Great Green Macaw (Everything You Need to Know)

Last Updated on December 30, 2023 by Ali Shahid

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

The Great Green Macaw stands as the second-largest macaw globally, measuring between 85 to 90 centimeters. Furthermore, it holds the distinction of being the third heaviest parrot species worldwide. One might note a striking resemblance between the Great Green Macaw and the Military Macaw, chiefly due to their analogous coloration. However, a keen observer would discern the Great Green Macaw’s large stature, serving as a distinguishing feature between these two magnificent birds.

Owning a Buffon’s Macaw demands a particular commitment. Their playful and sometimes mischievous nature can lead them to mischief, especially if they sense monotony. It’s worth noting their impressive lifespan spanning 50 to 60 years. If one contemplates purchasing a Great Green Macaw, one should be prepared for an investment ranging between $3,000 to $4,000. Prioritize acquiring from esteemed breeders such as PetOPet, GoldenCockatoo, Terryparrotfarm, and AvianparrotforSale to ensure the authenticity and welfare of the bird.

Regrettably, the Great Green Macaw faces a concerning decline, particularly across its native Central and South American territories. Astonishingly, the population has dwindled by more than half in just a decade, leaving a mere 500 to 1,000 individuals in Costa Rica alone.

This decline stems largely from detrimental activities like unsustainable logging, the conversion of land for agriculture, and mining. Additionally, some farmers, perceiving these birds as nuisances, resort to shooting them. Furthermore, the pet trade and their vibrant feathers make them even more vulnerable.

The Great Green Macaw distinguishes itself through its radiant plumage in its natural habitat. A few captivating insights about this resplendent bird emerge, painting a clearer picture of its significance and beauty.

Great Green Macaw
Scientific NameAra ambiguus
Common NamesGreat Green Macaw, Buffon’s Macaw, Grand Military Macaw
OriginCentral and South America: Mexico, Honduras, Costa Rica, Panama, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia
Size85-90 cm (33.5–35.5 in)
Weight1.3 kg (2.9 lb)
ColorationPredominantly green with reddish forehead, pale blue back and rump, brownish-red tail
PersonalitySociable, intelligent, vocal, playful
Beginner FriendlyRequires experienced care
Talking AbilityCan learn up to 20 words
Clutch Size2-3 eggs
DietSeeds, fruits, hard-shelled nuts, flowers; primarily Swamp Almond Tree fruits in some regions
Care LevelHigh maintenance; needs ample space, toys, and attention
Lifespan50-60 years
Price Range$3,000 – $4,000
Places to BuyReputable breeders, parrot rescues or sanctuaries
PopulationEstimated 500-1,000 mature individuals worldwide
Population ThreatsHabitat loss, illegal trapping, hunting for sport, perceived as a crop pest
IUCN StatusCritically Endangered (CR)

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. However, 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. The male and female genders are identical and you must use DNA sexing to determine the gender of an individual.

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. Although they are not as good a talker as blue and gold macaws, they can learn up to 20 words and are very loud.

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 species 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 the 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

Despite being on the verge of extinction, the Great Green Macaw faces critical challenges, such as habitat degradation, illicit trade, and unwarranted hunting. As a result, concerted conservation efforts have been initiated to protect the species.

A notable initiative in this area is the Macaw Recovery Network, which employs both in-situ and ex-situ conservation strategies. In the first case, the species is protected in its natural habitat, which is achieved through monitoring nests, restoring habitats, and encouraging community involvement. Ex-situ approaches, on the other hand, focus on the development of breeding programs and the methodical reintroduction of animals into the wild to revive dwindling populations.

I cannot overstate how admirable the World Parrot Trust’s efforts are. A collaboration with local organizations has led to the development of release-oriented breeding programs, the rehabilitation of confiscated birds caught up in illegal trade, and the raising of public awareness about the Great Green Macaw’s plight.

To further amplify the conservation chorus, Macaw Conservation Costa Rica has developed an integrated conservation strategy. Through their comprehensive approach, they engage the community, educate the public about the importance of protecting the environment, and regenerate habitats through controlled breeding and meticulous reintroduction methods. The overarching objective remains clear: reinstating the Great Green Macaw harmoniously within its indigenous ecosystems.

Although these collective conservation efforts have contributed to stabilizing the Great Green Macaw population, the journey remains challenging. There are several challenges that remain, including rampant habitat degradation and illicit wildlife trade, which threaten the resurgence of the species. Thus, securing the long-term legacy of the Great Green Macaw requires sustained collaboration among conservation conglomerates, government agencies, and grassroots communities.

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 3000-4000 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 enough 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.


  • Ali Shahid

    Ali Shahid is a veterinarian by profession and an animal lover. He loves to give expert opinions about different animals. He has worked in top organization of birds like Bigbird Feed and Poultry Research institute. He loves birds, especially parrots and has great experience in different parrot farms.

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