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Scarlet Macaw
Conservation status

Least Concern (IUCN 3.1)
Scientific classification
A. macao
Binomial name
Ara macao
(Linnaeus, 1758)
Range shown by the red area
Range shown by the red area
The Scarlet Macaw (Ara macao) is a large, colorful parrot. Some consider the Scarlet to be among the most beautiful birds in the world.
It is native to humid evergreen forests in the American tropics. Range extends from extreme south - eastern Mexico to Amazoniain Peru and Brazil, in lowlands up to 500 m (1,640 ft) (at least formerly) up to 1,000 m (3,281 ft). 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 upperwing 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. Some individuals may have green on the wings near the yellow band. Three subspecies present varying widths in their yellow wing band. There is bare white skin around the eye and from there to the bill. Tiny white feathers are contained on the face patch. 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, squeaks and screams designed to carry many miles.
The Scarlet Macaw can live up to 75 years, although, a more typical lifespan is 30 to 50 years.
Scarlet Macaws eat mostly fruits and seeds, including large, hard seeds. A typical sighting is of a single bird or a pair flying above the forest canopy, though in some areas flocks can be seen. They may gather at clay licks. They like apples, nuts, bananas, and fruits. They also feed on nectar and buds.
The Scarlet Macaw lays two or three white eggs in a tree cavity. The female incubates the eggs for about 28 days, and the chicks fledge from the nest about 90 days after hatching and leave their parents about a year later.
Distribution and habitat
Scarlet Macaws originate in the humid lowland subtropical rain forests, open woodlands, river edges, and savannas of Central and South America. The habitat of the Central American Scarlet Macaw runs through the extreme eastern and southern regions of Mexico and Panama, but also through Guatemala and Belize, while the South American population has an extensive range that covers the Amazon basin; extending to Peru east of the Andes, to Bolivia, and Paraguay. While generally infrequent on the mainland, great colonies of Scarlet Macaws can still be found on the islands of Coiba.
Before the Scarlet Macaw's decline in population, its distribution included much of Costa Rica. However, by the 1960s Scarlet Macaws had been decreasing in numbers due to a combination of factors, particularly hunting, poaching, and the destruction of habitat through deforestation. Further, the spraying of pesticides by companies cultivating and selling bananas for export played a significant role in decreasing Scarlet Macaw populations.
The combined factors stressed the population of Scarlet Macaws in Costa Rica, where they had previously occupied approximately 42,500 kmē of the country's total national territory of 51,100 kmē, leaving viable populations in the early 1990s isolated to only two regions on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica; the Carara Biological Reserve and Peninsula de Osa. By 1993 surveys had shown Scarlet macaws occupied only 20% (9,100 kmē) of their historic range in Costa Rica.
The habitat of Scarlet Macaws is considered to be the greatest latitudinal range for any bird in the genus Ara, as the estimated maximum territorial range covers 6,700,000 kmē. Nevertheless, the Scarlet macaws habitat is fragmented, and colonies of the bird are mostly confined to tiny populations scattered throughout Central and South America. However, as they still occur in large numbers in some parts of their territory, where they are described as "common," the World Conservation Union evaluated the species in 2004 as "Least Concern".
Aviculture, captivity, and care
Scarlet Macaws are popular, but are a high maintenance pet; they are expensive to purchase, adopt, or maintain, they are demanding, and they are extremely loud and noisy cage birds. They are prized for their beautiful plumage and considered very affectionate with their owners. They are considered an intelligent species. Many hybrids between this and other macaw species are popular and different variations of coloring are numerous like the one pictured at left.
The Scarlet Macaw is a CITES I listed species, meaning that they are illegal to take from the wild without specific special permits. They are not endangered as of 2008 but are very vulnerable to the pet trade. Like many rarer parrot species today, they are occasionally smuggled to the United States or Canada where they wind up seized by authorities in Miami, San Juan, Toronto, or New York City (both nations are CITES signatories and thus obligated to take appropriate action). Unfortunately not all perpetrators are caught and some birds are sold illegally. Many smuggled parrots die from stress on their way to points north.
Retrieved from Macaw and edited for this website.
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