Scarlet Macaw

Ara macao

by Sally Blanchard

» 32" of which half is their tail. The Scarlet has the longest tail of any of the Macaws.
» In Central America the Scarlet ranges from south-eastern Mexico to Panama. In South America, there is a population in Amazonian Peru, Bolivia and Brazil. There is also a population in Colombia.
» CITES I - still considered stable in some of their range, but is disappearing in other areas where they are vulnerable.  

When I was in Costa Rica over three decades ago, I saw several Scarlet macaws but the populations were decreasing. Unfortunately, some of them were in cages next to the outdoor restaurants that we ate at. In Palo Verdes National Park, I saw the nesting tree of a pair of these birds. At one point the pair came out of the nest and flew off across the green valley squawking loudly. Seeing these birds flying in the wild was one of the highlights of my bird watching life!

If you look at all of the parrot-related artwork, stuffed animals, and other tzotchkes, you will find more scarlet macaw effigies than any other parrot-family bird. The reason is obvious; these birds are absolutely gorgeous.

Are these beauties always as nippy as their reputation suggests? If it is true there are most likely two reasons. One is that they are rarely hand-fed long enough or properly socialized and the second is that their not always deserved reputation becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. If people simply believe that ALL Scarlet macaws are nippy, instead of using nurturing guidance to change the behaviors, they often accept the negative aspects of losing control of their companions. Belief in nippiness can result in a loss of handling ability. 

While scarlets may have a tendency to be nippy, especially during certain developmental stages, working with them properly will minimize the tendency. Keeping a soft foot toy handy to stick in their beak instead of letting them chew on your fingers can go a long way in controlling the nippiness. I recommend making a soft toy by tying knots out of terry cloth strips and vegetable-tanned leather strips. When they start nipping at your fingers; stick the toy in their faces!

Generally speaking, scarlet are the large macaw with the highest energy. They need to be kept busy and to have their intelligence channeled into caregiver guided games and/or fun tricks.

Some people may feel that scarlets may not fit as well into their household as some of the macaws would. The key is that they receive lots of guidance and instructional interaction. I have met some  great scarlet macaws!   




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