Lifestyle and Lifespan
The Military macaw is one of the larger species of macaw, reaching up to 33 inches in height, including tail. It is a medium green on the crown, neck, front, upper back and wings. The forehead is brilliant red, and the flight feathers and rump is light blue. The tail is reddish above and yellow below. The cheeks are white, with small black feathers. The eyes are yellow and the beak is black. The juvenile coloration is duller, and the eyes are gray.
"There are 3 subspecies of Military macaw; the nominate subspecies, A. m. militaris, is smaller than the A. m. mexicanus subspecies, and the A. m. boliviana subspecies has a red-brown throat and the feather tips on the primary feathers and tail are dark blue. A. m. militaris is found in Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, and Ecuador. A. m. mexicanus ranges along the Pacific coast in Mexico from Sonora to Jalisco, and the range of A. m. boliviana is restricted to the eastern slope of Andes in Bolivia and Argentina. The Military macaw is sometimes confused with a similarly colored and larger species, the Great green macaw (also called the Great military macaw)."
The green coloration of the Military macaw helps it camouflage in the forest and hide from predators.
In South America, it is found in humid lowland forest, gallery forest, and wooded foothills and canyons. In Mexico, the Military macaw can be found in riparian forest, arid and semi-arid woodlands, and human lowlands. Its habitat ranges in elevation from 1640 feet to 4900 feet, occasionally going higher.
According to the IUCN Red List, there is thought to be between 10,000 and 20,000 individuals across its range, though the website acknowledges other lower estimates of less than 10,000. The home range of Military macaws is large, due to the fact that they will fly miles from their roost to forage for food.
Military macaws are herbivorous, and eat mainly fruits, nuts, and seeds, including unripe fruits. They will also eat flowers and flower nectar as well, and occasionally ingest clay to help reduce toxins from eating unripe fruit.
Military macaws, as well as other parrots, are important pollinators and seed dispersers of their habitat. Thus, they can shape the flora of their habitat. They also are prey to jaguars, eagles and hawks, monkeys, and snakes.
Military macaws will feed and forage during the day, often miles from their communal roost.
Different vocalizations are used to communicate within a flock. They have a very loud raucous call which can be heard over quite the distance.
All species of parrots are social, and the Military macaw is no exception. They can be found in pairs or small family flocks most often, and occasionally in larger flocks of up to 40 birds. These larger flocks may be mixed species.
Breeding season varies along a north-south axis; in Mexico, breeding season begins in June, in middle parts of their range it begins in summer, and in the southernmost part of the range, breeding season is in winter. Military macaws will pair for life, and will often preen and feed each other. Nests are laid on cliff faces or high up in trees. The female will lay 2-4 eggs, which are incubated for about 25-28 days. The female will incubate the eggs and brood the chicks, which hatch featherless and need parental care. The male will feed the female and later her chicks.
2 to 4 eggs are laid. When the chicks hatch, they need much parental care. After about 3 months, they fledge.
The Military macaw is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List and is on Appendix I of CITES. It is on the endangered species list in Mexico.
This species was formally described in 1766. Its population has been decreasing and populations are becoming increasingly isolated.
Exhibit and educate.
If you are interested in having a macaw as a pet, do extensive research before deciding. They are long-lived birds, and may outlive many humans. They require lots of stimulation, enrichment, and attention. If you are determined in getting a macaw or other parrot, please consider getting a rescued bird as opposed to a young/baby one to avoid the risk of getting one that was smuggled from the wild (a very traumatic experience for birds) and supporting the illegal pet trade. The Oakland Zoo is a conservation partner to Mickaboo Companion Bird Rescue, a good organization to adopt from.
When excited, the white cheek patches of the Military macaw will blush pink or red.
The Military macaw, like all parrots, has zygodactyl feet, which mean that two toes point forward and two toes point backward. This allows the macaws to grip better, which is important as they often hold their food with their feet or walk along branches rather than fly.
The beak of the Military macaw is very strong, allowing it to crack open even the toughest of nuts. Additionally, the beak has more movement than other birds, allowing it to open wider.
The scientific name, Ara militaris, was inspired by the olive green color of the macaw’s feathers, which is similar in color to military uniforms.
There is significant variation in the breeding season across the entire range of the Military macaw. Temperature could be a factor, but food availability may also factor in, as fruits are only available part of the year.