In general, all 17 species belong to the psittacidae, or true psittacidae. Also, they are part of the subfamily Arinae or New World psittaci and the Arini tribe of macaws and parakeets.
The six extant genera of macaws are as follows:
- Ara, including the scarlet macao (Ara macao) and the green-winged macao (Ara chloropterus)
- Primolius, a genus that includes smaller, mostly green macaws such as the blue-headed macaw (Primolius couloni) and the yellow-collared macaw (Primolius auricollis)
- Orthopsittaca, the genus to which the red-bellied macaw (Orthopsittaca manilatus) belongs
- Diopsittaca, a genus containing only the red-shouldered macaw (Diopsittaca nobilis). There are two subspecies of this species, including the noble macaw and the Hahn's macaw.
- Anodorhynchus, including the Hyacinth Macaw (Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus)
- Cyanopsitta, the only extant member of which is the Spix's macaw (Cyanopsitta spixii)
Many birds of this species are popular pets due to their cheerful nature, bright colors and ability to learn words. This situation has led breeders to create some hybrid species in captivity. For example, the clown is a new breed, a cross between blue and gold and green winged species. Harlequins often have personality and color elements from both species.
Size, Appearance and Behavior
These are usually playful and happy birds. Their owners describe them as clowns or clowns. They are highly social creatures, both in the wild and in captivity. Many do well with families, and they have more people they can interact with on a regular basis. If they are hand-fed from an early age, then they develop an attachment to their owner.
In the wild, these are curious birds. Scientists and hobbyists have observed the birds playing with new objects. They often toss new objects into the air and catch them with their beaks or feet. They will also lick and taste the object to try to get more information about it.
Although these birds combine in pairs, they also often seek to form larger flocks of 30 to 40 or more birds. Increased numbers help protect themselves from humans, snakes, large birds, jaguars, and other threats. Macaws often scream or make loud noises to communicate with their fellows or to warn them. In captivity, they love learning words and will practice new vocabulary until they master it.
As you can imagine, average size, weight, and wingspan vary from species to species. The largest example is part of the genus Ara. This group includes the hyacinth macaw, which has a wingspan of between three and four feet and weighs up to four pounds. It's also over 39 inches long.
The smallest species is the red-shouldered macaw (Diopsittaca nobilis), also known as the miniature macaw. These birds weigh only 5.8 ounces and are only 12 inches long. The Hahn's and Noble's macaws that make up the species are nearly identical in appearance. However, Hahn's upper jaw is black.
the bird's nest
These birds typically nest in nodules or crevices in tall rainforest trees. Some species also make their home among decaying trees in the savannahs and plains of South America. Other species will choose to nest on rocky cliffs for protection, while some will choose to dig out an area in a river bank.
Macaws mainly rely on fruit as their main source of nutrition. However, they will also fly to the grass in search of seeds or nuts. Their strong beaks are capable of crushing almonds, Brazil nuts, and other similar nuts. The higher caloric value and fat content of nuts is important for larger species such as hyacinth macaws.
For a complete analysis of a macaw's diet, don't miss our "What Macaws Eat: 11 Foods in Your Diet" guide!
Types of Macaws
There are many types of macaws, the following are some of the most popular:
- Hyacinth Macaw – Their Hyacinth Macaw is blue with a black beak and yellow eye rims. They can be found in South America. These are the largest of the birds, and they are notorious for being difficult pets. Therefore, it is not recommended that pet owners do not know exactly what their situation is!
- Military Macaws – Regardless of what their name sounds like, military macaws are curious, sociable, and pleasant; however, they still require a lot of attention and are not suitable for novice pet owners. They have green plumage and red heads and are found from southern Mexico to Argentina.
- Scarlet Macaw – The scarlet macaw is larger, with a strong, curved beak and brightly colored plumage. It consists of three distinctive color bands: red on the head and shoulders, yellow on the back and midwing feathers, and blue on the wingtips and tail. There is also a patch of black and white skin on the face. They can be found in South and Central America.
- Spix's Macaw – The Spix's Macaw can be identified by its striking blue plumage. The exact color of the body varies from bright blue-green on the chest and belly to a dark blue-gray on the head. It also has gray skin, yellowish eyes, and a black curved beak. The species averages about 22 inches in length from head to tail; the elegant tail feathers are as long as the rest of the body. This makes it slightly smaller than typical macaw species. They can be found in Brazil.
- Hahn's Macaw – The Hahn's Macaw is the smallest of the macaws and is known for its keen intelligence. They are able to learn some phonics with modest training. They can be found in South America. Their bellies are dark green, while their tails and wings are light green. They have orange irises.
- Hybrid Macaws – Hybrid macaws are birds bred from hybrid macaw parents with different qualities and characteristics. This gives them different color patterns and temperaments. Only owners who know a lot about the species should bring home one of these.
- Severe Macaw – The Severe Macaw is a playful bird that is very social. They develop strong bonds with owners who provide proper attention and training. They also have great presentation skills. They can be found in South America and Panama. They have chestnut heads, green feathers, and red feathers where the wings meet the chest.
- Yellow-collared Macaw – The Yellow-collared Macaw is also known as the Golden-collared Macaw. These particular birds are known to be extremely intelligent, which also makes them excellent at evading and facilitating all kinds of bird mischief. Although they are mostly green, they have a yellow band around their necks. They can be found in South America.
Predators and Threats
These birds are threatened by several native species in the Amazon rainforest and forests of Central and South America. These predators include snakes, monkeys and larger birds. Specific threats include pythons, pythons, jaguars, ocelots, eagles and falcons.
Reproduction, Babies and Longevity
Depending on the species, macaws reach sexual maturity between 2 and 10 years. At that point, they will usually pair and bond with another bird in the flock. Most clutches have 1 to 4 eggs. If the breeding is successful, then the female usually waits for two years before mating again.
Depending on the type of macaw, the eggs usually hatch for 24 to 28 days. After hatching, the chicks usually remain in the nest under the protection of their parents for up to three months. At that point, they typically stay with their parents and siblings for a year before leaving to find their place in the flock.
The lifespan of macaws varies by species. For example, blue and gold macaws can live up to 35 years in the wild. In contrast, the green-winged and scarlet macaws live between 70 and 75 years. Overall, these birds live an average of 60 years in the wild, but some individuals do live into their 80s and beyond.
History and Evolution
Macaws are known for their bright plumage and eye-catching colors. But what makes them so colorful?
Many other types of brightly colored birds get their color from what they eat in their environment. Macaws are just that! They are able to produce these colors through chemical pigments in their bodies as well as structural adaptations in the microscopic layers of the compartments within their feathers.
Bright colors are part of their defense strategy and work well because macaws tend to stay in their flock for protection. Due to the brightly colored plumage, the size is difficult for potential predators to discern.
Macaw populations vary depending on the species you evaluate. Some species, such as the Spix Macaw, have become extinct in the wild. In fact, there are fewer than 200 of these birds in captivity worldwide.
In comparison, there are believed to be at least 10,000 macaws left in the wild. This species is marked as least of concern because its numbers, while still declining, have remained relatively stable over the past decade.
Other species, such as the hyacinth macaw, are endangered and considered threatened. Only an estimated 6,500 specimens of these birds remain in the wild. Likewise, there are only about 2,000 scarlet macaws left in the world.
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about the author
Heather Ross is a middle school English teacher and mother of 2 people, 2 tuxedo cats and a golden doodle. In between taking the kids to soccer practice and grading homework, she loves reading and writing about all things animals!
Macaw FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
Are macaws herbivores, carnivores, or omnivores?
Macaws are omnivores, which means they eat both plants and other animals.
To which kingdom do macaws belong?
Macaws belong to the animal kingdom.
What phylum do macaws belong to?
Macaws belong to the phylum Chordate.
What species are macaws?
There are currently 17 different species of macaws in the wild or in captivity. All of these species belong to the psittacidae family, which means "true parrots." Macaw species are grouped into six distinct genera of the psittaci family.
Can macaws talk?
Yes, macaws can talk. In fact, these birds have been known to practice words and new vocabulary until they pronounce them correctly.
Where can I find macaws?
Macaws are native to Central and South America.
Do macaws migrate?
it depends. Scarlet macaws have been known to migrate to Belize and other areas in search of fruit, seeds, nuts and other food. However, many macaw species, such as blue macaws and hyacinth macaws, do not migrate. They choose to remain in pairs, with total flocks of between 30 and 40 individuals.
How many eggs do macaws lay?
A typical macaw nest includes one to four eggs. The mother keeps the eggs warm for 24 to 28 days, while the chicks stay in the nest for up to 90 days after birth.
How Fast Do Macaws Fly?
Many species, including the hyacinth, green-winged and scarlet macaws, reach top speeds of around 35 miles per hour. The red-fronted macaw (Ara rubrogenys) has been recorded at speeds of about 40 miles per hour.
What is the wingspan of a macaw?
The wingspan of macaws varies from species to species. The largest macaw, the hyacinth, has a wingspan of between three and four feet. By comparison, the red-shouldered macaw has a wingspan of 12 inches, making it one of the smallest birds in the six genera of macaws.
When Do Macaws Leave The Nest?
The fledgling macaw chicks make their first attempt to leave the nest about three months after they first hatch. However, they usually stay with their parents for at least a year before finding their place in the flock.
Can Macaws Be Pets?
It depends; since many species are endangered or critically endangered, it may be illegal to buy or keep a macaw in captivity. Other times, you will need to obtain special licenses or permits before purchasing birds.
Macaws from responsible and licensed breeders are very popular for their good looks, fun personalities, and intelligence.
How much does a macaw cost?
Prices for these birds depend on the size and rarity of the species, among many other factors. For example, smaller macaws, such as the red-shouldered macaw, typically sell for between $700 and $1,000.
Specially bred hybrid macaws, such as the Harlequin variety, list prices between $1,000 and $5,000 or more. The scarlet macaw is one of the most well-known species and can usually be purchased for between $2,000 and $3,000.
What class are macaws?
Macaws belong to the class Aves.
What family do macaws belong to?
Macaws belong to the parrot family.
What order do macaws belong to?
Macaws belong to the order Psittaciformes.
What genus do macaws belong to?
Macaws belong to the genus Arini.
What type of mulch do macaws have?
Macaws are covered with feathers.
What is the main prey of macaws?
Macaws eat fruit, nuts, seeds and insects.
What are the distinctive features of a macaw?
Macaws have large, colorful bodies and curved beaks.
What are some interesting facts about macaws?
Macaws are the largest parrot species in the world!
What is the scientific name of the macaw?
The scientific name of the macaw is Arini.
What is the lifespan of a macaw?
Macaws can live 50 to 60 years.
How do macaws give birth?
Macaws lay eggs.
What is the difference between a macaw and a parrot?
There are some differences between parrots and macaws, although all macaws are technically parrots. Macaws are larger than most parrot species and are found in more places around the world than macaws.
What is the Difference Between a Parrot and a Macaw?
- The main difference between cockatoos and macaws is that cockatoos are smaller, generally harder to care for, and are native to Australia and Asia. Macaws are generally larger and easier to care for, and are native to Central and South America.
What is the difference between a Lear's Macaw and a Hyacinth's Macaw?
The main differences between Lear's and Hyacinth's Macaws are distribution, mating habits, and ecological threats.
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- San Diego Zoo, available here: https://animals.sandiegozoo.org/animals/macaw
- Wikipedia, available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue-and-yellow_macaw
- Amazon Aid Foundation, available here: https://amazonaid.org/species/macaw/#:~:text=Larger%20birds%20of%20prey%2C%20snakes,a%20few%20insects%20for%20food .
- SeaWorld Parks and Recreation, available here: https://seaworld.org/animals/facts/birds/blue-and-gold-macaw/
- National Geographic, available here: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/birds/group/macaws/
- See The Wild, available here: https://seethewild.org/macaw-facts/#:~:text=Macaws%20belong%20to%20the%20Parrot,60%20years%20in%20the%20wild.
- Federal Register, available here: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2018/08/13/2018-17319/endangered-and-threatened-wildlife-and-plants-listing-the-hyacinth-macaw #:~ :text=The%20overall%20population%20estimate%20for%20the%20hyacinth%20macaw%20remains%206%2C500%20individuals.%20Jump%20to%20top