Psittacus macao Linnaeus, 1758, South America. Two subspecies.
OTHER COMMON NAMES
French: Ara rouge; German: Arakanga; Spanish: Gaucamayo Macao.
33 in (85 cm); 2.1–2.2 lb (1,060–1,123 g). Brilliant plumage with red, blue, green, and yellow. Bare face patch, yellow wing patch, and long, red tapering tail.
A. m. macao: northeast Bolivia and central Brazil north to Guianas, north Colombia, Panama, and Costa Rica. A. m. cyanoptera: southeast Mexico to Nicaragua.
Lowlands, on dry ground in evergreen forest and dense gallery woodland traversing savanna, giving way in swampy areas to blue and yellow macaw (Ara ararauna); favors riverine forest or woodland, and often visits mangroves or remnant large trees in clearings and cultivation; in parts of Central America occurs in deciduous or Pinus forest.
Among the most spectacular of the neotropical birds, brilliant colors and loud calls making them highly conspicuous, especially in flight. Generally in pairs, family parties or small flocks of up to about 20 birds; the strong pair-bonds evident as paired birds fly together, their wings almost touching; daily morning and evening flights along regular routes between nighttime roosts and scattered feeding areas. Can be tame where not molested, but normally extremely wary and at slightest sign of danger rises high into the air while screeching loudly.
FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET
Feeds arboreally, taking mainly seeds, nuts, fruits, berries, and flowers, with large, rather soft fruits favored. In Brazil, important foods are Lecythis fruits, and fruits of juvia Bertholletia excelsa and Syagrus palms. With other parrots congregates at clay-licks on exposed banks; purpose unknown, but suggestion that consuming mineralized clays may alleviate effects of toxic alkaloids in unripe fruit.
Monogamous; pair-bond probably lifelong. Breeding season variable over extensive range, but in north nesting recorded in March–April and in south from October–March; nest in hollow in large tree high above ground; reuse of nests in successive years; one clutch of one or two, rarely up to four eggs, but normally only one or two chicks fledge. In captivity, incubation lasts 24–28 days; young birds leave the nest at approximately 14 weeks.
Remains common only in remote areas away from human
ion. Deforestation and capture of birds for live-bird trade have extirpated populations in much of Central America, where total population of cyanoptera estimated at about 4,000 in late 1990s; elsewhere declining in accessible localities, but good numbers survive in some national parks and reserves. Listed on CITES Appendix I.
SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS
Probably best known of neotropical parrots, and often depicted in travel brochures. Highly prized as aviary bird and as household pet, so nestlings persistently taken; also hunted in some regions for food and for feathers.
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