Military macaw (Ara militaris)

Spanish: Guacamayo Militar, Guacamayo Verde
GenusAra (1)
SizeLength: 70 cm (2)

Classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List 2007 (1) and listed on Appendix I of CITES (3).

A popular cage bird, the military macaw’s wild population is rapidly diminishing as more and more birds are being captured for the pet trade (1). Military macaws have bright green plumage, with vibrant red head feathers and a black beak. Blue and red tail feathers and bright blue flight feathers add to this bird’s colourful appearance, and make it easy to understand why it is such a popular pet (2).

The military macaw’s range is widespread but sporadic, occupying small areas of Central and South America, in Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru and Venezuela (1).

The military macaw inhabits humid forests, wooded foothills and canyons. Nests are usually made on cliff faces or in large trees (4). Most military macaws are found between 500 and 1,500 metres above sea level (5).

Usually found in pairs or in small flocks of up to ten birds (6), the military macaw feeds on seeds, nuts, berries and fruit (2). Roosts consisting of far larger numbers of birds are found on cliffs or in large trees (6). The breeding season in Mexico is in June, when the military macaw lays a clutch of two to three eggs (5). These eggs are generally laid in nests on or near cliff faces, which offers the nest and its inhabitants a little more protection (2).

The main cause of the drastic decline in numbers of these magnificent birds is the pet trade. In 1995 to 1996, 96 wild-caught birds were recovered from international trade (4). Another significant factor in the reduction of the number of military macaws is the loss of habitat (1), through deforestation for cattle ranching and agriculture.

The military macaw is protected by law in Venezuela (1) and is on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), meaning that trade in this species is permitted only in exceptional circumstances (3). Several of the healthy populations of the macaws are in reserves such as the El Cielo Biosphere Reserve in Mexico and the many other protected areas in the macaw’s range (4). As little is known about the size or ecological requirements of these populations, further studies and monitoring have been proposed (1). Controlling the capture of these birds for the pet trade could also slow the decline in populations (1).

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  1. IUCN Red List (July, 2014)