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ANIMAL
OF THE WEEK
Large fish make up 90 percent of this pelicanís diet. read more >

Scarlet macaw

Scientific name: Ara macao


CLASS: Aves
ORDER: Psittaciformes
FAMILY: Psittacidae

FEEDING TYPE: Herbivore
STATISTICS: Weight: 2 – 4 lbs.; Height: 33 - 37 inches; Wingspan: 44 - 47 inches

DESCRIPTION:
The scarlet macaw has three different colors that predominantly cover its body from its pointed tail, head, and shoulders, to the tips of its wings. The head and chest regions are scarlet and the wings go from scarlet to yellow with blue tips. Some birds also have green on the wings. This may be a regional variation from Central to South American populations. The tail follows the same pattern. The back is predominantly yellow. The face has white skin around the eyes to the beak. The upper mandible is more of a white color, and the lower is a dark black.

RANGE:
Central America and northern South America.

HABITAT:
Central American birds are more often found in deciduous and pine forests, while South American birds are found in varying forest types.

ADAPTATIONS:
The scarlet macaw is a social animal that usually flies in flocks ranging from 10 to 30 individuals. Its vocalizations throughout the group are vital to its survival. It communicates through loud squawks and screams that can be heard up to two miles away, helping it communicate danger, socialize, mark territory, and just vocalize within the group.

Macaws sleep in flocks in the top of the forest canopy at night. As early morning starts to approach, they will fly some distance in search of food, which includes a variety of fruits, nuts, flowers or nectar. They will often eat unripe fruit and nuts that other animals avoid. Macaws can be seen eating clay off the riverbanks, which is thought to help it digest chemicals in its food.

The macaw’s beak is adapted to generate 2,000 pounds of pressure per square inch, granting it the ability to open the toughest nuts, while its thick fleshy tongue is used to move food around. Macaws can also use their beaks like a third foot. The macaw’s feet are adapted to grab, hold, and examine items. This allows it to hang upside down or pick fruit right out of a tree. The tail of a macaw is great for balancing on any kind of branch.

There are 16 different species of macaw varying in colors of blue, red, yellow and green. The scarlet macaw’s base color is red but it has a mix of yellow and blue to help it blend in with the foliage of the forest canopy.

REPRODUCTION/GROWTH:
The macaw is monogamous and usually mates in tree hollows 20 to 100 feet from the ground. Mating occurs during the fall and spring in the wild, usually resulting in a clutch size of two to four white, rounded eggs. With an incubation period of about 24 to 28 days, the female will stay behind to incubate the eggs while the male searches for food. After hatching, the chicks’ eyes will start to open after seven to 14 days. When chicks hatch they are featherless, but at 10 to 14 weeks are covered with feathers. The young will continue to stay with the parents up to two years. The pair of macaws will not raise another clutch until the previous young have become independent.

PREY/PREDATOR:
Prey to large snakes, small cats, any larger predators that can catch them.
Predator to none

WILD DIET:
Fruits, nuts, seeds and nectar

STATUS:
It is listed as Least Concern with IUCN and is a CITES Appendix I

SPECIAL NOTES:

  • Although it is illegal to bring wild-caught parrots into the United States, they are still illegally traded. The macaw’s large size, long life, and intelligence make it a very poor pet choice.


BIBLIOGRAPHY:

  1. Birdlife International. Handbook of Birds of the World. Vol 4. Sandgrouse to Cuckoos. Lynx Edicion. 1997
  2. CITES. February 2009
  3. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.  February 2009
  4. Forshaw, Joseph M. Parrots of the World. Neptune, New Jersey. T.F.H. Publications, Inc. 1977
  5. Gilbert, John (Translator). Great Book of Birds. New York. Arch Cape Press. 1990
  6. National Geographic.  January, 2009

Published: March 2009

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