Great Green Macaw (Everything You Need to Know)

Last Updated on January 20, 2023 by Ali Shahid

The Great Green Macaw, also known as the Buffon’s Macaw or the Grand Military Macaw, is a large and striking bird that is native to Central and South America. These macaws are known for their bright green plumage, long tails, and large, powerful beaks.

It is the second largest macaw in the world (after the Hyacinth Macaw). Previously, it was considered part of the Military Macaw subspecies, which is smaller and closely related to this species.

Due to extensive habitat loss throughout the species’ Central and South American range, the number of this majestic macaw has dropped by over 50 percent over the past decade. In 2015, the U.S. listed it as endangered.

The Great Green Macaw’s habitat has been severely diminished by unsustainable logging, agricultural conversion, and mining. The birds are sometimes shot by farmers who believe they are crop pests.

Also, they are captured for their feathers and the pet trade. In the wild, this Macaw can easily be identified by its plumage. Here are a few interesting facts that will give you a better understanding of this bright and beautiful bird.

Great Green Macaw

Origin and History of Great Green Macaw

The Great Green Macaw (Ara ambiguus) is a large parrot native to Central and South America. Its natural range includes parts of Mexico, Honduras, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia.

It is typically found in lowland rainforests, but can also be found in other types of forests, as well as in mangroves and savannas.

Historically, the Great Green Macaw was widespread and abundant. But due to habitat destruction and illegal trapping for the pet trade, the species has seen a significant population decline. It is now considered endangered.


Great Green Macaws are divided into two subspecies:

  1. The nominate subspecies, Ara ambiguus ambiguus, is found in Mexico, Honduras, Costa Rica, and Panama.
  2. The subspecies Ara ambiguus guayaquilensis is found in Ecuador, Peru, and parts of Colombia.

Both subspecies are similar in appearance, but A. a. guayaquilensis tends to be slightly larger and has a slightly different plumage pattern.

Physical Appearance

In their natural range, great green macaws are the largest parrots, the second heaviest macaw species, and the third heaviest parrot species in the world. The average length and weight of this species are 85–90 cm (33.5–35.5 in) and 1.3 kg (2.9 lb).

A majority of their feathers are green, with a reddish forehead, a pale blue lower back, a pale blue rump, and a pale blue upper tail. It has a brownish-red tail tipped with very pale blue.

During the course of a lifetime, the bare facial skin develops a pattern of small dark feathers that are reddish in older birds and females.

There is a difference between juveniles and adults in that juveniles have grey-colored eyes, duller colors, and shorter tails that are tipped with yellow.

In locations where their ranges overlap, the great green macaw seems superficially similar to the military macaw, and could easily be mistaken for the latter.


The Great Green Macaw is a very social bird, and they are often found in pairs or small groups. They form strong bonds with their mates and are known to mate for life.

Additionally, they possess a high level of intelligence and are capable of learning several tricks and behaviors. In the wild, Great Green Macaws typically live in pairs or small family groups and are known to be very vocal, often making loud, raucous calls.

They are also known to be very playful, and enjoy climbing and playing with objects. Their diet is mostly of fruits and nuts and they have strong beaks which help them to crack open hard shells.

They are also known to be very active and enjoy flying and exploring their surroundings. Overall, Great Green Macaws are intelligent, sociable, and active birds that make great companions for those who can provide them with the proper care and attention.

Sound and Vocalization

The Great Green Macaw is known to be quite vocal and uses a variety of sounds and vocalizations to communicate with its flock.

They have a loud and distinctive call that is often described as a deep, loud screech. They also use a variety of other sounds, including whistles, clicks, and screams.


It is believed that the great green macaw is monogamous and forms strong pair bonds for the rest of its life. In Costa Rica, their breeding season begins in December and ends in June, and in Ecuador, it occurs between August and October.

In the trunk of the tree, near the crown, pairs nest in cavities high up. Females lay 2-3 eggs and incubate them for 26 days.

The chick hatches weighing 23g, become capable of flying after 12-13 weeks and is weaned after 18-20 weeks when it weighs more than 900 grams.

After fledging, juveniles remain with their parents as a family unit for quite a long time before gradually separating from them. It takes young birds at least five years to become mature and six to seven years to begin reproducing in captivity.

Caring for Great Green Macaw

To make sure a Great Green Macaw has a happy and healthy life, you need to provide it with certain things. It is necessary to provide a large amount of space for these macaws.

In an ideal situation, the birds would be kept in an aviary where they would have the opportunity to fly. Alternatively, they can be comfortably caged in a large cage if this is not possible.

Every day, the bird is allowed to be outdoors for a minimum of 2-3 hours. It is not advisable to confine them to their cage all day since they do not enjoy being alone. If the bird is stressed, it may act out by biting, screeching, or pulling its feathers.

When they are free from their cage, they enjoy stretching and preening, as well as being affectionate with their owners. It is recommended to place sturdy perches next to mounted feeding cups in the cage.

Provide your Macaw with a variety of toys to keep him entertained at all times. Providing your bird with a playpen outside of the cage is also beneficial.

To keep them happy, wood toys and ropes will be helpful since they are strong chewers that will chew anything they can get their teeth into.

The mess this bird will make is something to keep in mind. Cleaning and disinfecting their cages, perches, and food cups are required. Replace or clean soiled toys. It can be expensive.

There are also expenses associated with proper housing, food, toys rotated regularly, and veterinary care. In addition, the Great Green Macaw is vulnerable to certain health problems.


In its natural habitat, a great green macaw feeds on many different kinds of seeds, fruits, hard-shelled nuts, and flowers. Among their main food sources are the fruits of the Swamp Almond Tree (Dipteryx panamensis).

Observations in Ecuador have shown that a pair feeds primarily on orchids, which account for approximately 71% of their diet.

With their large, powerful beaks, they are capable of cracking open even the hardest nuts to retrieve their seeds. Foraging is usually conducted in small groups of members of the same family.

Health Problems

An inflammatory disease of the nerves of the upper and middle digestive tract, proventricular dilatation disease, is known to occur in this species.

Birds with this condition have swollen proventriculi and ganglia, as well as abnormal movements and feeding problems.

Population number

The IUCN Red List indicates that there are approximately 500-1,000 mature Great green macaws in the world. According to the IUCN Red List, this species is currently classified as Critically Endangered (CR).

Population threats

Habitat loss is the main threat to the Great green macaw’s survival. In Costa Rica, this specie lost approximately 90% of its original habitat between 1900 and 2000.

Agriculture is conducted on private lands that are not owned by the government, such as oil palm fields, pineapple fields, and banana plantations.

Currently, settlers are moving into Indio-MaZ Biological Reserve in Nicaragua to establish farms, particularly subsidence agriculture, oil palm, and cattle. The pet trade and hunting pressure for sport have also posed threats.

The Great Green Macaw is persecuted in some areas because it is considered a pest of maize cultivation. Additionally, they have been slaughtered for food purposes.

Great Green Macaw Conservation Effort

Great Green Macaws are a critically endangered species, with their population declining due to habitat loss and illegal trapping for the pet trade. Conservation programs aim to protect and increase their population through a variety of methods, including:

  1. Habitat protection and restoration: 

This involves preserving and restoring the natural habitats of Great Green Macaws, such as lowland rainforests, to provide them with a safe and suitable environment to live in.

  • Breeding and reintroduction programs: 

These programs aim to increase the population of Great Green Macaws by breeding them in captivity and then releasing them into the wild.

  • Anti-poaching and enforcement: 

This involves working with local authorities to enforce laws against illegal hunting and trapping of Great Green Macaws, as well as educating the public about the importance of conservation.

  • Community engagement: 

This involves working with local communities to raise awareness about the importance of conservation, and to encourage them to take part in conservation efforts.

  • Monitoring and research: 

This includes monitoring the population of Great Green Macaws and their habitats, as well as conducting research to better understand their biology and ecology.

  • Different Conservation Programs for Great Green Macaw

Several conservation programs have been implemented to protect the Great Green Macaw. Some examples include:

  1. The Great Green Macaw Project in Costa Rica
    1. The Great Green Macaw Conservation Program in Nicaragua
    1. The Green Macaw Conservation Program in Panama
    1. The Green Macaw Project in Colombia
    1. The Great Green Macaw Conservation Program in Peru

Overall, these conservation efforts are important to protect and increase the population of Great Green Macaws, and to ensure their long-term survival.

From Where You Can Get a Green Macaw

Great Green Macaws are protected by law and international trade in wild-caught individuals is prohibited. It is illegal to buy or sell wild-caught Great Green Macaws, and it is also illegal to keep one as a pet without proper permits.

Great Green Macaw can cost you around 3500-5000 dollars. If you are interested in acquiring a Great Green Macaw, you can look into adopting one from a reputable parrot rescue or sanctuary organization.

These organizations take in unwanted or abused parrots, including Great Green Macaws, and provide them with proper care and rehabilitation before finding them new homes.

Alternatively, you can also look for captive-bred Great Green Macaws from a reputable breeder. But, it is important to make sure that the breeder is reputable, that the parrot was legally obtained, and that you have all the necessary permits for owning it.


This beautiful and brightly colored bird is under threat of extinction due to habitat loss and the illegal pet trade. You will require plenty of space, time, patience, and love if you are fortunate to locate one that has been bred in captivity.

Giving your Macaw a happy and loving home requires knowledge of its exercise, diet, and play requirements.

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