Red Ara Macaw

The Red Ara or Ara Macao is a large colorful parrot living in the American rain forests. This is the national bird of Honduras.


The red macaw is 84 to 86 centimeters in length, more than half of which corresponds to the long pointed tusks typical of all macaws. It weighs an average kilogram. If some individuals can live for more than 100 years1, the average lifespan is 80 years.

The plumage is essentially scarlet, but the feathers of the rump and top of the tail are light blue, the top of the wings is yellow, the ends of the feathers of the tail and the upper part on either side of the pinnae Of the wings are dark blue and the underside of the wings and the pines of the tail are dark red with golden metallic reflections. Some individuals may have green on the wings near the yellow band. Three subspecies have differences in the width of the yellow band on the wings. The naked skin around the eyes is white to the beak. Smaller white spots are also found on the face. Sexual dimorphism is weak. The only identifiable external difference between birds is with age: young people have dark eyes while adults have light yellow eyes.


It resembles much the Arachloroptera, their main difference of plumage is the yellow on its wings of the first instead of the green.

Habitat and Distribution 

The red macaw inhabits the tropical rainforests of America, from eastern Mexico to the Peruvian and Brazilian Amazon, in lowlands up to 500 m altitude. While they are infrequent on the continent, large colonies of red macaws can be seen on Coiba Island on the Pacific coast of Panama.

Red macaws have declined sharply due to destruction of their habitat, catches for trade, and pesticide spraying for crops. In Costa Rica, for example, the red macar occupies only 9,100 km2 compared to 42,500 km2 previously. The red macaws range, however, is the largest of all Ara birds with an estimated area of 6,700,000 km2, although their habitat is fragmented and often only small local colonies.


The Red Macaw eats mostly fruits and seeds. He particularly likes apples, nuts, bananas and other fruits, as well as nectar and buds. Its beak allows it to easily break the shells of nuts and other fruits of this kind.


The couple only performs one breeding cycle per year. The female lays two or three eggs in a tree cavity. She broods them for 27 days. The young fly away at the age of three months but become independent only between four and five months.A Macao Macau in freedom near the ManĂº National Park in Peru.


Red macaws are extremely social birds that are found only in groups, often of about twenty individuals. The macaws move away from their group, as a couple, only during the period of reproduction. They search together for their food, then return in the evening to a common place to sleep. At certain times, the macaws fly off to find a place to sleep, twice a day (at noon and at night). Members of the same family fly very close to one another and seek body contact when they sleep.

The researchers have not been able to distinguish hierarchy among the macaws until now, as their groups do not seem to be led by a leader. However, the youngest macaws always give priority to the oldest when it comes to feeding: it is only when the oldest have finished eating that the youngest ones begin. The reason for this practice, however, is more pragmatic than due to politeness. Older birds are indeed more experienced and know better than others where one finds food. The youngest birds learn by observing and imitating the older ones in order to later become models too.

The macaws do not have their own territories, but regularly run through an extensive area, which they do not attempt to deny access to other macaws. It happens that several groups of macaws gather on the same tree. The abundance of food makes a territorial defense completely useless. However, when several groups are on the same tree, they are very careful not to mix. There is also no struggle to find a partner in macaws: as with most other species of parrots, when a couple has formed, it remains together until the death of one of the two.

The cries have an important function for the cohesion of couples and groups in these very dense tropical forests. Red macaws are social animals, they do more than mere cries: they emit differentiated sounds that have specific meanings for their fellow creatures.

Relations with other species

The largest predators of the macaws are the daytime raptors. Carnivorous mammals are rarely dangerous for red macaws as they hunt on the ground. Moreover, the red macaws avoid the larger macaws hyacinths, which are serious competitors in their quest for food.

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