Domain Eukaryota - eukaryotes
Kingdom Animalia - animals
Subkingdom Bilateria - bilaterians, triploblastic animals
Branch Deuterostomia - deuterostomes
Infrakingdom - Chordonia
Phylum Chordata - chordates
Subphylum Vertebrata - vertebrates
Infraphylum Gnathostomata - jawed vertebrates
Superclass Tetrapoda - tetrapods
Class Aves - birds
Subclass - Neornithes
Infraclass - Neoaves
Parvclass - Passerae
Superorder - Psittacimorphae
Order - Psittaciformes
Family Psittacidae - parrots and allies
And finally:- Genus - (THE THREE TYPES OF MACAW!)
The word "Macaw" is thought to derive from the Arawak indian name for them.
There are sixteen species of macaw living in the world today. Two more are recently extinct. One only exists in captivity.
There is some debate as to how some of the "Ara" macaws should be classified, you may see some of them assigned to the genuses "Orthopsittaca", "Propyrrhura" or "Diopsittaca". This has arisen due to recent DNA tracing of their exact relationships. I've left them as "Ara" to keep it simple. See links below for a description of each macaw.
The biggest macaws, (Hyacinth) have a wingspan of around four feet (1200mm). The smallest (Hahn's) have a wingspan of fifteen inches (400mm). All are strong flyers. Some are extremely colourful.
There have been parrots around for at least thirty million years. Just when macaws first appeared is not known.
The sexes are externally identical in appearance and can only be determined by DNA testing or surgically....at least by humans.
Macaws all live in the tropical parts of South and Central America, however only some of them live in rainforests. They have no long range migration patterns although they have local travels in search of food. The small macaws can sometimes be seen in large flocks. The large macaws usually fly around in pairs, sometimes accompanied by their offspring.
Macaws are most active in the morning and late afternoon. In the middle of the day when it's very hot, they find a shady spot to hide under.
Many macaws are "endangered", meaning there are so few of them that they may become extinct in the near future. The reasons for this are:-
(a) That their habitat is being destroyed by mans activities (farming, lumbering and land clearance).
(b) They are being killed for their colourful feathers or because they damage crops.
(c) They are being captured for the pet trade.
The large, more colourful macaws are especially endangered. It is illegal to import many types of wild caught macaws to most Western countries. Large numbers however still go to Asia. As many as 90% of captured macaws die on the journey to their place of captivity.
Macaws eat seeds and fruit. They may also eat insects but no-one really knows. Some eat seeds which are poisonous. Some also eat clay which it's thought they prevents the poison from killing them. It may be the clay also has minerals which they need.
Many birds distribute seeds with their droppings. However macaws, in common with other parrots, are seed predators. They shell and shred seeds, which are then digested in their crop and gut. Macaws taste with the tip of their tongues.
All macaws nest in holes high above the ground. Many holes are in trees, however some nest in holes in cliffs. This can be a problem because large trees are cut down for lumber. Macaws usually don't make their own tree nestholes but use holes made by woodpeckers or holes caused by rotting of the tree.
Macaws often have to fight to get a nest hole as there is often a shortage. There's nothing "nice" about macaws, or in fact any other bird. They have a hard and brutal life.
The nesting season for macaws coincides with the wet season. This is because many plants and trees start to bear fruit towards the end of the wet season which they need to feed their young. However the torrential rains can sometimes drown their chicks or chill the eggs if the nesthole is not sheltered.
The wet season runs roughly from July to September North of the equator and November to February South of the equator. On the equator it's hot and humid and can rain at any time.
The large macaws usually lay two or three eggs. All may hatch but usually only one chick survives to leave the nest. (This is because the parents can't find sufficient food.) The parents feed the chick by regurgitating food from their crop. The young macaw will fly around with it's parents for more than a year, learning how to survive in the wild.
The small macaws lay up to five eggs, again less than half usually survive to leave the nest.
Macaw's eggs are white, they are in dark holes, there is no need for camouflage.
Very few macaws live to become adults possibly less than 10%.
Because they only breed slowly, it takes the population a long time to build up.
Macaws do not have many predators as they are large birds, active, with excellent eyesight and very alert to danger. However their nests are predated on by monitor lizards, snakes, monkeys and toucans.
9.SPECIAL PHYSICAL FEATURES
(a) Macaws like other parrots and woodpeckers are zygodactic, that is they have two toes forward and two toes backwards, a special adaptation for climbing about in trees. It also helps them to grasp and manipulate objects (usually food.) Of all birds, only parrots use their feet for this purpose.
(b)Another prominent feature is the beak. It is made from chitin, one of natures hardest materials and grows continuously. This together with the tongue is also specially adapted for grasping. The upper manible is more mobile than in other birds. It is an delicate yet extremely powerful "tool" able to shell canary seed or to crush the hardest seed or nut. The upper manible is solid, the lower is "cup shaped", the edge is extremely sharp. They habitually rub the two mandibles together, so keeping a sharp edge on the lower mandible.
Macaws also use their beak as an aid to climbing.
(c)Some macaws have bare facial patches around their eyes. This is a cooling device, the blood supply to this area can be turned off and on so that when heavy exercise is taking place (eg, flying or preparing for a fight) the blood and brain can be prevented from overheating. When a flying macaw lands, the normally white patches are temporarily bright pink. Some macaws have an additional refinement, lines of tiny feathers on the eye patch make the air flow turbulant so optimising the heat exchange. It may even be that these feathers can be "erected" in flight to control the degree of turbulence.
(d)Macaws have a long tail. This enables them to make "spot" landings on branches etc. That is, as they come in to land, the tail is fanned out and lowered so enabling lift to be generated at low to zero flying speed (they can virtually hover for a few seconds). It also makes them highly manuverable in flight.
(e)Some of the larger macaws are very brightly coloured. The question is often asked, "why" when a dull colour would be better camouflage. In fact when macaws are seen in the dark trees with bright splashes of sunlight, they are no-where as near noticeable as one might think. Maybe the bright colours help to attract a mate. It has however been their downfall, this being the very factor which makes them so desireable for the pet trade.
(f)Calls. Wild macaws have a small range of calls ranging from a relatively subdued "Kwark" which they voice almost continuously. This is a contact call so they can locate one another in thick vegetation. At the other extreme is their alarm call, a hoarse shriek which can be heard more than a mile away!
Macaws can live for seventy years in captivity. It's thought they may live for about forty years in the wild.
The complete lexicon of parrots, macaw section.(Germany)
The on-line book of parrots, ara section.
You will be well advised not to use this wording directly in your school report, your teacher may well have seen it before! Use the information but change the words. Also beware of the UK spellings if you are from the USA!
The intelligence of a macaw is generally reckoned to be the equivalent of a three year old child. They're much smarter than most dogs (and more devious)!
THEY SHOULD NEVER, EVER BE GIVEN TO A CHILD AS A PET. In fact children and macaws are best kept well separated, that beak is capable of hideous injury, even unwittingly.
They are extremely long lived, often to sixty years or more. Are you prepared to take on this responsibility for so long? What happens to your macaw when you die? If they are neglected or ignored they will almost certainly go insane and/or indulge in self injury, usually feather plucking. You will have to devote several hours every day to your macaw to keep it amused. It's like having a small child in the house.
Macaws don't make good talkers. Most learn only a few words, few speak clearly. It takes lots of work to train them! Some can be taught "tricks" with time and patience. However this needs a very experienced handler who has access to lots of macaws and can pick one out that has a natural tendency that can be built upon. Most macaws resolutely refuse to do any "tricks"!
Anyone who tells you any different is lying.
There are hundreds of macaw refuges throughout the world for unwanted macaws that have been rejected by their owners. Many of these birds have been so neglected that they are insane or plucked. It takes years of care by very experienced handlers to correct their problems, some are beyond all help.
The reason for all this is very simple. Dogs, for example, have been living in our homes for maybe 50,000 years and are well domesticated, that is all the undesireable factors about them have been long since bred out of them. Macaws have only recently come to live in our homes and have only been bred at all in any numbers in the the last twenty years.
They are still in fact WILD MACAWS!