They are some of the most brilliantly colored birds. Macaws exist in at least 19 species, each with their own color patterns. They are in the parrot family, and they live in the wild from Mexico south to Central and South America.
Macaws can be distinguished from other parrots by their long-tails and relatively long beaks. They have a mostly bare facial patch with narrow black lines that serve as a “fingerprint” to identify individual birds. All parrots have four toes with two facing forward and two facing backward. That is also true of other birds that climb trees such as woodpeckers. The diet of macaws consists of fruit, nuts, leaves, seeds, and flowers. They can open nuts with their strong beaks which they also use as an aid in climbing.
Macaws climb cliffs to eat dirt, but the reason is unclear. They can digest food plant products that are toxic or caustic. Possibly they eat clay from cliffs or river banks partly to neutralize the toxic and caustic substances in their diet. Biologists also believe they eat the clay to supply sodium in their diet. A third explanation for eating clay is to obtain vitamin B12. The full reason may be a combination of those three.
Macaws make good pets and can live for up to 60 years. They are very noisy birds which make a variety of sounds. They can even imitate human speech. However, anyone purchasing a one for a pet should make sure that it was bred in captivity and not captured from the wild. Many of the macaw species are endangered, and some may have gone extinct because of the illegal pet trade.
Macaws are another of the animals that God has given us that relate well to humans. We must be good stewards as we share the planet with macaws and protect them from extinction.
© Roland Earnst