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Species Spotlight: Macaws

Colorful plumage and impressive mimicry skills make macaws some of the most iconic birds in the world. Read on to learn more about them!

Published March 19, 2020

A pair of macaws—one scarlet and one gold and blue—can often be spotted together at the Aquarium, perched on a low branch in Upland Tropical Rain Forest. Pair-bonded macaws like these take care of each other by assisting with grooming and feeding, and keep one another company.

Blue and gold macaw

There are 19 species of macaws, primarily hailing from Central and South America. The blue and gold macaw can be found in Venezuela, Peru, Brazil, Bolivia, Panama and Paraguay. The scarlet macaw can be found throughout the Amazon River basin, from Peru to Bolivia, and in parts of Mexico, Panama, Guatemala and Belize.

Both species have unique adaptations suited to their native habitat. Among the more bizarre is a high-powered beak which holds a dry, scaly tongue with a bone in it—perfect for cracking open the tropical tree nuts that make up a good portion of a macaw’s diet!

Scarlet macaw

The scarlet macaw is immediately recognizable for its intense red, gold, blue and green coloring. This is what is known as ‘disruptive coloration’, and it helps the macaws in flocks confuse predators. When the flock takes off, the bold colors create visual noise that obscures individual birds…where does one macaw begin and one end? 

Hyacinth macaws like Margaret are some of the largest parrots in the world, with a wingspan of up to 5 feet! Learn more by browsing our Animal Index.

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