Macaws are large brilliantly coloured birds, found in the rain forests of Central and South America. Macaws are members of the parrot family. Of the 370 species of parrots found on Earth, macaws are the largest. These birds are beautiful colourful and entertaining. This has unfortunately made them popular as pets, leading to excessive trapping and illegal trading in these exceptional creatures.
Macaws can be identified by the bare rings of skin around the eyes. Twelve species of macaws have been recorded. Of these the Glaucus Macaw and the Spix’s Macaw are now extinct. Many of the other species are on the endangered list.
FACT 1: Macaws are generally big birds. The largest species, the Hyacinth Macaw can reach up to a length of three and a half feet from beak to tail tip. They weigh about 2 kg and can have a wing span of up to 5 ft.
FACT 2: The smallest macaws are the Mini Macaws. They are about 12 inches long, similar in size to a large parakeet.
FACT 3: Macaws sleep in the trees of the rain forests at night. In the mornings they fly long distances in search of food. They are omnivores and eat fruit and nuts as well as snails and insects.
FACT 4: Macaws have strong impressive beaks, making them a force to reckon with when aroused. The beak is useful for cracking open nuts that are found abundantly in the rain forests. The Hyacinth Macaw can crack a coconut shell with its beak. However the Hyacinth Macaw is considered the gentle giant of Macaws, as it is a loving pet.
FACT 5: Macaws are social birds. They live in flocks of 10 to 30 individuals. They mate for life, with the female incubating the eggs and the male bringing the food. They communicate using a series of loud calls, squawks and screams. They can even mimic human speech. They have a long life span. Blue and Gold Macaws have been known to live for nearly 80 years.
FACT 6: The Blue Throated Macaw is found in Bolivia. There are 500 of these birds left. They are listed as critically endangered, but the population is decreasing despite conservation efforts. This is partly due to the loss of nestlings to larger avian predators.
FACT 7: The Great Green Macaw is found in Costa Rica, Columbia, Ecuador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama. These birds too are fast disappearing. There are now between 1000 and 3000 birds left. The almendro tree which is the main source of sustenance is fast disappearing. In an effort to save these majestic birds, Costa and Nicaragua have listed the almendro tree is CITIES.
FACT 8: The Hyacinth Macaw is the world’s largest flying parrot. These birds were once widely distributed throughout Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay. They are now found only in three populations in Brazil. There are about 1,500 birds left. They nest in tree hollows. They have suffered extensive habitat loss and are widely hunted as prized pets.
FACT 9: The Military Macaw and the Scarlet Macaw are also threatened by habitat loss and over hunting. The Military Macaw is found in North Mexico, Ecuador, Peru, Columbia, Venezuela Bolivia and Argentina. There are about 10,000 birds left. The Scarlet Macaw is found in 16 countries of Central and South America, from Mexico to Brazil. There are no official records of the existing birds, but the thriving illegal trade indicates that they too may soon be extinct.
FACT 10: Pet traders have started inter breeding macaws to create flamboyantly colourful birds called Hybrid Macaws. However there is a lot of opposition to this practice.