Last Updated on December 22, 2022 by Ali Shahid
The military macaw, also known as Ara militaris, is known for being friendly and social. Despite its large size, it is a pleasant and even-tempered pet bird.
The bird is named after its predominantly green plumage, which resembles the uniform of a military parade. Even though their appearance is not as impressive as that of other macaws, they are still beautiful.
They are also social and fun-loving, and many of them that are kept as pets become excellent talkers. Ideally, its owners should hand-feed it from birth so that it can form a strong bond with them.
Despite their curious nature, these birds are eager to interact with their human “flock. Because of habitat loss and the illegal trade in wild birds, the Military Macaw is on the verge of extinction.
The species is native to forests in Mexico and South America. Although it is considered vulnerable in the wild, the pet trade continues to thrive.
It has long been popular among parrot enthusiasts as a pet bird due to its beautiful appearance, relative docility, and ease of reproduction in captivity. Find out everything you need to know about Military Macaw.
History and Habitat of Military Macaw
Most military macaws live in tropical deciduous and semi-deciduous forests. It is considered to be a canopy species since it requires large canopy trees in deciduous and sub-deciduous forests for feeding, breeding, and nesting.
The canopy trees also protect them from predators and heat. The military macaws usually live at an altitude of 600 to 2600 meters, which is higher than the range of most macaws in the mountains.
However, they may fly down to the lowlands and hang out in thorny woods and humid forests. More often than not, they nest on the tops of trees or cliff faces above 600 feet (200 meters).
Although the range of the Military Macaw stretches from Mexico to Argentina, it is highly fragmented. The species has become extinct in many areas, especially in Mexico, and is now only found in a few localities.
There have only been 50 records of this species in Argentina since 1991, and 37 individuals have been identified in Bolivia in 8 of 21 known locations.
Venezuela, Mexico, and Colombia are under threat, and it is expected that there will be even more losses in the future. Military macaws are divided into three subspecies based on their location.
- A. m. militaris is indigenous to Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, and Venezuela
- A.m. boliviana live both in Bolivia and Argentina
- A.m. Mexicana occupies several areas within Mexico
As a protected species, this bird may face extinction shortly. Although there are more than 10,000 individuals of this species in the world, hunting for the pet trade and habitat loss have resulted in some regional populations becoming threatened.
Historical records indicate that the military macaw has existed since the 1500s when Europeans first explored the new world. It is widely used to breed hybrid macaws in captivity as a breeding species.
There has been a deliberate release or escape of military macaws into Florida, USA, however, there is no evidence that they are reproducing and their population may only persist as a result of repeated releases.
An average military macaw is about 70-85 cm (27.5-33.5 inches) long, and its wingspan is about 99-110 cm (33-43 inches). A military macaw is generally green.
Its flight and tail feathers are light blue and yellow, and it displays a contrasting red patch on its forehead. Faces are white and bare, and striations of black are visible. It has a large, strong beak that is gray-black in color and a yellow iris.
Their appearance is very similar to that of great green macaws, except that they are smaller, have a completely black bill, and have a darker overall coloration.
Additionally, the great green macaw typically inhabits humid forests whereas the military macaw inhabits deciduous forests. According to phylogenetic analyses, the two species belong to the same clade.
In terms of size and plumage, there are differences between the subspecies. Among the subspecies of this species, the militaris is the smallest and the Mexicana is the largest.
This species’s males and females are monomorphic, meaning both looks the same. An individual’s gender cannot be determined unless the bird has been sexed surgically or by DNA testing.
Military Macaw Personality
Military macaws are friendly, kind-natured birds. Wild birds are rarely seen alone, generally living in pairs or flocks that range from ten to twenty birds in number.
The bird is not uncommon to prefer a specific person or even a specific gender when kept in captivity. The best way to ensure that it remains friendly in all social settings is to introduce it to a variety of people.
Even though military macaws are not known for their affection, they may enjoy being cuddled and petted when handled and socialized appropriately. Occasionally, these birds may become irritable.
Macaws can become aggressive if they are not well trained or are not happy. It is often the case that the mood of a bird reflects the mood of its owner. In many ways, they can serve as a “watchdog,” alerting you to any anomalies throughout the house.
They may, for example, call out to warn you that a stranger is at your door. It is important to establish routines for military macaws. In most cases, it can predict when you will be returning home and when dinner will be served.
The military macaw is a beautiful, intelligent and enthusiastic parrot that is frequently seen in bird shows. Using treats makes training them relatively simple, and they enjoy learning new tricks as well. You can even train them to only go potty in their cages.
Speech & Sound
The military macaw is generally considered a quiet bird in comparison to other large parrots. Nevertheless, when they feel upset or seek attention, especially when their owner returns home, they can make a loud screeching and squawking noises.
Generally, they’re quieter than other macaw species, however, they aren’t ideal for apartments or condos.
With dedicated training, they can learn a few words and short phrases, but they can’t talk or mimic sounds like other parrots. Once they get the hang of mimicking, they will hum quietly to themselves throughout the day.
The military macaw leaves its roosts in flocks to forage at dawn. Seeds are their main diet, but they also eat fruits and leaves. It has been observed that they consume latex from Plumeria rubra and consume water from Pseudalcantarea Grandis.
The diet of these animals is somewhat limited since they consume only a limited number of plants. Furthermore, they will visit a clay mound. The Amazon rainforest is full of clay licks that are found along the riverbanks as well as in the interior.
Clay deposits are popular with macaws for feeding, as they appear to cleanse their diet of poisons found in seeds and vegetation. Furthermore, this clay is thought to give macaws salt they would not be able to acquire from their normal diet.
Reproduction and Breeding
It is a monogamous macaw species that stay with the same mate throughout its life. It is a seasonal breeder. If they’re kept in captivity, they can breed all year round; if they’re out in the wild, it depends on available cavities, food, and bonds.
They’re secondary cavity-nesters, which means they nest in preformed holes on the sides of cliffs or in tall trees. The practice of grooming and regurgitation has been described in several publications as a way for pairs to strengthen their bond.
The breeding season for Ara militaris differs according to its disjunct location. Northwestern Mexico has a breeding season from March to October.
The breeding process in western Mexico begins in October with the selection of nests and ends in March with the departure of the juveniles. Central Mexico experiences its breeding season between May and September.
It is thought that the variation in breeding seasons is due to the availability of resources in these regions and the phenology of sympatric tree species.
The military macaw breeds approximately every 1 to 2 years and lays between two and three eggs per clutch. Hatching takes 26 days in captivity on average, and hatchlings typically weigh 18-25 grams.
They typically flee after 13 weeks and become independent after 3 to 5 months. It takes two to four years for female and male military macaws to reach sexual maturity.
Caring for a Military Macaw
The owner of a parrot becomes part of the flock when the parrot lives in captivity. A bird of this type cannot be purchased and ignored; it cannot be kept alone as a pet. These birds require mental stimulation and interaction.
They’ll wreck your property, bite your fingers, and frustrate you if you don’t obey them. A large cage is required, which should be at least 2.5 feet wide, 3 feet tall, and 3 feet deep. Ideally, you should create a room that is dedicated to bird safety.
Make sure that the cage has a large perch and that there is a play stand for when it is outside. When a military macaw is enclosed in its cage, it may become territorial. Do not put your hands inside the cage during the time the bird is inside the cage.
Regular cleaning of the bird’s cage is required. A weekly cleaning of the perches and toys is recommended, a monthly cleaning of the floor of the cage is recommended, and a thorough cleaning of the cage is recommended once a year.
Be sure to consider the costs associated with owning one of these parrots before making a purchase.
Pet expenses, such as veterinary bills, food, toys, and cages, can be quite high. You should refrain from adopting a bird if you are unable to provide it with a comfortable living environment.
Based on the IUCN Red List, the Military macaw population consists of approximately 3,000-10,000 individuals, with 2,000-6,666 mature individuals. According to the IUCN Red List, this species is considered Vulnerable (VU) and its population is declining.
There are currently only 3000-10000 breeding military macaws, and their numbers are declining. In addition to its extremely fragmented population, military macaws are among the most vulnerable birds on the ICUN red list, threatened by habitat loss from crops, deforestation, mining, and roads.
A study conducted in 2013 found that almost 32% of tropical dry forest bird habitat has been lost. CITES Appendix 1 lists military macaws as a prohibited species for commercial international trade.
Nevertheless, it has been established that the trafficking of parrots from South America to North America still occurs regularly. It is also concerning that they follow a narrow diet.
They could suffer a great deal if the environment were to take a hit and they lost access to too many of the species that make up their diet.
However, they may be able to adapt if they did lose their typical diet, as they have a less narrow diet during certain times of the year. Genetic diversity may also be a conservation concern.
While military macaws have a relatively small population, they exhibit moderate genetic diversity, which indicates that they come from a large ancestral population.
Although they have moderate genetic diversity, they are still vulnerable to population bottlenecks due to habitat fragmentation and inbreeding.
Common Health Problems
The military macaw is a hardy, long-lived parrot that can live for 45 to 55 years or more, depending on the type of care it receives. It is still possible for them to contract virus infections and to have excessive growth of their beaks from time to time.
Therefore, we recommend a visit to your avian veterinarian at least once a year to ensure your parrot’s health. If your pet exhibits any of the following symptoms, you should take them to a veterinarian:
- Discharge from the nose or mouth
- A rapid loss of weight
- Appetite loss
- Plucking feathers
A military macaw is known to fly several hundred miles per day in the wild. Exercising regularly is essential in captivity. Each day, owners should allow their pets to play outside their cages for a minimum of two to four hours.
Activity time allows the birds to exercise their wings, and beaks and provides them with mental stimulation. Because military birds are active, they spend their time performing tasks and undertaking activities.
It is important to provide birds with toys that are safe for them. They love chewing, so wood, even just tree branches, will be your best option. Furthermore, the bird will benefit from swings, ropes, link chains, and bells.
Additionally, toys offer a convenient way for this curious bird to distract itself from screeching, plucking feathers, or chewing items that are on the floor.
From Where You Can Get a Military Macaw
The military macaw can be difficult to find in pet stores due to the popularity of the more colorful varieties of macaws. The species is readily bred in captivity, however, so there may be breeders in your area who are willing to sell one.
The price of these birds can range from $2,000 to $2,500, depending on the breeder, availability, and age of the bird. A Military Macaw may be available for adoption through one of the many parrot rescue organizations and adoption agencies in the area.
This will result in you not only providing a home for a bird in need but also saving a considerable amount of money over what you would pay to a breeder.
Although they are less colorful than their close relatives, the Military Macaw is nevertheless a beautiful bird. The macaw parrot is considered the quietest of the parrot species, so if you are sensitive to noise, then this is a better choice for you.
Having said that, they are generally less affectionate and less proficient at mimicking words than other macaws.
However, the Military Macaw is much more docile and laid back, which may be perfect for those who do not wish to keep a needy, attention-seeking bird.
As with any macaw species, military macaws require a great deal of commitment and care, however, they make excellent pets for those who are willing to devote the time and effort.
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.