By Briana Magistro
SC Staff Writer
When you think of “parrot,” you typically think of a large and colorful bird. The bird that you are thinking of is called a macaw.
Macaws come in all colors and sizes. Macaws typically sport bright plumage, and have different colored patches around their eyes or beak. Their colorings can include scarlet, gold, green, blue, and orange, and each species has its own specific set of colors.
Their beaks are large and hard so that they can consume nuts and seeds, and their long tails help them to balance their big beaks.
Macaws live in tropical Central and South America. The rainforests there provide lush vegetation and ample fruit for consumption, as well as many nesting sites.
Some smaller macaws live in savannah-like areas in the eastern portions of Central America. Years ago, macaws also inhabited the Caribbean Islands, but they have since been pushed out by deforestation and the pet trade.
The diet of a macaw varies; they enjoy a variety of fruits, nuts, vegetables, and grains. Some larger species, such as the scarlet and blue-and-yellow macaws, will travel up to 60 miles per day in search of certain fruits that may be in season for a short time.
In the wild, macaws will also consume soft, mud-like clay found in riverbeds. This clay helps macaws during digestion, as some foods in their diet may contain harmful substances.
For example, the sandbox tree provides fruit for the birds, but its sap is toxic. The clay in the birds’ digestive tracts will help neutralize the toxins.
Like some other bird species, macaws mate for life, meaning that the pair will meet up every mating season. Mating pairs may also stay together all year round and raise their young together.
Macaws are kept as pets in the Western World and are popular because of their colors and intelligence. They can learn a simple “hello” or hum a melody.
In captivity, macaws and other pet birds require supplemental calcium, as they cannot obtain it from their processed pet food.
Cuttle bone is a popular option, as it supplies a treat that is both crunchy and healthy while maintaining beak and bone health.
Most macaw keepers will “clip” their birds’ wings to keep them from flying away. “Clipping” is a painless procedure that impairs flight by cutting the length of the bird’s wings. This will not affect a pet bird, as long as it is never released.
Releasing pet birds is illegal in the US, but if it is released, it will not be able to fly to safety when faced with a predator or oncoming car. People release birds because of their large size and loud voices.
There are many bird rescues, such as Parrot Mountain in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, that take in pet parrots whose owners no longer wish to take care of them.
Due to deforestation and the illegal pet trade, some species of macaws have become extinct in the wild.
Because of this, the Worldwide Wildlife Foundation has made it illegal to capture any wild macaw for the pet trade.
Pet traders can only obtain macaws from licensed breeders to ensure that no more birds will be taken from the wild.
Email Briana at: