Macaw ID Slideshow: Photos & Fast Facts

  • Macaw ID Slideshow: Photos & Fast Facts

    Introduction

    Macaws range in size from one of the smallest parrots to the largest.

    What makes a parrot a macaw?

    • Macaws have very large beaks in proportion to the head with a fairly wide lower beak or gnathotheca in most species.
    • Most macaws have a bare facial patch with varying degrees of feather lines.
    • The tail is long and pointed and accounts for up to two-thirds of the bird’s length.

    Generally, members of a given macaw species are nearly identical, so a hybrid should be suspected when markings or colorations vary significantly from the descriptions in this slide show. Proper identification is particularly important when advising a client on breeding. It is also very helpful for advising owners since some species are known for making better pets than others. Because captive bred macaws can vary from wild macaws, the lengths and weights listed here should only be used as a reference for identification.

  • Macaw ID slideshow

    Visit LafeberVet’s Topographical Diagram for an illustration of some descriptive terms referred to in this slideshow.

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    Hyacinth or Hyacinthine macaw
    Scientific name Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus
    Length (ave) The largest macaw at 40 inches (101.6 cm) in length
    Body weight (g) 1200 – 1500
    Plumage Dark blue with black undersides. When feathers are wet, they take on an aquamarine hue.
    Beak Black
    Cere Feathers extend over and around nares.
    Face Skin surrounding eyes and mandible ranges from pale yellow to dark gold.
    Adult eye color Eyes dark brown, appear black
    Feet Dark grey to black
    Pet quality While these birds can have excellent pet qualities, their size, dietary needs, and rarity should discourage the average pet owner from acquiring one
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    Blue and yellow macaw or blue and gold macaw Blue-throated macaw or Caninde macaw
    Scientific name Ara ararauna Ara glaucogularis
    Length (ave) 34 in (86.36 cm) 32 in (81.28 cm)
    Body weight (g) 800-1300 700-1100
    Plumage Darker shades of blue with turquoise hues Lighter shades of blue with lighter turquoise hues
    Breast & undersides of feathers Pale yellow to deep gold Darker yellow to deep gold
    Gular region (throat) Black Turquoise to darker blue, feathers extend slightly higher on face, partially covering cheeks
    Undertail coverts Larger patch of blue with turquoise hues around vent Smaller patch with turquoise hues
    Beak Black Black
    Lore (forehead) Green Not distinct from general plumage
    Cere feathered or bare? Bare, nares exposed Bare, nares exposed
    Facial patch Lines of black feathers Exposed skin can blush pale pink when bird is excited Lines of turquoise feathers Exposed skin often blushes deeper pink or red even in a calm, quiet setting
    Adult eye color Pale yellow Pale yellow
    Feet Dark grey to black Dark grey to black
    Pet quality Generally common in captivity, blue and golds can be a good pet for someone with the space and time for a large bird This critically endangered species is rarely seen in practice, and should be placed in a species survival breeding program when possible
    Image by Andrew Horne Image by Jeff Kubina
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    Image by Florida’s Center for Instructional Technology

    Scarlet macaw,
    Red and yellow macaw
    Green-winged macaw,
    Red and green macaw
    Scientific name Ara macao Ara chloroptera
    Length (ave) 34 in (86.36 cm) 36 in (91.44 cm)
    Body weight (g) 900-1100 900-1500
    Overall appearance More sleek and streamlined Heavier and generally more stout
    Plumage Shades of bright red Shades of darker red
    Flight feathers Primary wing feathers, outer tail feathers range from turquoise to deep cobalt blue. Tail feathers are longest in proportion to body of all the macaws. (While subspecies are still debated, one possibly distinct subspecies has the longest center tail feather measuring up to 36 inches or 91.44 cm alone). Primary wing feathers, outer tail feathers range from lighter turquoise to blue. Tail length is more proportionate to body.
    Upper wing coverts Yellow patch of upper wing coverts ranges from narrow & patchy to very wide and solid bright yellow. Green wing coverts between the yellow and blue coverts in some possibly distinct subspecies. Yellow and green edging to feathers on the back of head in some possibly distinct sub-species. Green patch of upper wing coverts. No yellow feathers at all.
    Undersides of feathers Red (Noting the underside color of macaw feathers can be a dead giveaway of a hybrid that may otherwise appear pure). Darker red
    Undertail coverts Pale blue Pale blue
    Beak Upper beak or rhinotheca: pale cream or horn-colored, lower beak or gnathotheca: black. Beak is more proportionate to face. Upper beak or rhinotheca: pale cream, lower beak or gnathotheca: black. Beak is relatively larger and heavier in proportion to face.
    Cere feathered or bare? Patch of feathers are larger and more dense Patch of feathers is less dense
    Facial patch Very fine, pale red feathers make the facial patch appear bare Line of red feathers on facial patch
    Adult eye color Pale yellow Pale yellow
    Feet Dark grey to black Dark grey to black
  • Medium sized macaws

    Medium-Sized Macaws

    Military macaw Buffon’s macaw or
    great green macaw
    Scientific name Ara militaris Ara ambigua
    Length (ave) 29 in (73.66 cm) 34 in (36.36 cm)
    Body weight (g) 800-1000 1200-1500
    Overall appearance At least three distinct recognized subspecies Heavier and generally more stout
    Plumage Light to darker green Lighter shades of brilliant yellow-green to green
    Gular region (throat) Brownish or maroon in one subspecies
    Flight feathers Primary wing feathers, outer tail feathers range from light turquoise to blue.
    Undersides of tail feathers bright olive or gold. Upper side of long tail feathers maroon, tipped with blue.
    Primary wing feathers, outer tail feathers range from light turquoise to blue.
    Undersides of feathers Undersides of wing feathers olive Bright olive or gold
    Rump feathers Pale blue Pale blue
    Undertail coverts Pale blue Pale blue
    Beak Black beak is more proportionate to face Generally large in proportion to face and much heavier.
    Cere Bright to dark red feathers that vary in density and size Dense patch of bright red feathers
    Facial patch Lines of black feathers on facial patch. Exposed skin on face patch often blushes deep pink/red even in a calm setting Lines of black feathers on facial patch. Exposed skin on face patch often blushes deep pink/red even in a calm setting.
    Adult eye color Pale yellow Pale yellow
    Feet Dark grey to black Dark grey to black
    Pet quality Fairly common in captivity and probably the best pet quality of the large macaws Endangered species that rarely turns up in practice. Should be placed in a species survival breeding program when possible
    Posted with permission from Animal-World Pet and Animal Information.
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    Red-fronted macaw
    Scientific name Ara rubrogenys
    Length (ave) 24 in (60.96 cm)
    Body weight (g) 500-550
    General description This species is sometimes confused with the military and Buffon’s macaw, but it is significantly smaller, particularly in body mass. Sometimes described as the largest of the small macaws, the beak is much heavier and more similar to the large macaws.
    Plumage Light shades of brilliant yellow-green to green. Ear patch, lower leg feathers, upper and under wing coverts and bend of wing red to orange red.
    Beak Black, heavy, and relatively large in proportion to face
    Flight feathers Primary wing feathers, tail feathers range from bright to dark blue. Undersides of wing and tail feathers bright olive or gold.
    Cere Bright red feathers
    Periocular region Skin surrounding eyes and mandible ranges from pale yellow to dark gold.
    Lore (forehead) Red
    Facial patch Lines of black feathers
    Adult eye color Pale yellow to orange
    Feet Light to dark grey
    Pet quality Endangered species that rarely turns up in practice. While they can be good pets, red-fronted macaws should be placed in a species survival breeding program whenever possible.
  • Small macaw

    Small macaws

    The small macaws are often confused with some of the larger species of conure, and have been known to crossbreed with conures in captivity. Generally the small macaw beak is not as thick or heavy as the larger macaws, however they are nearly as powerful and have a much stronger bite than the largest conure. Small macaw vocalizations are more similar to conures, but they can match any of the large macaws in volume. It is incorrect to refer to these species as “dwarf” or “mini” macaws. These terms indicate a species created by man through selective breeding such as mini or toy breed dogs.

  • Golden collared macaw

    Yellow-collared macaw or yellow-naped macaw
    Scientific name Primolius auricollis
    Length (ave) 15 in (38.1 cm)
    Body weight (g) 250-300
    Plumage Light to dark green
    Gular region (throat) Black
    Lore (forehead) Black
    Nape Yellow nape feathers do not continue to the front
    Flight feathers Primary wing feathers, tail tips range from bright to dark blue. Upper side of tail feathers maroon, tipped with blue. Undersides of wing and tail feathers bright olive or gold.
    Beak Black tipped with light cream color
    Cere Bare, nares exposed
    Facial patch Bare facial patch with a few, very fine, dark feathers
    Adult eye color Pale yellow to orange
    Feet Light grey
    Pet quality Generally common in captivity with excellent talking ability, but can be shy or aloof when it comes to being handled
  • Severe macaw

    Severe macaw or chestnut-fronted macaw
    Scientific name Ara severa
    Length (ave) 18 in (45.72 cm)
    Body weight (g) 350-400
    Plumage Light to dark green
    Gular region (throat) Chestnut or reddish brown.
    Lore (forehead) Chestnut or reddish brown.
    Crown Tinted with light blue
    Flight feathers Primary wing feathers, tail tips range from bright to dark blue. Red feathers on bend of wing. Undersides of wing and tail feathers dark red. Upper side of long tail feathers maroon, tipped with blue.
    Beak Black
    Cere Bare, nares exposed
    Facial patch Bare facial patch with fine to distinct dark feathers
    Adult eye color Pale yellow to orange
    Feet Light to dark grey
    Pet quality Generally common in captivity. Among the smaller macaws, this species is one of the best pet quality except for their extremely loud natural calls.
  • Red bellied  macaw

    Red-bellied macaw
    Scientific name Orthopsittaca manilata
    Length (ave) 17 in (43.18 cm)
    Body weight (g) 225-275
    General appearance One of the smallest macaws, generally petite in appearance and proportions.
    Plumage Green to olive
    Despite the name, the lower abdomen is reddish-brown and not particularly prominent
    Breast Pale grey tint
    Head feathers Pale blue tint
    Flight feathers Primary wing feathers shades of blue. Undersides of wing and tail feathers olive green.
    Beak Black
    Cere feathered or bare? Bare cere, nares exposed
    Facial patch Large, bare facial patch off-white to pale yellow
    Adult eye color Dark brown
    Feet Light to dark grey
    Pet quality While they can make delightful pets, this species is notoriously hard to keep in captivity due to specialized dietary needs.
  • Illiger’s macaw

    Illiger’s macaw or blue-winged macaw
    Scientific name Primolius maracana
    Length (ave) 17 in (43.18 cm)
    Body weight (g) 250-300
    Plumage Light to dark green with a bright orange red abdomen
    Lore (forehead) Small red patch
    Crown Tinted with dark blue
    Flight feathers Primary wing feathers range from bright to dark blue
    Undersides of wing and tail feathers olive green
    Upper side of long tail feathers reddish, tipped with blue
    Beak Black
    Cere Bare, nares exposed
    Facial patch Small bare facial patch
    Adult eye color Brownish to bright orange
    Feet Pinkish cream to light grey
    Pet quality Generally rare in captivity compared to the other macaws, but they can be a very nice pet
  • Red shouldered macaw

    Red-shouldered
    “Noble” macaw
    Red-shouldered “Hahn’s” macaw
    Scientific name Diopsittaca nobilis camanensis Diopsittaca nobilis nobilis
    Length (ave) 14 in (35.56 cm) 12 in (30.48 cm)
    Body weight (g) 200-250 150-200
    Overall appearance Slightly larger with a larger head and generally more bulky appearance The smallest macaw with very petite features.
    Plumage Shades of bright green Shades of bright green
    Crown Feathers tinted with paler blue Tinted with dark blue
    Flight feathers Undersides of wing and tail feathers olive green. Bend of wing and under wing coverts bright red. Undersides of wing and tail feathers olive green. Bend of wing and under wing coverts bright red.
    Beak Upper beak light cream color and heavier
    Lower beak dark grey to black

    Note: The noble macaw shown above is a juvenile. As the bird ages, the lower beak will darken.
    Dark grey
    Cere Bare, nares exposed Bare, nares exposed
    Facial patch Small bare facial patch Small bare facial patch
    Adult eye color Reddish brown Reddish brown
    Feet Dark grey Dark grey
    Pet quality Generally less common in captivity. Known for not being as personable or talkative as the Hahn’s macaw Generally common in captivity. One of the best pet birds among all species combining a manageable size, excellent talking ability, and a playful yet gentle temperament
    Image obtained from Aves International.

References

References

Forshaw J (ed). Encyclopedia of Birds, 2nd ed. San Diego, CA: Academic Press; 1991.

Lexicon of Parrots website. Available at http://www.arndt-verlag.com/. Accessed on April 12, 2013.

Low R. Average bird weights of common parrot species. Avian Web.com Web site. Available at http://www.avianweb.com/AverageBirdWeights.htm. Accessed on April 17, 2013.

World Parrot Trust website. Available at http://www.parrots.org/. Accessed on May 1, 2013.