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Discovery of the New World brought the incredible thrill of beholding things that no civilized man had ever seen before.  The sight of creatures that were so unbelievable that even the educated world’s most imaginative minds could not conjure them in dreams.  Such were many things in the strange “New World” across the sea.  A world that existed far beyond the distance that a sane man would travel for fear of falling off the edge.  A land full of new discoveries.  High on the list of these incredible encounters were the marvelous macaws.


Yes, parrots were known in Europe before the discovery of the new world.  This knowledge however, was largely limited to the parrots of Africa and Asia.  Somehow, the knowledge of an African grey or the sight of an Indian ring-neck does not prepare one for the excitement of seeing a macaw for the first time.  Almost as amazing as the macaws existence, is the distinctively different colors and patterns that mark the different races.  The most northerly as well as one of the best known of the large macaws is the scarlet (Ara macao).  Their range extends from central Mexico south through South America to Bolivia and Brazil.  Easily three feet in length from the top of their heads to the tip of their long flowing tails, their colors are as awesome as their size.  With a screaming wing pattern that boasts a bright red, yellow and blue, they are considered by many to be one of the most beautiful birds in the world.  There are two main races of this bird available in the pet trade.  The one from the northern Colombia and southern Central America is smaller with a broad yellow band of color on the wing that is not intermixed with green.  The second is from the remaining South American range and is not only larger but has green intermixed with the yellow of the wing.  Both of these birds have what is known as a bi-colored beak.  That is a beak that is both black and horn colored.   Although no large macaw should be purchased as a beginner bird; scarlets, if hand raised and socialized at a young age, can be one of the best macaws to have as a pet.  Although sometimes referred to as a bit “nippy” by some authors, this is an individual personality characteristic and will be apparent if the perspective buyer spends enough time socializing with the bird before purchase. 


The next best known of the group, is the blue & gold (Ara ararauna).  They are the same size as the scarlet but their coloration is drastically different.  As their name implies, they are blue and gold in color.  The entire front of the birds’ body is yellow while the entire rear of the bird, including the wings, are blue.  Unlike the scarlet their beak is entirely black.  Their range is the bulk of northern and central South America.  As with all the large macaws they are extremely intelligent and interactive.  Thousands of adult blue & gold’s were imported during the seventies and eighties.  Most of these were set up for breeding.  Due to the fact that they were reliable producers the blue & gold is now the most commonly available of all the large macaws.


A bit smaller than the scarlet and blue & gold is the military (Ara militaris).  There are several different races of this bird that vary in minor coloration differences and size, but the one that is usually available in the pet trade is the relatively large variety that was imported from Mexico.  They get their name from their basic overall green coloration.  They also sport an area of bright red feathers where the fore-head meets the edge of their black upper mandible.  Due to their lack of bright coloration these macaws are not as popular as the others and are therefore usually available at bargain prices.  They do however; have all of the wonderful personality traits that make macaws such wonderful pets.


The biggest of those that are commonly available is the Green-winged macaw (Ara chloropterus).  Although this macaw is not much larger in length than the preceding, it is substantially larger in body bulk, head and beak size.  Many prospective macaw buyers are put off by the large almost “threatening” size of their beak.  Although it is true that the larger the beak the greater the leverage and the more damage can be caused if the bird had such a desire; the truth is that the green-wings actions have built a reputation of being one of the most calm and gentile by nature.  Their overall body color is a deep red, some birds will almost approach maroon in coloration.  As their name implies, they have a band of dark green feathers that separates the deep red of the upper wing from the dark blue flight feathers at the lower portion.  They like the scarlets have a bi-colored upper mandible.  Their range is similar to that of the blue & gold, taking up the vast bulk of northern and central South America.  Although they are not as prolific as either the blue & gold or the scarlet, they have become readily available in most of the top bird shops in the U.S. 


The largest and by far the most expensive of all of those available as pets is the hyacinth (Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus).  Their overall deep cobalt blue coloration is highlighted by a bright yellow skin color around the eye and lower beak.  These birds can be up to 40 inches long.  Their large body bulk and the huge head and beak size that offsets their length, makes them appear very imposing.  They are not only a thrill to see, they are truly the  gentile giants of the macaw world.  Anyone that can afford to have one in their home will have a marvelous lifetime companion.


One of the amazing things about the family of macaws is the drastic variance in size.  They are also available in Amazon and conure sizes.  These are known in the pet trade as the mini-macaws. The overall coloration in all of these is green, with minor colorful highlights.  All of them make excellent pets if socialized when still hand-feeding.  As with all of the macaws, how noisy they can be is directly related to their size. 


The most commonly seen and the largest of the “minis” is the severa macaw (Ara severa).  Although they are about eighteen inches long almost half of this length is their tail.  Severas’ have a bit of red along the edge of their wing and a small band of chestnut brown colored feathers on the front of their fore-head.  This gives then their popular name that is more commonly used in Europe, the chestnut-fronted macaw.  Unfortunately in the USA, it has become common for them to be erroneously referred to by mispronouncing their Latin name, hence the harsh name “severe macaw” instead of severa. They are also the only mini-macaw that has the distinctive lines of feathers on their otherwise bare facial area. This is a trait shared by most of the larger varieties.  There range extends from the Isthmus of Panama south, through South America to northern Bolivia and Brazil.


In southern Bolivia and Brazil the severa is replaced by the yellow-collared macaw (Ara auricollis).  They are, on average, a few inches smaller than the severas’ and have a bit less body bulk.  These pretty little macaws have a black fore-head and a yellow band of feathers that circles the back of the neck.  Although they have the full area of bare skin on their faces, they, like the scarlets, lack the distinctive facial feather lines.  As with the severas’, they make wonderful pets when socialized at a young age and have good talking ability. 


At this point we move down to conure size with the red-shouldered macaw (Ara nobilis).  Their range extends from the northern coast of South America, south through Brazil.  About ten inches long with half of their length in their tail, these little guys come in two forms. The more common of the two is known as Hahns’ macaw.  This bird’s habitat extends through the northern part of the range.  As their name implies, they have a patch of red at their shoulder. They also have the bare facial area that is indicative of the entire macaw family, drastically reduced to a small area behind the eye.  In central Brazil they are replaced by there slightly larger cousins, which are known as the Nobles’ macaw.  The outstanding characteristic that sets these southerly representatives apart from the Hahns’ is that they have horn colored upper mandibles in contrast to the Hahns’ solid black beak.  Both of these delightful birds make excellent pets.  With their small size they lack the ability to make the noise their larger cousins can be infamous for.