Great Green Macaw

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Is the Great Green Macaw right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: Buffon's Macaw; Guacamayo Ambiguo

Scientific name: Ara ambiguus

The basics:
The huge Great Green Macaw is an endangered species that should be reserved to experienced macaw owners and breeders who are serious about working to preserve the species. There are two subspecies, both rated as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) thanks to rapid deforestation. The nominate subspecies ranges from Honduras south to northern Colombia, while the Guayaquil Green Macaw, A.a. guayaquilensis , is found in two tiny fragmented areas in Ecuador.

They have a lookalike cousin, the Military Macaw, but Great Greens are significantly bigger and heavier. Although both species are considered “green” macaws, the Great Green is also noticeably more yellow-green when you see them side by side.

1300 grams (46 oz.)

Average size:
81 centimeters (32 in.)

50 years

Behavior / temperament:
Great Green Macaws are not usually placed in the “gentle giant” category. They are well-known for becoming aggressive during the breeding season, and they may be furious if you attempt to examine the nestbox. They may blush bright red when they're angry – a warning sign that you should take seriously. They can also take out displaced aggression on their mate or even on their eggs. You should have experience with breeding or handling other macaws so that you can bring your best parrot psychology to this species.

A single Great Green Macaw demands a huge specialty cage that accommodates the long, graceful tail. A good minimum sized primary cage would be 40"w x 30"d x 60"h. You should employ stout manzanita perches in areas where you do not want to change the perches very often. You should also have plenty of softer macaw-safe perches and toys for the bird to chew at will. Do not punish the bird for destroying these items, since you want your pet to chew them for good healthy exercise. Yes, you'll go through a lot of toys. A macaw is not a cheap date.

As a rare species in captivity that is also endangered in the wild, most Great Green Macaws should be set up in secure breeding facilities. They can be aggressive during the breeding season, so you should consider a set-up that allows you to service the birds without entering the flight cage.

Like the other macaws, the Great Green Macaw demands a varied, nutrient-rich diet that includes lots of fruits, vegetables, and protein sources. A good pellet-based diet, with lots of chopped vegetables and fruits on the side, can be a good daily diet, but take care that this intelligent bird does not get bored with the pellets. Soak-and-cook, either from a vet or a commercial supplier, can be the answer, although it's more work than pellets. Many people like to create their own grain and legume based diet, which generally includes a mix of well-cooked beans and grains, including brown rice. As a practical matter, you will probably want to prepare the cooked diet in large batches, freezing what you're not using in a couple of days, and then defrosting it as you need it.

Small high carbohydrate seeds like millet can be included in the mix. Don't laugh. Macaws do have the patience to crack tiny millet seed, and these seeds are low in fat, so if you have an overweight bird, you can still allow them the pleasure of cracking seed, without loading them down with lots of fat. Unless the bird is very overweight, the Great Green Macaw will benefit from up to 20% nuts in the diet, especially nuts in the shell that the bird can enjoy cracking for itself. Never allow a macaw to sample avocado, chocolate, or undercooked meat or poultry. While several species of macaws have been seen at clay licks taking salt, today's modern diets already have plenty of salt. Don't salt the macaw's food or provide supplemental salt except on the advice of an avian vet.

Written by Elaine Radford

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