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Military Macaw Ara militaris
BirdLife is updating this factsheet for the 2016 Red List
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This species is listed as Vulnerable because levels of habitat loss and capture for the cagebird trade indicate that there is a continuing rapid population decline. Its future ought to be secured by the large number of national parks in which it occurs, but many of these currently provide ineffective protection.

Taxonomic source(s)
del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N. J.; Christie, D. A.; Elliott, A.; Fishpool, L. D. C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.
SACC. 2006. A classification of the bird species of South America. Available at: #

70 cm. Large, green macaw. Overall dark lime-green. Red forehead and bare white facial area with black lines. Flight feathers blue above and yellowish-olive below. Blue lower back. Tail blue and red. All-black bill. Similar spp. Almost identical, but probably allopatric, Great Green Macaw Ara ambigua has greener hindneck and pale-tipped maxilla. Voice Noisy and harsh cr-a-a-a-k and various shrieking cries.

Distribution and population
Ara militaris occupies a massive but fragmented range from Mexico to Argentina. In Mexico, it occurs from central Sonora to Guerrero on the Pacific slope, east Nuevo León and Tamaulipas to San Luis Potosí on the Atlantic slope (Howell and Webb 1995a), and Durango, Morelos, Puebla and Oaxaca in the interior (C. Bonilla in litt. 2012). In Colombia, it is known from the Guajira Peninsula and Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta through the Sierras de Perijá and de San Lucas, south along the East Andes, with local populations on the Pacific slope in Chocó, the Cauca valley, the head of the Magdalena valley and in the Sierra de la Macarena (Hilty and Brown 1986, Snyder et al. 2000). A new population was recently reported from two localities in the Catatumbo-Barí National Park on the Colombian-Venezuelan border (J. E. Avendaño in litt. 2011). It is very local in north Venezuela (Rojas-Suárez et al. 2004), and occurs disjunctly in the east Andes of Ecuador, Peru (also in the río Chinchipe drainage [Begazo in litt. 1999]), Bolivia and north-west Argentina. It has been extirpated from many areas, especially in Mexico (practically extirpated from most of Veracruz and Hidalgo on the Atlantic side, and Chiapas, Oaxaca, as well as coastal regions of Guerrero and Michoacan on the Pacific slope (Howell and Webb 1995a, K. Renton in litt. 2007), and is very local elsewhere. In Argentina the only records since 1991 are from Salta Province, with up to five birds in 2005-2007 at Finca Itaguazuti (Chebez 1994, M. Juárez in litt. 2007) and 50 in the Sierra de Tartagal (Navarro et al. 2008). Similarly, an assessment of 21 known localities in the southern Yungas of Bolivia) found a total of 37 individuals at eight of these (L. Rivera in litt. 2012). Populations in Mexico, Venezuela and Colombia face continuing threats, and further extirpations are expected.

Population justification
The population size is preliminarily estimated to fall into the band 10,000-19,999 individuals. This equates to 6,667-13,333 mature individuals, rounded here to 6,000-15,000 mature individuals.

Trend justification
This species is suspected to be declining due to continued habitat loss and capture for domestic trade.

It inhabits humid lowland forest and adjacent cleared areas, wooded foothills and canyons. In Mexico, it is found in arid and semi-arid woodland, and pine-oak, humid lowland and riparian forest, moving seasonally to dense thorn-forest (Juniper and Parr 1998, Renton 2004), although in Puno, Peru it was found to be more abundant in a mosaic of shade coffee plantations and degraded remnant forest patches than in neighbouring pristine Yungas forest (S. K. Herzog in litt. 2007). It occurs from sea-level to 3,100 m, but the core range is 500-1,500 m (Juniper and Parr 1998). Nests and large communal roosts are sited on cliff-faces or in large trees (Howell and Webb 1995a, Juniper and Parr 1998, Cruz-Nieto et al. 2006).

Habitat loss and especially domestic trade are the chief threats, even within reserves (Snyder et al. 2000). In 1991-1995, 96 wild-caught specimens were found in international trade, with Bolivia and Mexico possibly the most significant exporters (Chebez 1994, D. Brightsmith in litt. 2007). In Mexico, it is still one of the most sought-after species in the illegal cagebird trade; in 1995-2005, it was the fifth most seized Mexican Psittacine species by the country's Environmental Enforcement Agency, becoming the fourth most seized Psittacine species in 2007-2010 (J. C. Cantú in litt. 2010). In many areas it nests in relatively inaccessible cavities on cliff walls, which provides some protection against the pressures of nest poaching. However, nest poaching is a severe threat in Jalisco and Nayarit where the species nests in tree cavities (C. Bonilla in litt. 2007, K. Renton in litt. 2007). In Jalisco, Mexico, macaws were not found in deforested areas, even where abundant Hura polyandra (an important food source) were left as shade for cattle (Renton 2004). GARP analysis estimates that the species has suffered 23% habitat loss within its range in Mexico (Ríos Muñoz 2002). One sub-population in the Cauca valley, Colombia, numbering fewer than 50 mature individuals, may shortly be lost as a dam is expected to flood the sole nesting cliff (Fundación ProAves 2011).

Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix I and II, and legally protected in Venezuela, Peru and Salta province, Argentina (L. Rivera in litt. 2012). A trade ban in Mexico was decreed in October 2008 (J. C. Cantú in litt. 2010). There are reasonably healthy populations in El Cielo and Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserves, Mexico (J. Lyons in litt. 1998, K. Renton in litt. 2007), Madidi and Amboró National Parks, Pilon Lajas Biosphere Reserve and Apolobamba National Integrated Management Area, Bolivia ( Juniper and Parr 1998, B. Hennessey in litt. 1999, D. Ricalde in litt. 1999, S. K. Herzog in litt. 2007), and Manu Biosphere Reserve and Bahuaja Sonene National Park in Peru (S. K. Herzog in litt. 2007); a small but stable remnant population in Tehuacan-Cuicatlan Biosphere Reserve, Oaxaca, Mexico (C. Bonilla in litt. 2007, K. Renton in litt. 2007), with populations in at least some of the other protected areas in its potential range (IUCN 1992, Desenne and Strahl 1994, Chebez et al. 1998, Begazo in litt. 1999, B. Hennessey in litt. 1999, D. Ricalde in litt. 1999, Snyder et al. 2000).  The subspecies mexicana is part of the European Endangered [Species] Programme of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria ( Actions Proposed
Assess its population status and ecological requirements. Monitor the largest known populations. Control capture and trade of wild birds, beginning in reserves (Desenne and Strahl 1994, Snyder et al. 2000). Improve management and awareness initiatives in and around national parks.  Develop and extend captive breeding programmes.

Related state of the world's birds case studies

Chebez, J. C. 1994. Los que se van: especies argentinas en peligro. Albatros, Buenos Aires.

Chebez, J. C.; Rey, N. R.; Barbaskas, M.; Di Giacomo, A. G. 1998. Las aves de los Parques Nacionales de la Argentina. Literature of Latin America, Buenos Aries.

Collar, N. J.; Butchart, S. H. M. 2013. Conservation breeding and avian diversity: chances and challenges. International Zoo Yearbook.

Cruz-Nieto, J.; Ortiz-Maciel, G.; Cruz-Nieto, M.; Bujanda-Rico, M.; Enkerlin, E. 2006. Military Macaw nesting cliff in Otachique, Chihuahua, Mexico. PsittaScene 18: 14.

Desenne, P.; Strahl, S. 1994. Situación poblacional y jerarquización de especies para la conservación de la familia Psittacidae en Venezuela. In: Morales, G.; Novo, I.; Bigio, D.; Luy, A.; Rojas-Suárez, F. (ed.), Biología y conservación de los psitácidos de Venezuela, pp. 231-272. Caracas, Venezuela.

European Association of Zoos and Aquaria. EEPs and ESBs. Available at:

Fundación ProAves de Colombia. 2011. Notes on the status of various threatened birds species occurring in Colombia. Conservacion Colombiana 15: 22-28.

Hilty, S. L.; Brown, W. L. 1986. A guide to the birds of Colombia. Princeton University Press, Princeton.

Howell, S. N. G.; Webb, S. 1995. A guide to the birds of Mexico and northern Central America. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

IUCN. 1992. Protected areas of the world: a review of national systems. International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, U.K.

Juniper, T.; Parr, M. 1998. Parrots: a guide to the parrots of the world. Pica Press, Robertsbridge, UK.

Navarro, M.E.; Gallegos, M.O.; Garay, D.B.; Ortiz, B.F.; Cueva, M.; Rodriguez, L.E. 2008. Registro de una población de Guacamayo Verde Ara militaris (Linnaeus 1766) en el departamento general San Matín, provincia de Salta, Argentina y consideraciones para su conservación. Fundación Felix de Azara 22: 1-11.

Renton, K. 2004. In search of Military Macaws in Mexico. PsittaScene 16: 12-14.

Rojas-Suárez, F.; Ascanio, D.; Hernández, M.; Lentino, M.; León, J.G.; Rodríguez, J.V.; Rodner, C.; Sharpe, C. J. 2004. Sistematizando algunos aportes para comprender la distribución de Ara militaris en Venezuela .

Snyder, N.; McGowan, P.; Gilardi, J.; Grajal, A. 2000. Parrots: status survey and conservation action plan 2000-2004. International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.

Further web sources of information
Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

Search for photos and videos, and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Isherwood, I., Sharpe, C J, Stuart, T., Symes, A. & Taylor, J.

Avendaño, J., Begazo, A., Bonilla, C., Brightsmith, D., Cantú, J., Hennessey, A., Herzog, S., Juárez, M., Lyons, J., Renton, K., Ricalde, D., Sharpe, C J, Politi, N., Rivera, L., Rojas Llanos, R. & Gilardi, J.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Ara militaris. Downloaded from on 26/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 26/10/2016.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Additional resources for this species

ARKive species - Military macaw (Ara militaris) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Vulnerable
Family Psittacidae (Parrots)
Species name author (Linnaeus, 1766)
Population size 6000-15000 mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 276,000 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species