The Military Macaw is a beautiful green Macaw, very intelligent, and a fabulous show bird!
Although the Military Macaw Ara militaris isn’t quite as brilliant in its mixture of colors as those found on many of the other large Macaws, it’s a very impressive parrot in its own right. This is a favorite Macaw to keep as a pet because of its social and affectionate demeanor, and being very intelligent, it is readily trainable. The Military Macaw makes an excellent show bird and is often used as an entertainer and to educate people about birds.
Military Macaws have been recognized and kept in captivity for a very long time. Early writings indicate that they first became well known to Europeans at the time of the invasion of Mexico. That was in the beginning of the 1500’s, an impressive 500 years ago! References made during the invasion indicate the bird was quite valuable to the Incas as well. There are additional references to this bird in 1609, and again in 1741.
The Military Macaw is very similar to the Buffon’s Macaw, but it is a bit smaller and a brighter green. P. J. Selby, in the early 19th century, referred to this bird as the “Great Green Macaw”. He describes the Military Macaw’s color as being a “fine and lively green”. Today however, the name Great Green Macaw is more commonly associated with the Buffon’s Macaw.
There are three recognized subspecies of Military Macaws. All three of these have only slight differences in appearance, they vary primarily in the regions from where they originate. The nominate species Ara m. militaris, is found in Northwest Venezuela, Colombia, Eastern Ecuador and Northern Peru, and is the most commonly available. The other two species are the Bolivian Military Macaw Ara m. boliviana which is found in Bolivia and Northern Argentina, and the Mexican Military Macaw Ara m. mexicana which is from Mexico. These two are quite sparse in captivity. It is said these two comprise only about 5% or so of the Military Macaws found in the pet trade.
A Military Macaw that is given good interaction and attention from its keeper can become quite tame and friendly. Like all Macaws, the Military Macaw is quite inquisitive and intelligent. They are considered to be fair talkers and are excellent at learning tricks. They are a superb choice for a show bird. “Kippit” shown in the picture above is a five month old Military Macaw. He is a juvenile that has been well socialized with lots of people. He is alert and playful, and always enjoys interacting and getting treats.
For more information about Macaw parrots, see:
Macaw Care Guide: All about Macaws
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Phylum: Chordata
- Class: Aves
- Order: Psittaciformes
- Family: Psittacidae
- Genus: Ara
- Species: militaris
Ara militaris militaris(Linnaeus, 1766)Ara militaris boliviana (Reichenow, 1908)
Ara militaris mexicana(Ridgway, 1915)
- Ara militaris militaris
This species is found from the northwestern part of Venezuela to eastern Ecuador and northern Peru.
Common names include:
Military Macaw, and is also sometimes referred to as the Green Macaw or Blue-green Macaw.
In the early 19th century it was referred to as the Great Green Macaw.
- Ara militaris boliviana
This species is found in the tropical zones of Bolivia and the northern part of Argentina.
Common names include:
Bolivian Military Macaw and Bolivian Green Military Macaw
- Ara militaris mexicana
This species is found in Mexico, except in the rain forest zones.
Common names include:
Mexican Military Macaw, Mexican Green Macaw, and Mexican Green Military Macaw
Unlike many of the large Macaw species, Military Macaws generally avoid tropical rainforests, They are most often found in arid and semi-arid regions. They prefer dry forests, open woodlands, and trees along waterways. They are seen in pairs, or in small flocks of about ten or up to 20 individuals flying high in the sky in the early morning to feeding grounds, and then returning at dusk. They feed on seeds, nuts, fruits, berries, and maybe some vegetation found in the treetops.They are attracted to fruit-bearing palms and Ficus (fig) trees.
The Military Macaw has a general green plumage, though the head is a lighter green, the throat is olive green, and there is an olive tinge to the back and wings. The lower back, rump, and the outer edges of the wings and tail are blue.They have a bright red forehead and a faint bluish tinge on the hindneck. The tail is a brownish-red on top and olive-green on the underside. They have a bare face patch lined with small greenish black feathers. The beak is gray-black and the eyes are yellow.
There are three subspecies, and all are very similar in appearance with only slight variations. The commonly seen Military Macaw Ara m. militaris is the smallest of the three. The Mexican Military Macaw Ara m. mexicana looks about the same, but is a bit larger. The Bolivian Military Macaw Ara militaris boliviana is in the middle, size-wise, but has some slight variations in its color pattern. It has a reddish-brown throat, some reddish feathers on the ear coverts, and darker blues on the outer wings and tip of the tail.
The Military Macaw is a full sized Macaw, though a bit smaller than most of the other large Macaws. They are about the same as the Scarlet MacawAra macao. These birds range from about 25″-28″ (70-80 cm) in length, and weigh about 2 to 2.4 pounds (.907 – 1.09 kg).
Care and Feeding
In the wild they eat a variety of seeds, nuts, fruits, berries, and plants. There are name brand commercially prepared seed or pellet mixes for the Macaw. They can also eat anything nutritious that you eat and these foods should be offered. Most parrots enjoy eating with their family. They eat protein in the wild and they do like chicken. Avocado and chocolate are toxic to parrots..
See Macaw Care and Feeding for more information.
Large Macaws require a roomy cage, at least 2 1/2 by 3 feet. Because they can be quite vocal, be sure the cage is in a room where the amount of noise the neighbors hear is a minimal as possible. A large sturdy perch needs to be mounted in the cage. Fresh fruit tree branches work great because they can chew on them as well, but then they will have to be replaced occasionally. Food and water dishes, along with a treat dish work best mounted above the perch at the side of the cage. A variety of toys for playing and chewing should also be provided. As alternatives to a cage, they can be kept in an outdoor aviary where the weather permits, and some people like to provide their bird with its own “bird room”.
Military Macaw – “Kippit”
A large Macaws needs 2 – 3 hours a day outside their cage. The Macaw’s cage is their territory and a play pen top is great, but it is still their territory. It is better to interact with a Macaw on top of a sturdy perch away from the cage. A separate, free-standing playpen works great for this. Many birds can spend most of their time on a playpen or parrot perch. .
See Macaw Housing or more information.
The basic cage care includes daily cleaning of the water and food dishes. Weekly you should wash all the perches and dirty toys, and the floor should be washed about every other week. A total hosing down and disinfecting of an aviary should be done yearly, replacing anything that needs to be freshened, such as old dishes, toys and perches.
n the wild the Military Macaws are usually seen in pairs, or small groups of ten or up to twenty or so individuals. They are rarely seen alone. They are a social bird and enjoy the company of their flock and of a mate as well.
The Military Macaw can become a good pet that is lovable and friendly. These intelligent Macaws can get along with more than one person if it is handled with consistently and well socialized Yet they are a typical Macaw and can be cranky at times and may prefer only one person or only one gender.
Like all Macaws, they can be quite loud, being especially loud when anticipating interaction with you. They will also mirror your moods, so if you are agitated, they can become agitated. If you are happy and loving, well so is your pet. To have a well-rounded bird that enjoys more than one person, make sure it is well socialized with lots of folks
See Macaws Social Behaviors for information on developing a well rounded friendly Macaw
The Military Macaw is intelligent and eager for attention and play. It has a good disposition and responds well to handling and training. This Macaw adapts quickly. Once it becomes accustomed to a new environment and its keeper it is then ready to start bird training. Generally though, you should give a new arrival a few days to get use to you, your voice and its cage before trying to handle it. A hand fed baby will not need much taming and can often be handled right away, as it is use to human attention.
“Kippit” enjoys a snack!
“Kippit” shown in the picture to the right is a five month old Military Macaw. This friendly fellow has been socialized with lots of people and enjoys receiving attention, petting, and being held. He enjoys posing, and loves to get rewarded with treats!
With all parrots, taming and training takes trust and patience. Macaws are very intelligent making them easy to tame. They are also very adept at learning and quick to train. They excel best at learning tricks and small tasks. They are not as inclined to talk and mimic as some of the other parrots, notably the Amazon Parrots, but they can learn a few words or phrases.
For information about handling and training your Macaw see Macaw Training
For the physical well being and psychological health of a Macaw Parrot, they must have plenty of opportunity to exercise and play. These are lovable pets and activities include interactive time with its keeper. Everything from petting, cuddling, and preening is appreciated, as well as performing and learning new tricks. But these are also very large, rambunctious pets that need a good sized space to play and climb around. Both climbing around inside a large cage, and providing a outside playpen offers them interest and variety.
Macaws are avid chewers, munching intently on anything they can get a hold of. When they are on a playpen, make sure they can’t reach trim or any household items you don’t want destroyed. Provide lots of toys and activities in the form of large link chains, bird ladders, parrot swings, ropes, and wood toys for gnawing and chewing. Rotate in new bird toys on a regular basis.
Providing regular interaction and lots of playtime. Having plenty of space and a large selection of toys and activities will help deter distress in your pet Macaw. It will also reduce the chance of your parrot developing undesirable behaviors like screeching, biting, and feather picking.
Sexing – Sexual Differences
No visible differences. There is no for certain way to distinguish a male Military Macaw from a female. In order to know whether you have a male or female, the bird must be sexed. DNA / Feather or surgical sexing is recommended.
The Military Macaw is well established in aviculture, especially in the United States, and is commonly bred in captivity. The usual clutch consists of two or three eggs which incubate for about 26 days. The babies will fledge after about 3 months in the nest. Feed the parents additional high-fat seeds, like sunflower seed, during the breeding season. Also feed the parents plenty of green stuffs, corn-on-the-cob, carrots, protein, and fruit laced with food supplement while they are rearing the youngsters.
See Macaw Breeding for more information.
The Military Macaw has also been crossed with other large macaw species to develop a number of hybrid Macaws. These include first generation (F1) hybrids like the Calico Macaw, Milicinth Macaw, Miliffon’s Macaw, Miligold Macaw, Shamrock Macaw, and second generation (F2) and later generations hybirds such as the Blue and Gold Macaw x Calico Macaw, Catablu Macaw, Harligold Macaw, and Miltary Macaw x Catalina Macaw. It has not been hybridized with Mini Macaws.
It is definitely true that a Macaw parrot can make noise, but it is not often, and not without some provocation. Usually, if they make a loud squawking noise if they perceive something to be wrong or different. Maybe a car they don’t recognize is coming to the home or the dog is loose. They are also known to make a large noise for about 10 minutes as the sun is setting. This is an alert to their flock to settle in for the evening.
A pet Macaw when well cared for will seldom become ill. Yet they can contract some diseases, and there some also things in the environmental that can cause illness. Behavior problems can also occur, resulting in feather plucking, biting, and loud screeching. Though it is often difficult to determine illness, some visible signs of illness to be aware of are:
- Ruffled plumage
- Drooping wings
- Sagging body
- Extreme mood changes
- Having no appetite
- Bulges in feathering
- Partially closed or watery eyes
- Swelling of the eyelids
- Difficulty breathing
- Excessive saliva
- Dirty vent
- Any change in the feces not apparently diet related
Some of the more common illnesses are:
- Proventricular Dilation disease (Macaw wasting disease)
- Psittacosis (chlamydiosis or parrot fever)
- Bacterial, viral, or fungal infections
- Feather picking – results of boredom, poor diet, sexual frustration, and lack of bathing
- Chewing flight and tail feathers by juveniles
- Beak malformations in chicks
- Kidney disease (gout)
- Toxicity – heavy metal poisoning
- Lipomas in older birds
If you notice any of these bird illnesses in your Military Macaw immediately provide a warm, draft free, secure environment kept at about 86°F (30°C). Place food and water close to the perch where it is easily accessible. An ailing parrot should be taken to an avian veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment.
Behavior problems in a pet Macaw usually stem from something that is missing in the bird’s environment. Some of the most common are lack of trust, becoming bored, or lack of interaction with people or other birds. When these things are missing that can lead to problems resulting in undesirable behavior. Try to develop a bond of trust and spend time with your bird to help avoid these problems. We have also had good success with Chet Womach’s Parrot Training Course. He offers free 3-day introductory course so you can try it out before you buy anything.
This Macaw is not in as much demand as the more brilliantly colored large Macaws. So although it is commonly bred, it is not as available as a pet as other types of Macaws. But occasionally you can find Military Macaws for sale.
- Animal-World References: Pet Birds – Exotic Birds
- Joseph M. Forshaw, Parrots of the World, Hancock House Pub Ltd. 2000
- J. Abramson, B.L. Speer, J.B. Thompson, The Large Macaws: Their Care, Breeding, and Conservation, Raintree Publications, 1996
- Roger G. Sweeney, Macaws a Complete Owners Manual, Barron’s, 1992
- David Alderton, Parrots, Salamander Books, 1999
- Dr. David Alderton, The Atlas of Parrots of the World, T.F.H. Publications, Inc. 1991
- David Alderton,, A Bird Keeper’s Guide to Parrots and Macaws, Salamander Books, 1989
- Don Harper, Practical Encyclopedia of pet Birds, Harmony, 1986
Featured Image Credit: Dennis Jacobsen, Shutterstock