Macaw

Macaw

Overview
Macaws are small to large, often colourful New World parrots
Neotropical parrot
The Neotropical parrots belong to the family of the true parrots Psittacidae. Several species and one of the 32 modern genera have become extinct in recent centuries. Though fairly few fossils of modern parrots are known, most of these are from Arini...

. Of the many different Psittacidae (true parrots) genera
Genus
In biology, a genus is a low-level taxonomic rank used in the biological classification of living and fossil organisms, which is an example of definition by genus and differentia...

, six are classified as macaws: Ara, Anodorhynchus, Cyanopsitta, Primolius, Orthopsittaca, and Diopsittaca. Previously, the members of the genus Primolius were placed in Propyrrhura, but the former is correct in accordance with ICZN
International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature
The International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature is an organization dedicated to "achieving stability and sense in the scientific naming of animals". Founded in 1895, it currently comprises 28 members from 20 countries, mainly practicing zoological taxonomists...

 rules.
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Encyclopedia
Macaws are small to large, often colourful New World parrots
Neotropical parrot
The Neotropical parrots belong to the family of the true parrots Psittacidae. Several species and one of the 32 modern genera have become extinct in recent centuries. Though fairly few fossils of modern parrots are known, most of these are from Arini...

. Of the many different Psittacidae (true parrots) genera
Genus
In biology, a genus is a low-level taxonomic rank used in the biological classification of living and fossil organisms, which is an example of definition by genus and differentia...

, six are classified as macaws: Ara, Anodorhynchus, Cyanopsitta, Primolius, Orthopsittaca, and Diopsittaca. Previously, the members of the genus Primolius were placed in Propyrrhura, but the former is correct in accordance with ICZN
International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature
The International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature is an organization dedicated to "achieving stability and sense in the scientific naming of animals". Founded in 1895, it currently comprises 28 members from 20 countries, mainly practicing zoological taxonomists...

 rules. Macaws are native to Mexico
Mexico
The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...

, Central America
Central America
Central America is the central geographic region of the Americas. It is the southernmost, isthmian portion of the North American continent, which connects with South America on the southeast. When considered part of the unified continental model, it is considered a subcontinent...

, South America
South America
South America is a continent situated in the Western Hemisphere, mostly in the Southern Hemisphere, with a relatively small portion in the Northern Hemisphere. The continent is also considered a subcontinent of the Americas. It is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean and on the north and east...

, and formerly the Caribbean
Caribbean
The Caribbean is a crescent-shaped group of islands more than 2,000 miles long separating the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, to the west and south, from the Atlantic Ocean, to the east and north...

. Most species are associated with forests, especially rainforests, but others prefer woodland or savannah
Savannah
Savannah or savanna is a type of grassland.It can also mean:-People:* Savannah King, a Canadian freestyle swimmer* Savannah Outen, a singer who gained popularity on You Tube...

-like habitats.

Large, dark (usually black) beaks, and relatively bare, light coloured, medial (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
Anodorhynchus
Anodorhynchus is a genus of large blue macaws from open and semi-open habitats in central and eastern South America. Of the three species in the genus, two are endangered and one is probably already extinct. Additionally, a hypothetical extinct species has been postulated based on very little...

, or Hyacinth Macaw
Hyacinth Macaw
The Hyacinth Macaw , or Hyacinthine Macaw, is a parrot native to central and eastern South America. With a length of about 100 cm it is longer than any other species of parrot...

. A macaw's facial feather pattern is as unique as a fingerprint.

Some of the macaw species are 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
Kakapo
The Kakapo , Strigops habroptila , also called owl parrot, is a species of large, flightless nocturnal parrot endemic to New Zealand...

. 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
Aratinga
Aratinga is a genus of American parakeets. They belong to the long-tailed group and are among the genera often called conures in aviculture. Most are predominantly green, although a few are predominantly yellow or orange. They are social and commonly seen in groups in the wild...

.

Macaws, like other parrot
Parrot
Parrots, also known as psittacines , are birds of the roughly 372 species in 86 genera that make up the order Psittaciformes, found in most tropical and subtropical regions. The order is subdivided into three families: the Psittacidae , the Cacatuidae and the Strigopidae...

s, toucan
Toucan
Toucans are members of the family Ramphastidae of near passerine birds from the Neotropics. The family is most closely related to the American barbets. They are brightly marked and have large, often colorful bills. The family includes five genera and about forty different species...

s and woodpecker
Woodpecker
Woodpeckers are near passerine birds of the order Piciformes. They are one subfamily in the family Picidae, which also includes the piculets and wrynecks. They are found worldwide and include about 180 species....

s, are zygodactyl, having their first and fourth toes pointing backwards.

Species in taxonomic order



There are 18 species of Macaws, including extinct and critically endangered species. In addition, there are several hypothetical extinct species that have been proposed based on very little evidence.
  • Anodorhynchus
    Anodorhynchus
    Anodorhynchus is a genus of large blue macaws from open and semi-open habitats in central and eastern South America. Of the three species in the genus, two are endangered and one is probably already extinct. Additionally, a hypothetical extinct species has been postulated based on very little...

    • Glaucous Macaw
      Glaucous Macaw
      The Glaucous Macaw, Anodorhynchus glaucus, is a large South American parrot. This macaw is critically endangered or possibly extinct. It is closely related to the Lear's Macaw A. leari and the Hyacinth Macaw A. hyacinthinus. In Guaraní, it was called guaa-obi after its...

      , Anodorhynchus glaucus (critically endangered or extinct)
    • Hyacinth Macaw
      Hyacinth Macaw
      The Hyacinth Macaw , or Hyacinthine Macaw, is a parrot native to central and eastern South America. With a length of about 100 cm it is longer than any other species of parrot...

      , Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus
    • Indigo Macaw or Lear's Macaw
      Lear's Macaw
      The Lear's Macaw , also known as the Indigo Macaw, is a rare Brazilian parrot with a highly restricted range. It is metallic blue with a faint, often barely visible, tinge of green, and a yellow patch of skin at the base of the heavy, black bill. It weighs around 950 g and is 75 cm long...

      , Anodorhynchus leari
  • Cyanopsitta
    • Little Blue Macaw or Spix's Macaw
      Spix's Macaw
      Spix's Macaw is the only member of the parrot genus Cyanopsitta. They are critically endangered, possibly extinct in the wild The species is conserved through several breeding programs. It was found in Brazil, in parts of the Brazilian state of Bahia...

      , Cyanopsitta spixii (extinct in the wild)


  • Ara
    Ara (genus)
    Ara is a Neotropical genus of macaws with eight extant species and at least two extinct species. The genus name was coined by French naturalist Bernard Germain de Lacépède in 1799. It gives its name to and is part of the Arini, or tribe of Neotropical parrots. The Ara macaws are large striking...

    • Blue-and-yellow Macaw
      Blue-and-yellow Macaw
      The Blue-and-Yellow Macaw , also known as the Blue-and-Gold Macaw, is a member of the group of large Neotropical parrots known as macaws. It breeds in forest and woodland of tropical South America from Trinidad and Venezuela south to Peru, Brazil, Bolivia, and Paraguay...

       or Blue-and-gold Macaw, Ara ararauna
    • Blue-throated Macaw
      Blue-throated Macaw
      The Blue-throated Macaw is a macaw endemic to a small area of north-central Bolivia known as Los Llanos de Moxos. Recent population and range estimates suggests that about 100-150 individuals remain in the wild. The main causes of their demise is capture for the pet trade and land clearance on...

      , Ara glaucogularis
    • Military Macaw
      Military Macaw
      The Military Macaw is a large parrot and a medium-sized member of the macaw genus. 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.-Taxonomy:There are three...

      , Ara militaris
    • Buffon's Macaw or Great Green Macaw
      Great Green Macaw
      The Great Green Macaw, Ara ambiguus, also known as Buffon's Macaw or the Great Military Macaw, is a Central and South American parrot found in Nicaragua, Honduras, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia and Ecuador. Two allopatric subspecies are recognized, the nominate subspecies is found in Central America...

      , Ara ambiguus
    • Scarlet Macaw
      Scarlet Macaw
      The Scarlet Macaw is a large, colorful macaw. It is native to humid evergreen forests in the American tropics. Range extends from extreme south-eastern Mexico to Amazonian Peru, Bolivia and Brazil in lowlands up to up to...

       or Aracanga, Ara macao
    • Green-winged Macaw, Ara chloroptera
    • Red-fronted Macaw
      Red-fronted Macaw
      The Red-fronted Macaw, Ara rubrogenys, is a parrot endemic to a small semi-desert mountainous area of Bolivia. It is highly endangered, and there may only be 150 or so birds left in the wild; it has been successfully bred in captivity, and is available, if not common, as a pet.-Description:The...

      , Ara rubrogenys
    • Chestnut-fronted Macaw
      Chestnut-fronted Macaw
      The Chestnut-fronted Macaw or Severe Macaw is one of the largest of the Mini-Macaws. It reaches a size of around of which around half is the length of the tail....

       or Severe Macaw, Ara severa
    • Cuban Red Macaw
      Cuban Red Macaw
      The Cuban Red Macaw, Ara tricolor, is an extinct species of parrot that was native to Cuba and the Isla de la Juventud, an island off the coast of west Cuba. At about long it was one of the smaller members of the Ara genus of macaws. It was the last species of macaw native to the Caribbean...

      , Ara tricolor (extinct)
    • Saint Croix Macaw
      Saint Croix Macaw
      The Saint Croix Macaw is an extinct species of parrot from the Caribbean islands of Saint Croix and Puerto Rico. It was originally described by Alexander Wetmore in 1937 based on a subfossil limb bone unearthed by L. J. Korn in 1934 from a kitchen midden at an Amerindian archeological sites on...

      , Ara autochthones (extinct)
  • Orthopsittaca
    • Red-bellied Macaw
      Red-bellied Macaw
      The Red-bellied Macaw, Orthopsittaca manilata, is a medium-sized, mainly green parrot. It is the only species of the genus Orthopsittaca, and it does not have any subspecies....

      , Orthopsittaca manilata
  • Primolius
    Primolius
    Primolius is a genus of macaws comprising three species, which are native to South America. They are mainly green parrots with complex colouring including blues, reds and yellows. They have long tails, a large curved beak, and bare facial skin typical of macaws in general. They are less than...

     
    • Blue-headed Macaw
      Blue-headed Macaw
      The Blue-headed Macaw or Coulon's Macaw is native to eastern Peru , north-western Bolivia , and far western Brazil...

      , Primolius couloni
    • Illiger's Macaw or Blue-winged Macaw
      Blue-winged Macaw
      The Blue-winged Macaw , in aviculture more commonly known as Illiger's Macaw, is a species of macaw found in central and eastern South America. It was previously placed in the genus Ara or Propyrrhura. Blue-winged Macaws have been known to reach an age of 50–60 years.- Description:It has a total...

      , Primolius maracana
    • Golden-collared Macaw
      Golden-collared Macaw
      The Golden-collared Macaw or Yellow-collared Macaw is a small species of macaw belonging to the parrot family Psittacidae. It is native to central South America. In recent years it has often been placed in the genus Propyrrhura, but this is incorrect as per ICZN rules...

      , Primolius auricollis
  • Diopsittaca
    • Red-shouldered Macaw
      Red-shouldered Macaw
      The Red-shouldered Macaw is the smallest macaw being 30–35 centimetres in length. It is a parrot native to the tropical lowlands, savannah, and swamplands of Venezuela, the Guianas, Bolivia, Brazil, and far south-eastern Peru...

       or Hahn's Macaw, Diopsittaca nobilis

Hypothetical extinct species


Several hypothetical extinct species
Hypothetical extinct species
Several extinct species have been postulated, but owing to a lack of evidence they can only be regarded as hypothetical extinct species. They have caused confusion, as they may have been a separate species, a subspecies, or an introduced species.-Parrots:...

 of macaws have been postulated based on very little evidence, and they may have been subspecies, or familiar parrots that were imported onto an Island and later presumed to have a separate identity.
  • Martinique Macaw
    Martinique Macaw
    The Martinique Macaw, Ara martinica, is an hypothetical extinct species of parrot that may have been native to Martinique, a French island in the eastern Caribbean Sea....

    , Ara martinica, Rothschild
    Walter Rothschild, 2nd Baron Rothschild
    Lionel Walter Rothschild, 2nd Baron Rothschild, Baron de Rothschild FRS , a scion of the Rothschild family, was a British banker, politician, and zoologist.-Biography:...

     1905
  • Red-tailed Blue-and-yellow Macaw
    Red-tailed Blue-and-yellow Macaw
    The Red-tailed Blue-and-yellow Macaw, Ara erythrura, is an hypothetical extinct species of parrot that may have been native to Jamaica or Martinique. This species was postulated by Walter Rothschild in 1907, but James Greenway suggested that, if anything, Ara erythrura is a synonym of the...

    , Ara erythrura, Rothschild 1907
  • Lesser Antillean Macaw
    Lesser Antillean Macaw
    The Lesser Antillean Macaw also known as Guadeloupe Macaw is a hypothetical extinct species of macaw species from the Antilles island of Guadeloupe. It was first described in detail by Jean-Baptiste Du Tertre in 1654 and 1657 and later in 1742 by Jean Baptiste Labat...

    , Ara guadeloupensis, Clarke, 1905
  • Jamaican Green-and-yellow Macaw
    Jamaican Green-and-yellow Macaw
    The Jamaican Green-and-yellow Macaw may have been a species of parrot in the Psittacidae family that lived in Jamaica, but its existence is hypothetical.-References:* BirdLife International 2004. . Downloaded on 24 July 2007....

    , Ara erythrocephala, Rothschild 1905
  • Jamaican Red Macaw
    Jamaican Red Macaw
    The Jamaican Red Macaw may have been a species of parrot in the Psittacidae family that lived on Jamaica, but its existence is hypothetical.It is based on the following description of a specimen by Gosse:-References:...

    , Ara gossei, Rothschild 1905
  • Dominican Green-and-yellow Macaw
    Dominican Green-and-yellow Macaw
    The Dominican Green-and-Yellow Macaw or Atwood's Macaw, also called the Dominican Macaw, is extinct, and only known through the writings of zoologist Thomas Atwood in 1791...

    , Ara atwoodi, Clarke, 1905
  • Oné Couli
    Oné Couli
    Anodorhynchus purpurascens, is an hypothetical extinct species of parrot. Its native name was Oné Couli. It was described by Rothschild and featured in his book, Extinct Birds published in 1907, but there is very little evidence to support it as separate species...

    , Anodorhynchus purpurascens

Extinctions and conservation status


The majority of macaws are now endangered in the wild. Six species are already extinct, and Spix's Macaw
Spix's Macaw
Spix's Macaw is the only member of the parrot genus Cyanopsitta. They are critically endangered, possibly extinct in the wild The species is conserved through several breeding programs. It was found in Brazil, in parts of the Brazilian state of Bahia...

 is now considered to be extinct in the wild
Extinction
In biology and ecology, extinction is the end of an organism or of a group of organisms , normally a species. The moment of extinction is generally considered to be the death of the last individual of the species, although the capacity to breed and recover may have been lost before this point...

. The Glaucous Macaw
Glaucous Macaw
The Glaucous Macaw, Anodorhynchus glaucus, is a large South American parrot. This macaw is critically endangered or possibly extinct. It is closely related to the Lear's Macaw A. leari and the Hyacinth Macaw A. hyacinthinus. In Guaraní, it was called guaa-obi after its...

 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
Deforestation
Deforestation is the removal of a forest or stand of trees where the land is thereafter converted to a nonforest use. Examples of deforestation include conversion of forestland to farms, ranches, or urban use....

 and the illegal trapping for the bird trade.

International trade
International trade
International trade is the exchange of capital, goods, and services across international borders or territories. In most countries, such trade represents a significant share of gross domestic product...

 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.

Hybrids



A common trend in more recent years is hybridising macaws for the pet trade. Hybrids are typical macaws, with the only difference from true species being their genetics and their colours. Male offspring tend to take on the traits of the mother, and the females take the traits of the father.

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
Blue-and-yellow Macaw
The Blue-and-Yellow Macaw , also known as the Blue-and-Gold Macaw, is a member of the group of large Neotropical parrots known as macaws. It breeds in forest and woodland of tropical South America from Trinidad and Venezuela south to Peru, Brazil, Bolivia, and Paraguay...

 x chloroptera
Red-and-green Macaw
The Red-and-green Macaw , also known as the Green-winged Macaw, is a large mostly-red macaw of the Ara genus.This is the largest of the Ara genus, widespread in the forests and woodlands of northern and central South America...

) and Catalinas (known as Rainbows in Australia, A. ararauna
Blue-and-yellow Macaw
The Blue-and-Yellow Macaw , also known as the Blue-and-Gold Macaw, is a member of the group of large Neotropical parrots known as macaws. It breeds in forest and woodland of tropical South America from Trinidad and Venezuela south to Peru, Brazil, Bolivia, and Paraguay...

 x macao
Scarlet Macaw
The Scarlet Macaw is a large, colorful macaw. It is native to humid evergreen forests in the American tropics. Range extends from extreme south-eastern Mexico to Amazonian Peru, Bolivia and Brazil in lowlands up to up to...

). In addition, unusual but apparently healthy intergeneric hybrids between the Hyacinth Macaw and several of the larger Ara macaws have occasionally arisen in captivity.

Diet and clay licks



Macaws eat a variety of foods including fruits, palm fruits, nuts, seeds, leaves, flowers, and stems. Wild species may forage widely, over 100 km (62 mi) for some of the larger species such as Ara araurana (blue & yellow macaw) and Ara ambigua (great green macaw), in search of seasonally available foods. Some foods eaten by macaws in the wild contain toxic or caustic substances which they are able to digest. It has been suggested that parrots and macaws in the Amazon basin eat clay from exposed river banks to neutralize these toxins. In the western Amazon hundreds of macaws and other parrots descend to exposed river banks to consume clay on an almost daily basis - except on rainy days.

Donald Brightsmith, the principal investigator of the Tambopata Macaw Project, located at the Tambopata Research Center (TRC) in Peru, has studied the clay eating behavior of parrots at clay licks in Peru. He and fellow investigators found that the soils macaws choose to consume at the clay licks do not have higher levels of cation exchange capacity (ability to adsorb toxins) than that of unused areas of the clay licks and thus the parrots could not be using the clay to neutralize ingested food toxins. Rather, the macaws and other bird and animal species prefer clays with higher levels of sodium. Sodium is a vital element that is scarce in environments >100 kilometers from the ocean. The distribution of claylicks across South America further supports this hypothesis - as the largest and most species rich claylicks are found on the western side of the Amazon basin far from oceanic influences. Salt-enriched (NaCl) oceanic aerosols are the main source of environmental sodium near coasts and this decreases drastically farther inland.

Clay-eating behavior by macaws is not seen outside the western Amazon region even though macaws in these areas consume toxic foods such as the seeds of Hura crepitans, or sandbox tree
Sandbox Tree
Hura crepitans , the Sandbox tree, also known as Possumwood and Jabillo, is an evergreen tree of the spurge family , native to tropical regions of North and South America in Amazon Rainforest. It is recognized by the many dark, pointed spines and smooth brown bark...

, which have toxic sap. Species of parrot that consume more seeds, which potentially have more toxins, do not use claylicks more than species that eat a greater proportion of flowers or fruit in their diets.

Studies at TRC have shown a correlation between clay lick use and breeding season. Contents of nestling crop samples show a high percentage of clay fed to them by their parents. 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.

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