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A photo of a Military Macaw (Ara militaris)
Military Macaw

Military Macaw

Ara militaris

The Military Macaw (Ara militaris) is a medium to large parrot, resplendent in a uniform of green with a red frontal patch, reminiscent of military attire. Its wings boast a blend of light blue and yellow, while its face is adorned with a white, featherless patch, etched with fine black lines. The robust bill is a dark slate-grey, and the eyes are encircled by a ring of bright yellow.

Identification Tips

To distinguish the Military Macaw from its close relative, the Great Green Macaw, note its smaller stature, entirely black bill, and a darker green plumage. The Military Macaw's vocalizations also differ from those of the Great Green Macaw, which prefers more humid forest environments.

Habitat

These birds are typically found in tropical deciduous and semi-deciduous forests, where they reside in the canopy for feeding, breeding, and nesting. They favor elevations between 600 to 1500 meters, higher than most macaws.

Distribution

The Military Macaw's range extends from west-central Mexico through to northern Argentina and Bolivia. Three subspecies are geographically distinct: A. m. mexicanus in Western Mexico, A. m. militaris in parts of Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia, and A. m. bolivianus in Central Bolivia and northwestern Argentina.

Behaviour

In the wild, these macaws can live for 50-60 years, forming large flocks that are often heard before they are seen. Their calls are a cacophony of loud, cracking, and shrieking sounds, including a distinctive kraa-aak. They are most active during dawn and dusk, suggesting crepuscular tendencies.

Song & Calls

The Military Macaw's vocal repertoire includes a variety of loud and raucous sounds, with the signature kraa-aak being particularly notable.

Breeding

Pair-bonding behaviors such as grooming and regurgitation are observed year-round. Courtship begins as early as March, with nesting occurring in natural cavities of tall trees or cliff faces. The breeding season spans from March to October, with incubation and hatching in August and September.

Diet and Feeding

Their diet is primarily seed-based, supplemented with fruits and leaves. They are known to visit clay licks to detoxify their food and obtain essential minerals. Despite a somewhat narrow diet, they have shown adaptability in their feeding habits.

Conservation status

The Military Macaw is classified as Vulnerable, with an estimated breeding population of 2,000-7,000 individuals. Habitat loss and fragmentation, along with illegal trade, pose significant threats to their survival. They are listed under CITES Appendix I, which prohibits commercial international trade of wild specimens. Despite moderate genetic diversity, the species is at risk of inbreeding and population bottlenecks.

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