Macaws are large, flashy birds that some humans teach to say words, but their wild life is slightly different. In this lesson you will learn more about the habitat, diet, breeding, and social life of these colorful birds.

Beautiful Macaws

Macaws are bright rainbow birds streaking across the sky! Their vibrant plumage, or feathers, can be blue, red, yellow, or green. To us, these bright colors seem to stand out, but they actually blend in with the leaves and flowers of the rain forest. Many macaws have white and black faces that look like masks and have very long tail feathers.

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Macaws are one of the largest species from the parrot family. Most are around 30-40 inches tall, or one meter stick. This is as long as an average adult human’s leg. They only weigh 2-4 pounds because their bones are light-weight and hollow

One unique thing about macaws is their feet, or talons. They have two toes facing forwards and two facing backwards. They use their talons like hands to feed themselves, grab branches, and hold and examine objects like people do.

Macaws use their talons to grab and examine objects.
Macaw talons

Habitat and Range

Macaws are found soaring through the tropical rainforest canopies in Central and South America. There are 17 species found in South America. These flashes of color can also be found in forests along rivers. They sleep in holes found in trees or on the sides of cliffs.

Macaws nest in holes found in trees and cliff sides.
Macaw nest

Diet

Macaws are omnivores, or plant and animal eaters. They feast on fruits, nuts, insects, snails, flowers, and small reptiles. They are even known to eat clay, which helps to get rid or acids and toxins from fruit. It is not unusual for them to fly many miles each day to find food. They have two special body parts that help them eat. First, their large, curved, powerful beaks help them to easily crack nuts and seeds. They look like large fish hooks. Second, unlike humans, they have a bone in their tongue that makes it hard. This helps to dig or tap into different fruits.

Macaws eat clay to get rid of toxins from fruits.
Macaws eating clay

Breeding and Babies

Female and male macaws find one another and mate for life. They are like old married couples staying close together and taking care of each other. Once a year the females lay two or more eggs. While the mother sits on the eggs, the father goes off to hunt. A month later the babies are born helpless and unable to fly. Both parents bring food to them until they learn to fly at about three months old.

A Day in the Life

Macaws are very social and intelligent animals. They act like humans in many ways. Macaws live in pairs or family flocks of 10-30 birds. They wake early in the morning to preen or clean and groom themselves. They like to take baths and play in the water. These beautiful birds have loud calls, squawks, and screams they use to talk with one another. Macaws talk with their family members A LOT!

Macaws all fly together to find food. Sometimes they get into squabbles, or fights, like brothers and sisters do, but they don’t hurt each other. They like to explore and even use objects like sticks as tools or to play with. In the evening, they return to their nests to chat and settle in for the night.

Lesson Summary

Macaws are large, beautiful birds with brightly colored plumage. They eat things like nuts, seeds, fruits, and insects which makes them omnivores. Macaws act like humans in many ways including talking to other family members and preening, or grooming themselves.