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Scarlet Macaw

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Ara macao


Central and South America.


Tropical rain forest canopy.


Omnivorous. Mainly fruits, nuts and seeds; insects and larvae in the breeding season.


Every 1-2 years, usually in spring and early summer, but may occur year-round.


Macaws nest in holes located high in deciduous trees.


Two to four eggs are incubated, mostly by the female, for 24-25 days.


Both male and female care for the young, who stay with their parents for 1-2 years. A new clutch will not be laid until the young macaws have become independent. As a result, the macaw population increases only slowly.


Young may be taken in the nest by arboreal predators such as snakes, monkeys and small carnivores. Eagles and hawks, or large cats such as jaguars, may take adults and fledglings.

Conservation status:

Least concern


Macaws are the largest parrots in the world. Body length is about 89cm, the typically pointed graduated tail accounting for one-third or a half of the total length. Average weight is about 1kg.

The sexes are alike, although tail feathers of males may be longer than females and the beaks slightly larger. Young birds have dark eyes; in adults the eyes are light yellow.

Scarlet macaws pair for life. Both sexes are reproductively mature at 3-4 years. Typical lifespan in the wild and in captivity is 40 to 50 years.

The powerful beaks of scarlet macaws, and parrots in general, enable them to break open the toughest nuts and tear into the skin and pulp of unripe fruits. This ability increases the variety of food sources available to them. They can eat fruits toxic enough to kill other animals. This could be because they also eat large amounts of clay, which is thought to neutralize plant poisons.

In central America, the scarlet macaw appears to be widely distributed, but habitats are fragmented and only small scattered populations occur. In El Salvador, for example, the scarlet macaw is extinct. In northern South America, it occurs in larger numbers over most of its original range and is classified by IUCN as “Least concern”. Listing in CITES Appendix 1 reflects its vulnerability to exploitation for the illegal pet trade.

The scarlet macaw is the national bird of Honduras.