Scarlet Macaw on the Upper Macal River
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Sunday July 29, 2012

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Scarlet Macaw on the Upper Macal River

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.

Description

It is about 81 centimetres (32 in) long, of which more than half is the pointed, graduated tail typical of all macaws, though the Scarlet 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 upper wing 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. They are also kept as pets in many countries.

Behavior

The Scarlet Macaw can live up to 50 years in captivity, although, a more typical lifespan is 30 to 40 years. They are unusually stubborn at times.

Diet

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.

Breeding Habits

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 and leave their parents about a year later. Because of this, the chicks may have a hard time on their own.

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