Rainforests provide an ideal habitat for macaws, but some species are threatened while others are thought to have already reached extinction. This is due to rainforest deforestation along with being trapped by humans for the pet trade. Their intelligence, which enables the macaw to mimic human voices, and their bright colours make them highly desirable.
Of the 17 macaw species, two may already be extinct outside of captivity. These include Spix's macaw, last spotted in its natural habitat in 2000, and the glaucus macaw. Other species of macaw are endangered, including the red-fronted macaw, the blue-throated macaw and the hyacinth macaw. Many species are endangered today due to the destruction of their rainforest habitat and illegal trapping.
The rainforests of Central and South America are the natural habitat for macaws as the plant life, climate and large amount of water make these environments ideal for macaws to live in and breed. Within the tropical rainforest, macaws can be found in the emergent layer and the rainforest canopy.
Macaws vary greatly in colour and size. The length of these birds can range from less than 12 inches to 40 inches, including their long tails. The weight of a macaw can be as little as 128gr. or as heavy as 1.7kg. The wings that make macaws such strong flyers are long and end in a point. The Hyacinth macaw is the largest of all macaw species and has a wingspan that measures between 48 and 56 inches.
Sharp, powerful beaks enable macaws to crack seeds and nuts, and a bone inside the tongue helps them break into fruits. The hyacinth macaw can even break through coconuts with its beak. Macaws feet can grip effectively, allowing them to grasp and examine objects and to pass food to their mouths. These feet have two forward-facing toes and two rear-facing toes, which help them to hold onto branches firmly.
The Macaw Diet
Macaws have an omnivorous diet, feeding on nuts, fruit, leaves and insects. Minerals found in cliffs around the Amazon River also play an important role in the Macaw diet. By eating these minerals, they are able to break down toxins found in the seeds that form part of their diet. Damp soil is also eaten by some Macaws. This has a neutralising effect on the acidic diet.
When macaws find a mate, they stay together for life. Mates share food and groom each other. Nests are often built in holes in trees, high in the rainforest canopy. Parents both play an important role in raising their young as the fathers forage for food which they bring to the mother who is responsible for incubating the eggs. Flocks of Macaws sleep in trees high up in the rainforest. There may be between 10 and 30 macaws in each flock, communicating with each other vocally. Flocks can often fly quite a distance together as they forage for food collectively.