Avian Species Menu

Military Macaw

Military Macaw

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Species Organizations

National Audubon Society
Website: www.audubon.org
Cornell Lab of Orinthology
Website: www.birds.cornell.edu
The Avian Web
Website: www.avianweb.com

Classification
Order Psittaciformes, Family Psittacidae
Scientific Name
Ara Militaris
Other Common Names
N/A
Species Description
The Military Macaw is 70 cm (27.5 in) long. It is mostly green in color with the head a slightly paler shade. It bears a red frontal patch, with a white bare facial area barred with narrow black lines. The flight feathers are blue and the red tail bordered with blue. The large strong beak is grey-black and the iris yellow.

Military Macaws live in large flocks and can live about 50-60 years in the wild. They can often be heard long before they are seen. They are a very noisy bird making a variety of loud cracking and shrieking sounds, including a loud kraa-aak.

The Military Macaw's diet consists of seeds, fruits, nuts, berries and other vegetation found on treetops in their forests. Their beaks are well adapted for eating various seeds and nuts as they have the ability to break open the hardest of shells with relative ease.

Military Macaws will leave their roosts in flocks around dawn and head to their feeding areas. They will also visit heaps of clay known as "macaw licks". These clay licks are found along riverbanks or sometimes in the interior of the Amazon rainforest. Macaws will flock to there to feed on these clay deposits, which appear to detoxify the poisons found in the seeds and vegetation of the rest of their diet.

The three subspecies will breed at different times. However this probably has more to do with the geographical region they are residing in than anything else. Breeding in the militaris occurs from January to March. The mexicana breeds from April to July and the boliviana breeds in November and December. Military Macaws are monogamous and remain with their mates for life. As they fly in large flocks the mates fly together. They will also be found flying in pairs in their feeding and roosting/nesting areas. Females will lay one to two eggs which only she will incubate for a period of approximately 26 days. Military Macaws will reach sexual maturity in two to four years.


Habitat
The Military Macaw inhabits arid woodlands and subtropical forests. They will nest in the tops of trees and more often in cliff-faces over 600 ft. (200 m) above the ground.

Distribution
The Ara m. militaris are often found in areas of Peru, Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela. The Ara m. mexicana occupy areas in Mexico and the Ara m. boliviana live in Bolivia and Argentina.

Captivity
When considering a Military Macaw as a pet, it is very important to verify the bird was bred in captivity. The U.S. Wild Bird Act forbids the commercial import of any bird listed by CITES. Though it is not among the most popular parrot species sought as a pet. The military macaw is often bred in captivity for trade and can be purchased for $800.00 to $1,000. The most common of the subspecies kept as pets is the mexicana and they live for more than 60 years in captivity.

Like most macaws, Military Macaws will be even tempered although sometimes they may be difficult and cranky. But, with proper training they can become a very tame and friendly pet. They are a very social bird who are playful and inquisitive and enjoy human interaction. Though they can be a noisy bird, they are very intelligent and have the ability to mimic human speech. They are considered to be a good choice for a show bird.

It is important to have the proper housing for your pet. The Military Macaw requires a minimum cage size of 36x48x60. A flight cage and plenty of time outside the cage is also highly suggested as the Military needs plenty of room to stretch and exercise its wings. Also, be sure to provide a variety of perch sizes for your bird to exercise its feet. Macaws also like to gnaw and chew so provide plenty of toys for your bird to exercise its beak. Make sure to clean and disinfect the cage regularly and replace all damaged toys and perches regularly.

It is highly suggested to feed your Macaw a specialized pellet diet with seeds in moderation. Fresh fruits and vegetables such as, apples, berries, grapes, carrots, broccoli and various greens leafy vegetables should be given to your macaw and replaced at least every 24 hours. Also, it is recommended to regularly provide your pet with fresh clean water. Proper bathing and cleaning is also very important for your pet macaw. Provide clean water for bathing. Remove and replace it with fresh clean water when the bird is finished. You may also shower or mist your bird. This is often enjoyed and is usually a fun alternative for your pet and will often generate a playful attitude in the bird. Then allow the bird to sun-dry if possible.

Some common illnesses in pet Military Macaws include chlamydiosis, diarrhea, feather-plucking, and Proventricular Dilatation Disease. Swelling in the beak or eyes, eye or nasal discharge, loss or appetite, coughing or lethargic activity are all warning signs of an ill pet.


Summary
Macaws are small to large, often colorful New World parrots. Of the many different Psittacidae (true parrots) genera, 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 as per ICZN rules. Macaws are native to Mexico, Central America, South America, and formerly the Caribbean. Most species are associated with forest, especially rainforest, but others prefer woodland or savanna-like habitats.

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.

Macaws, like other parrots, as well as toucans and woodpeckers, are zygodactyl, having their first and fourth toe pointing backwards.

Macaws eat nuts, seeds, fruit, and sometimes insects. They also gnaw and chew on various objects. They show a large amount of intelligence in their behavior and require constant intellectual stimulation to satisfy their innate curiosity. They often learn tricks easily.

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.

A common trend in 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 colors. Male offspring tend to take on the traits of the mother, and the females take the traits of the father. As for their temperament and behavior, they seem to inherit traits of both parents.

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.

Macaws are known to eat clay, which is believed to work as an antidote to the poisonous seeds they eat. The chemicals in the clay mix with the poison allowing it to pass through the bird's digestive system without harming the bird.

Large Macaws require a large amount of room and thus the cage a single bird occupies should be as large as possible, 36 inches wide x 36 inches deep x 60 inches high, or larger. They need ample amounts of room to prevent the muscles in their wings from atrophying as well as plenty of room to play, exercise in, and spread their wings. The bars of the cage should be no larger than 1 inch apart and should be made of durable metal. It should not have parts that contain lead or zinc, including paint on the bars. Cage cleaning and hygiene are important, Many cages have a grate covering the base to separate the bird from its droppings. The cage should be placed in an area that is off the floor, well-lit, and of a consistent temperature. Perches are acceptable and recommended; perches of varied materials and size are required to keep feet healthy. Stands placed strategicly around the house are important as an additional place to hang out and be part of the family. A spray bottle of lukewarm water can be used to bathe the bird. (All macaws typically like water and will also respond happily to an outing in the kitchen sink as well or spray down in the shower.)


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