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Ara macao

Ara macao, Photo: Michael Lahanas

Cladus: Eukaryota
Supergroup: Opisthokonta
Regnum: Animalia
Subregnum: Eumetazoa
Cladus: Bilateria
Cladus: Nephrozoa
Cladus: Deuterostomia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Infraphylum: Gnathostomata
Superclassis: Tetrapoda
Classis: Aves
Subclassis: Carinatae
Infraclassis: Neornithes
Parvclassis: Neognathae
Ordo: Psittaciformes
Familia: Psittacidae
Subfamilia: Psittacinae
Tribus: Arini
Genus: Ara
Species: Ara macao
Subspecies: A. m. cyanopterus - A. m. macao


Ara macao (Linnaeus), 1758


* [1] Listed animal in CITES Appendix I
* Ara macao Report on ITIS

Vernacular names
Deutsch: Hellroter Ara
English: Scarlet Macaw
Español: Guacamaya roja
Français: Ara rouge
Magyar: Sárgaszárnyú arakanga
Italiano: Ara rossa e gialla
日本語: コンゴウインコ
Português: Araracanga, Arara-vermelha
Русский: Ара красный
Suomi: Puna-ara
Svenska: Ljusröd ara

The Scarlet Macaw (Ara macao) 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 500 m (1,640 ft) (at least formerly) up to 1,000 m (3,281 ft). It has suffered from local extinction through habitat destruction and capture for the parrot trade, but locally it remains fairly common. Formerly it ranged north to southern Tamaulipas. It can still be found on the island of Coiba. It is the national bird of Honduras.


It is about 81 centimetres (32 in) long, of which more than half is the pointed, graduated tail typical of all macaws, though the Scarlett Macaw has a larger percentage of tail than the other large Macaws. The average weight is about 1 kilogram (2.2 lb). 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 in the wings. 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. The only difference between ages is that young birds have dark eyes, and adults have light yellow eyes. It is frequently confused with the slightly larger Green-winged Macaw, which has more distinct red lines in the face and no yellow in the wing. Scarlet Macaws make very loud, high & sometimes low-pitched, throaty squawks, squeaks and screams designed to carry many miles to call for their groups.

As Pets

Scarlet Macaws are quite demanding of time and resources, and in general, make for a rude, noisy, messy, and destructive house guest. One should spend a lot of time reading about these birds before inviting them into your home. Any large macaw can easily remove a finger, or remove your eye while perched on your shoulder. Not always aggressive, they are always somewhat unpredictable, even around experienced handlers.


The Scarlet Macaw can live up to 75 years in captivity, although, a more typical lifespan is 40 to 50 years.[1]


Scarlet Macaws eat mostly fruits, nuts 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.[2] They like nuts 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 five weeks, and the chicks fledge from the nest about 90 days after hatching.[3] 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.[4] While generally infrequent on the mainland, great colonies of Scarlet Macaws can still be found on the islands of Coiba.
In flight

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 km² of the country's total national territory of 51,100 km²,[5] 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 km²) of their historic range in Costa Rica.[5]

The habitat of Scarlet Macaws is considered to be the greatest latitudinal range for any bird in the genus Ara,[5] as the estimated maximum territorial range covers 6,700,000 km². Nevertheless, the Scarlet macaw’s habitat is fragmented, and colonies of the bird are mostly confined to tiny populations scattered throughout Central and South America.[4] 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".[6][7]


The Scarlet Macaw is a CITES I listed species, meaning that they are illegal to take from the wild without specific special permits.[8] They are not endangered as of 2008 but are very vulnerable to the pet trade.


1. ^ "Animal Diversity Web — Scarlet Macaw". University of Michigan Museum of Zoology. http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Ara_macao.html. Retrieved May 29, 2008.
2. ^ Photo of Scarlet Macaws and several other parrots at clay-lick in Tambopata-Candamo - The Wonders of Peru with Boyd Norton "?". http://www.nscspro.com/peru.htm. Retrieved 20 August 2010.
3. ^ Alderton, David (2003). The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Caged and Aviary Birds. London, England: Hermes House. p. 234. ISBN 1-84309-164-X.
4. ^ a b Juniper, T. and M. Parr. 1998. Parrots: A Guide to Parrots of the World. Yale University Press.
5. ^ a b c Marineros, L., and Vaughan, C., 1995. Scarlet Macaws of Carara. In: Abramson, J., Speer, B., Thomsen, J. (Eds.), The Large Macaws: Their Care Breeding and Conservation. Raintree Publications, Fort Bragg, California, pp. 445–467.
6. ^ Ekstrom, J.; S. Butchart (2004). "2006 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: Ara macao". Archived from the original on June 5, 2007. http://web.archive.org/web/20070605012304/http://www.iucnredlist.org/search/details.php/48025/all. Retrieved June 30, 2007.
7. ^ Ekstrom, J.; S. Butchart (2009). "2009 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: Ara macao". http://www.iucnredlist.org/apps/redlist/details/142583/0/full. Retrieved October 26, 2009.
8. ^ "?". http://www.unep-wcmc.org.

* CITES page on the Scarlet Macaw accessed May 17, 2007

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