Any of about 18 species of large tropical New World parrots (subfamily Psittacinae) with very long tails and big sickle-shaped beaks. Macaws eat fruits and nuts. They are easily tamed and often kept as pets; some learn to mimic human speech, but most only screech. A few have lived 65 years. Best known is the scarlet macaw (Ara macao), found from Mexico to Brazil, a 36-in. (90-cm) bright-red bird with blue and yellow wings, blue and red tail, and white face.
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Large, dark (usually black) beaks, and relatively hairless, light colored, medial facial (facial patch) areas distinguish macaws. Sometimes the facial patch is smaller in some species, and limited to a yellow patch around the eyes and a second patch near the base of the beak in the members of the genus Anodorhynchus, or Hyacinth Macaw . It has been documented that a Macaw's facial feathers are unique as a human fingerprint
Some of the macaw species are popularly known for their impressive size. The largest parrot in length and wingspan is the Hyacinth Macaw. The heaviest macaw is the Buffon's, although the heaviest parrot is the flightless Kakapo. While still relatively large parrots, the macaws of the genera Cyanopsitta, Orthopsittaca and Primolius are significantly smaller than the members of Anodorhynchus and Ara. The smallest member of the family, the Red-shouldered Macaw, is no larger than some parakeets of the genus Aratinga.
International trade of all Macaw species is regulated by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES). Some species of macaws for example, the Scarlet Macaw (Ara macao) are listed on Appendix I and may not be traded for commercial purposes. Other species for example, the Red-Shouldered macaw (Diopsittaca nobilis) are listed on Appendix II and may be legally traded commercially provided that certain controls are in place. The controls include a non-detriment finding, establishment of an export quota and issuing of export permits.
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, and can often be quite affectionate and cuddly. Pet macaws thrive on frequent interaction and attention from their owners, 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 other causes such as inbreeding in captive populations, food allergies, and dry skin (most of these birds are adapted to humid climates).
Most pet macaws had ancestors living in the wild just two to four 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.) They are, however, quite social and adaptable birds.
All species of macaws have very powerful, large beaks and large macaws are capable of destroying household furnishings and can potentially cause considerable harm to both children and adults. They tend to be 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 may use on domestic pets, such as punishment.
Aviculturists have reported an over abundance of female blue and gold macaws in captivity, which differs from the general rule with captive macaws and other parrots, where the males are more abundant. This would explain why the blue and gold is the most commonly hybridised macaw, and why the hybridising trend took hold among macaws. Common macaw 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.
Dr. Donald Brightsmith, the principal investigator of the Tambopata Macaw Project, has been leading research at the Tambopata Research Center since 1999. Findings from the center located in the Amazon basin in southeastern Peru show that the soil macaws choose to consume at the clay licks they frequent did not have higher levels of cation exchange capacity (ability to adsorb toxins) than that of unused licks. What the findings do show is that the macaws, along with other bird species, prefer soil with higher levels of sodium.
It is possible that the birds are using taste to find soil that also meets other physiological needs. However, it is interesting to note that the macaws on the coast of Costa Rica do not use clay clicks and this is possibly related to the fact that the mangroves which supply a portion of their diet are high in sodium.
Continuing projects at TRC are also showing a correlation between clay lick use and breeding season. Calcium for egg development - another hypothesis - does not appear to be a reason for geophagy during this period as peak usage is after the hatching of eggs. Contents of nestling crop samples show a high percentage of clay fed to them by their parents.
The Macaw is depicted on the reverse side of the 10-Brazilian Reais banknote.
The Macaw is one of the Familiars that you can summon using the Summoning skill in the MMORPG RuneScape.
Near Colonization of a Desert Island by a Tropical Bird: Military Macaw (Ara Militaris) at Isla San Pedro Nolasco, Sonora, Mexico
Dec 01, 2012; The tropical military macaw (Ara militaris) is distributed from Sonora to southern Mexico. In northwestern Mexico, there...