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The Scarlet Macaw Ara macao is one of the most magnificent of the Macaw species. This large Macaw has a long history as a companion to humans, dating back to the early 1100’s with the Incas. They are described as magnificent, beautiful, and striking, as well as gaudy by some. Early authors like P. Slud, in his work “The Birds of Costa Rica: Distribution and Ecology” (1964), remarks that when feeding in the treetops, they adorn the foliage like gigantic, gaudy flowers. Wetmore, in “A Collection of Birds from Guatacaste, Costa Rico” (1944), described them as glowing with color in the morning sun.
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Many macaws have vibrant plumage. The coloring is suited to life in Central and South American rain forests, with their green canopies and colorful fruits and flowers. The birds boast large, powerful beaks that easily crack nuts and seeds, while their dry, scaly tongues have a bone inside them that makes them an effective tool for tapping into fruits.
Macaws also have gripping toes that they use to latch onto branches and to grab, hold, and examine items. The birds sport graceful tails that are typically very long.
Macaws are intelligent, social birds that often gather in flocks of 10 to 30 individuals. Their loud calls, squawks, and screams echo through the forest canopy. Macaws vocalize to communicate within the flock, mark territory and identify one another. Some species can even mimic human speech.
Flocks sleep in the trees at night, and in the morning they may fly long distances to feed on fruit, nuts, insects, and snails. Some species also eat damp soil, which may help to neutralize chemicals in their fruity diet and ease their stomachs.
Macaws typically mate for life. They not only breed with, but also share food with their mates and enjoy mutual grooming. In breeding season, mothers incubate eggs while fathers hunt and bring food back to the nest.
A brilliantly adorned parrot, the Scarlet Macaw is truly a fantastic spectacle of color. It is a large Macaw and very similar in appearance to the Green-winged Macaw Ara chloroptera. Both of these parrots having a large amount of red in their feathering. The Scarlet Macaw is distinguished by the broad band of yellow feathers running across the middle of its wings, rather than the green band as seen on the Green Wing. Like the Green-winged, most of its body, head, and upper wings are a bright red, but it is noticeably a lighter shadeof red than that on the Green Wing. It is also slightly smaller than the Green-winged, and a bit more boisterous in personality.
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A variety of common names, descriptive of their coloring, have been used for both of these Macaw parrots. Names for the Ara macao included Red Macaw, Red and Gold Macaw, Red and Yellow Macaw, Red Yellow Blue Macaw, and Scarlet Macaw. The Ara chloroptera has been described by a range of names from Green-winged Macaw, Green Wing Macaw, Red and Green Macaw, Red and Blue Macaw, Crimson Macaw, and Maroon Macaw. It was in 1949, when a Dr. Osmond Hill, after careful researched of all available materials on these species, suggested that everything be simplified. He suggested that Ara macao simply be called the “Scarlet Macaw”, and Ara chloroptera simply be called the “Green-winged Macaw”. These are the two common names primarily used for each of these Macaw species today.
In the last couple of decades there have been new developments in the taxonomy of the Scarlet. Geographic variations of this species show slight discrepancies in size and color and suggests three possible subspecies. Common names for these variants include the Yellow-winged Macaw, Honduran Scarlet Macaw, and Bolivian Scarlet Macaw. These variants are described in more detail below.
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The Scarlet Macaw is very beautiful, inquisitive, and intelligent. Scarlet Macaw’s are eager learners and can be taught a variety of tricks. They can be quite talented as a talker, though generally not quite as adept as the Blue and Gold Macaw. Scarlet’s can learn about 5 to 10 words or phrases while the Blue and Gold can learn around 15 to 20. Like all Macaws, it has a loud call and it may be quite vocal at times.
This is a lively bird that loves to play and interact. It can also be quite flamboyant and boisterous in personality. The personality of a Scarlet is such that it requires good socialization at a young age. It requires a firm consistent hand in training, especially as it matures. The well socialized Scarlet Macaw is extremely social, and will be very friendly and confident with a number people. However, this Macaw takes a dediparroted and determined keeper to reach and maintain its potential as a great pet bird.
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