What features do all macaws share?

Macaws are members of the parrot family and have the typical parrot features. They have large, strong, curved beaks designed to crush nuts and seeds. Strong, agile toes are used like hands to grasp things. Loud, screeching and squawking voices help make their presence known in dense rain forests. Macaws are built to fly through the trees in the forest, with a streamlined body and tail shape and wings that don’t flap deeply. They are also famous for their bright colors, which seem bold and conspicuous to us but actually blend in well with the green leaves, red and yellow fruits, and bluish shadows in the rain forest.  The largest—hyacinth macaw (Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus) is 39.4 inches (100 centimeters) and weighs 3 to 3.7 pounds (1,435 to 1,695 grams); smallest—red-shouldered macaw (Diopsittaca nobilis), 11.8 inches (30 centimeters)and weighs 4.5 to 5.9 ounces (129 to 169 grams). 


Where can I find macaws in the wild?

        Macaws can be found over almost all of northern South America from Panama to northern Argentina, and also Trinidad. Macaws inhabit forests near rivers and swampy areas with palms and tend to avoid mountainous and coastal regions.


What type of macaws live at Zooville USA?

Zooville USA has blue-and-gold macaws and Harlequin macaws. A Harlequin macaw means one parent was a blue-and-gold macaw and the other parent was a green-wing macaw. Both male and female blue-and-gold macaws are bright blue on their upper parts tinged with turquoise, and their under parts are bright, golden yellow. Their forehead and crown are green, ear coverts and sides of neck are yellow. Their throats are blackish, and wings and tail are blue. Their cheeks are mostly bare with a few rows of small, dark feathers, they have yellowish eyes, a black bill and grey feet. 


What do macaws eat?

Macaws eat a variety of ripe and unripe fruits, nuts and seeds, flowers, leaves, and stems of plants, and sources of protein like insects and snails. Some species specialize in eating the hard fruits and nuts of palm trees. One trick they use for this is to forage in fields where cattle live. The cattle eat the palm nuts, which pass through their digestive systems and come out the other end with the hard coating removed. This makes the nuts softer and easier for the macaws to eat! Macaws also visit riverbanks and cliffs made of clay soil, which they eat. Scientists think that the soil neutralizes any toxic chemicals the birds might eat in seeds or unripe fruits, so they don’t get a stomach ache.


Do macaws live in groups?

Macaws live in pairs, family groups, or flocks of 10 to 30, which helps give them protection from predators like large snakes and birds of prey. They usually wake before dawn, preening their feathers and calling to one another, perhaps communicating where they are and what they plan to do next. Then, as a group, they fly up out of the trees to journey to the day’s feeding grounds, often traveling quite a long distance. Shortly before or after dusk, they all take wing again to return to their roosting site, where they call to each other to figure out who sits where. The sitting arrangement can change from day to day! Sometimes squabbles break out, but macaws rarely physically injure each other. Once everyone is settled, they quiet down, fluff out their feathers, and prepare to snooze through the night.

When adult macaws choose mates, they usually stay together until one of them dies. This close relationship is called a pair bond. The pair reinforces their bond by preening each other’s feathers, sharing food, and roosting together. Most macaw pairs breed once a year, and the female lays her eggs in a nest inside a tree hollow or in a dirt hollow on a cliff face. Only the mother does the incubating until the chicks hatch. Then both parents bring food to the chicks. Macaw chicks are helpless and need their parents’ care until they grow their flight feathers. The fledglings are clumsy at first as they learn to fly, but once they get the hang of it, they start flying with the adults to forage for food. 

Macaws are intelligent and curious birds that like to explore and keep busy. They are very aware of their surroundings, which is necessary to keep watch for predators. As social birds they spend a lot of time interacting with their mates and their family groups. They have been known to use tools, and they like to play with interesting objects they find. They will examine the objects from different angles, moving them with their feet, testing them with their tongues, and tossing them around. Macaws are also big chewers, something they need to do to keep their beaks in good shape. They can do impressive damage to even very hard wood with their beaks. Most macaw species like to take baths, and they play in the water as they splash around. 


Are macaws endangered?

Parrots have the highest percentage of threatened species of all the world's bird families, and the 17 macaw species are among the most endangered. Population numbers of some species are cause for extreme concern: there are currently fewer than 5,000 hyacinth macaws in the wild, red-fronted macaws and blue-throated macaws are both thought to number fewer than 500 individuals in the wild. The Spix’s macaw is now extinct in the wild and can only be found in zoos and private institutions. The 20th century saw rapid declines in numbers of macaws, and in the case of the glaucus macaw, this has led to its almost certain extinction.

The principal threats to macaws are habitat loss and wildlife trade. The majority of macaws are dependent upon forests, both for food and for nesting sites. But the world's forests are in grave danger. In the last 100 years, over half the world's tropical forests have been destroyed, and it is estimated that worldwide, 26 hectares of forest are lost every minute - that's an area equivalent to 37 football pitches. The rate of forest destruction and degradation in South and Central America is particularly worrying, and if it continues unchecked, many of the world's most important species of plants and animals will be lost forever, including the macaws. The main causes of forest decline are commercial logging and clearance for agriculture.

Parrots have been prized as pets for many years, and macaws have always been extremely popular due to their bright colors, large size, and intelligence. In recent years, the demand for macaws as pets has grown steadily, and along with it the trade in birds captured from the wild. Today, trade in all species of macaws is regulated by CITES - the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, whereas in 1980 only three species were listed under CITES. The largest of the macaws, the hyacinth, has been one of the most seriously affected species. Survival rates for young birds captured in the wild are extremely low - sometimes as low as one per cent. For this reason, trappers often focus their attention on adults, which is extremely damaging to populations. If you are interested in having any species of parrot as a pet, make sure you know where the bird is coming from and ensure it is captive bred.