Published on May 16, 2020

Macaw Parrot Background Images

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Macaws are long-tailed, often colorful, New World parrots. They are popular in aviculture or as companion parrots, although there are conservation concerns about several species in the wild.

Of the many different Psittacidae (true parrots) genera, six are classified as macaws: Ara, Anodorhynchus, Cyanopsitta, Primolius, Orthopsittaca, and Diopsittaca. Previously, the members of the genus Primolius were placed in Propyrrhura, but the former is correct in accordance with ICZN rules. Macaws are native to Central America and North America (only Mexico), South America, and formerly the Caribbean. Most species are associated with forests, especially rainforests, but others prefer woodland or savannah-like habitats.

Proportionately larger beaks, long tails, and relatively bare, light-coloured, medial (facial patch) areas distinguish macaws from other parrots. Sometimes the facial patch is smaller in some species and limited to a yellow patch around the eyes and a second patch near the base of the beak in the members of the genus Anodorhynchus. A macaw’s facial feather pattern is as unique as a fingerprint.

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The largest macaws are the hyacinth, Buffon’s (great green) and green-winged macaws. While still relatively large parrots, mini-macaws of the genera Cyanopsitta, Orthopsittaca and Primolius are significantly smaller than the members of Anodorhynchus and Ara. The smallest member of the family, the red-shouldered macaw, is no larger than some parakeets of the genus Aratinga.

Macaws, like other parrots, toucans and woodpeckers, are zygodactyl, having their first and fourth toes pointing backward.

The majority of macaws are now endangered in the wild and a few are extinct. The Spix’s macaw is now probably extinct in the wild. The glaucous macaw is also probably extinct, with only two reliable records of sightings in the 20th century. The greatest problems threatening the macaw population are the rapid rate of deforestation and illegal trapping for the bird trade. Prehistoric Native Americans in the American Southwest farmed macaws in establishments known as “feather factories”.

International trade of all macaw species is regulated by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES). Some species of macaws—the scarlet macaw (Ara macao) as an example—are listed in the CITES Appendix I and may not be lawfully traded for commercial purposes. Other species, such as the red-shouldered macaw (Diopsittaca nobilis), are listed in Appendix II and may legally be traded commercially provided that certain controls are in place, including a non-detriment finding, establishment of an export quota, and issuing of export permits.

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