Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The Scarlet Macaw (Ara macao) is a big, gaudy parrot.
It is native to humid evergreen forests in the American tropics, from extreme eastern Mexico locally to Amazonian Peru and Brazil, in lowlands up to 500 meters (at least formerly up to 1000m). These pictures were taken in Belize. It has been widely extirpated by habitat destruction and capture for the pet trade. Formerly it ranged north to southern Tamaulipas.
It is about 81 to 96 cm (32 to 36 inches) long, of which more than half is the pointed, graduated tail typical of macaws. Average weight is about a kilogram (2 to 2.5 pounds). 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. There is bare white skin around the eye and from there to the bill. The upper mandible is pale horn in color and the lower is dark. Sexes are alike; the only difference between ages is that young birds have dark eyes, and adults have light yellow eyes.
Scarlet macaws make loud, low-pitched, throaty squawks and screams.
Wild scarlet macaws eat mostly fruits 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 .
Like most parrots, the scarlet macaw lays 2 to 4 white eggs in a tree cavity. The young hatch after 24 to 25 days. They fledge about 105 days later and leave their parents as late as a year.
Scarlet macaws are popular cage birds for those who can pay both the high price of the bird and the price of the big cage needed, can stand their loud calls, and can give them considerable time outside their cages. They are considered sociable and affectionate, and some talk well.
- A Guide to the Birds of Mexico and Northern Central America, Steve N. G. Howell and Sophie Webb, 1994, ISBN 0198540124
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