Scarlet Macaw (Ara macao)

[order] PSITTACIFORMES | [family] Psittacidae | [latin] Ara macao | [authority] Linnaeus, 1758 | [UK] Scarlet Macaw | [FR] Ara rouge | [DE] Arakanga | [ES] Guacamayo Macao | [NL] Geelvleugelara


Monotypic species


There are twelve macaws in the Ara genus. Macaws are very distinctive birds, and possibly the best known, with their distinctive screeching call, sharp hooked beak, colourful plumage, very long tails and naked area around the eyes and cheeks. They are seen in most zoos, bird collections and anywhere else exotic wildlife is likely to be found. The species or the genus Ara are social birds which in the wild iive in flocks of 40 to 50 individuals composed by family groups of two to four animals.
They form pairs, and this social structure is kept when big flocks of hundreds of individuals are constituted. The species of the Ara genus vary greatly in size and colour with all of them having a similar body shape. Ara macaws have long tail feathers and large, broad heads with beaks that are extensive and strong. The most noticeable taxonomic feature of these birds is the area of bare skin on either side of the face. These bare patches can be completely bare or be covered in rows of small facial feathers surrounding the eyes. These markings vary between each macaw species.

Physical charateristics

Scarlet macaws are brightly colored birds with feathers ranging in color bands from scarlet on their head and shoulders, to yellow on their back and mid wing feathers and blue on the wing tips and tail feathers. The face has short white feathers. This area surrounds the light yellow colored eyes. The long, thick beak is light on the top and dark black on the bottom. The legs and feet are also black

Listen to the sound of Scarlet Macaw

[audio: Macaw.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 110 cm wingspan max.: 120 cm
size min.: 84 cm size max.: 89 cm
incubation min.: 24 days incubation max.: 25 days
fledging min.: 103 days fledging max.: 25 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 2  
      eggs max.: 4  


Latin America : Southeast Mexico to Colombia, Amazonia


Scarlet macaws are found high in the canopy of rainforest habitats below 1,ooo m


Nests are made in hollowed areas in trees, usually in the upper canopy of rainforests. Scarlet macaws form monogamous pair bonds that last for life.
Breeds about every one to two years. The clutch size is 2 to 4 white, rounded eggs with an incubation period of 24 to 25 days. Females mainly incubate the eggs. After hatching, the young may stay with their parents for one to two years. The male feeds the young by regurgitating and liquefying food. The parents will not raise another set of eggs until the previous young have become independent. Scarlet macaws reach sexual maturity at three or four years of age.
Both male and female scarlet macaws care for their young. Scarlet macaws have an extended period of dependence on their parents, with perhaps some significant learning occuring before they become sexually mature and independent.

Feeding habits

Scarlet macaws primarily eat fruit and nuts, and will occasionally supplement their diet with nectar and flowers. Ara macao individuals are known to consume fruits before they are ripe. Premature fruits have a tougher skin and pulp that is difficult to access unless the bird has a beak large enough to tear into it. By accessing these fruits before they are available to other animals, they may gain a competitive advantage. Scarlet macaws are also able to break open the toughest nuts. Parrots have more movement in their beaks than do other birds, which allows for a more powerful bill. This ability creates an important food resource for the parrots because not a lot of other animals are able to access such a large variety of nuts. There are structures on the inside of their beaks that allow scarlet macaws to press the hard seed between their tongue and palate and grind the seed so that it can be digested.

Video Scarlet Macaw


copyright: youtube


This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size may be moderately small to large, but it is not believed to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Ara macao is found in southern Mexico, Central America, and South America. In South America, the species is found as far south as northeastern Argentina. Ara macao is most common throughout the Amazon basin. In Suriname along rivers in the interior.
Scarlet Macaw status Least Concern


Resident throughout range, might come out of desne forest to open areas to feed.

Distribution map

Scarlet Macaw distribution range map


Title A new subspecies of Scarlet Macaw and its status and conservation
Author(s): David A. Wiedenfeld
Abstract: Scarlet Macaws from northern Middle America (Mexic..[more]..

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Title Response of a Scarlet Macaw Ara macao population to conservation practices in Costa Rica
Abstract: The Central Pacific Conservation Area contains one..[more]..
Source: Bird Conservation International (2005) 15:119-130

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Author(s): David A. Wiedenfeld
Abstract: Scarlet Macaws from northern Middle America (Mexic..[more]..
Source: ORNITHOLOGIA NEOTROPICAL 5: 99-104, 1994

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