Ara rubrogenys .................................................................. By Gideon Scheepers

History

Red-Fronted Macaws were virtually unknown in aviculture until 1970 when a Bolivian trapper brought a specimen to the attention of Dr. Rolando Romero, a South American aviculturist. Dr. Romero thought it to be some type of hybrid, having never seen a before red-fronted macaw before and no references to it in any books but later discovered a skin in the British Museum for Natural History. Between 1973 and 1983 a small number of Red Fronted Macaws were exported to. The first recorded breeding of this relatively new Macaw occurred in West Germany, Wuppertal Zoo in 1978. Three young were reared. Since then many have been bred in Aviculture.

Red Fronted Macaws have always fascinated me, since the first time I saw a pair a Bird Farm in 1996, it was a beautiful young pair, which they claim had bred, giving 2 chicks, this was a bit suspect as the birds looked quite young. At that stage there was no way I could afford them, but a friend and fellow parrot breeder, made a deal with the owner of the bird farm, and exchanged some Sulphur Crested Cockatoos and Blue fronted Amazons for them.

Every time I went to visit him I would admire these parrots. They have a character, which is hard to match. Well recently I got the opportunity to buy these birds from him as they had not bred by him and as it was the only macaws amongst all his parrots, he decided to sell them to me since I keep macaws and always wanted them.

My wife and I went out to his place and collected them; they were in stunning condition, except for the male, which had chipped a piece of his beak, probably biting the wire. We packed them into the car and took them home and into a suspended aviary, they are quiet, tame and wonderful parrots.
Red fronted macaw is a rare bird in the wild and in Aviculture; they also prove to be difficult breeders. They are in critical need of intense avicultural attention.

 

Description

The red-fronted macaw is the smallest of the large macaws. They are about 60cm long and they weigh 485 - 600 g. Mostly green, with an orange-red patch on its crown, ear coverts and on the bend of the wing. The lesser under wing coverts are orange as well as the thighs. The underside of the tail is olive-yellow. And the upper tail is green and blue with the primary wing feathers being blue-grey. The bare skin around the eyes is pinkish red, the cheeks are feathered and the lores are covered in tiny black lines of feathers. Immature birds have the crown brownish and the ear coverts orange. As they mature they often get lots of orange feathers on their breasts. They also have the bend of the wing, and lesser wing coverts green, this becomes orange as it matures.

Habitat

The red-fronted macaws are found only in southern central Bolivia, just about in the centre, a tiny area of about 130-Km in length by 65 Km in width. A small area considering the vast expanse of South America, this is the smallest habitat for any of the macaws. The mountainous range varies, from 1000 m to 2500 m, consisting of arid desert scrubland, with sparse dry woodlands at the higher elevations. Very little surface water is to be found in the area, with only intermittent surface water during seasonal downpours. Due to these arid conditions, there has been little human settlement; this is possibly why they have remained undiscovered for so long. Population counts were made in the 1970's and were estimated to be between 3,000 and 5,000 birds. In the mid to late 1980s, the population was estimated at between 1,000 and 3,000 birds. They were placed on CITES Appendix I in 1983 when Bolivia ceased exporting birds.

Housing and Breeding

They can be housed in conventional as well as suspended aviaries, but it should be noted that they do like to walk and scratch in the ground. So if they are to be housed in a suspended aviary they should be supplied with a tray full of washed riversand and some logs at the bottom of the cage. Our aviaries have fine mist sprayers on top, and they love to sit in the spray, we also find them sitting in the rain quite often.

They should be provided with a sturdy nest box about 30 cm x 30 cm x 90cm horizontal box. We provide nestboxes made out of tough PVC, which are 60-90 cm tall and has a diameter of 30 cm, this is then hung horizontally. I am currently constructing a new nestbox to the dimensions given to me by Dr Lee Simmons; it is in the shape of an American Rural post box. These dimensions are as follows: 12" x 12" x 34" or 30cm x 30cm x 85cm. I will be supplying them with both and will see which they prefer. Nesting material in the form of wood shavings, wood chip and bark is supplied. I also supply pieces of wood in the nestbox, which they love to chew into nesting material.

I believe that they will breed at 4 years of age, but more so at the age of around 6. They lay 3 to 4 eggs and incubation is 26 days. In the wild they nest in the sides of cliff faces very high off the ground. This is certainly possible for this bird, as it is a master flyer; it can hover at any altitude and then dart off in any direction almost effortlessly.

At the onset of the breeding season, they become more interested in the nestbox and start eating more food. The male becomes more aggressive towards its keeper. The mutual preening increases as well as mutual vent preening. They start spending more time in the nestbox, mating increases, with the partners standing side by side on the perch the hen dropping the head and raising the tail and the male mounting her from the side with one foot on the perch. And for this reason you should ensure sturdy well-secured perches, it is pointless to have them lay eggs only to have infertile eggs due to wobbly perches. With the onset of laying the hen will spend the night in the nestbox. And if you are lucky you should see an egg the next morning. The laying interval is usually around every third day.

Red-fronteds as pets

These little parrots are extremely suited as pets; they are mischievous in a nice way. They will learn to talk even with a mate; they associate their deeds to actions and times. They are small enough to be kept in an apartment and not nearly as noisy as large macaws or Cockatoos. I would recommend these parrots, as pets were it not for their rarity. If these parrots are obtained as a pet , all efforts should be made to get a mate for it for future breeding or at the appropriate time to set it up with a breeder on perhaps a breeding loan.

Status in Aviculture in South Africa

Here in South Africa these birds do not come along too often, so finding pairs is a problem. I remember in 2000 seeing a single male for sale at a bird park. They told me it was not for sale as they were getting in two females and would them pair it up and sell them as a pair, I was also told that they male which was closed banded was 2 years old. Upon returning a week later they had a scrawny female in the aviary with this very tame, very beautiful male. I was then by another sales person that these were now a "bonded pair" and were "about five years old". I pointed out to the sale person that the female was a bit under the weather, I was then told it was because she has just raised 3 chicks. Well in any case the female died about a week later and the male was for sale again, but this time about 40 % more than he was 2 weeks earlier.

I later found another male at a different bird farm for sale at a more realistic price; even though it was only 4 months old it was already trying to attract everyone's attention.

Another pair I know of belonged to a zoo, which lost a hen and it took forever to replace her.

If you are fortunate enough to be the proud owner of a single bird, you should be looking for a mate for it because in the wild, this species of macaw, it is believed, will be extinct during our lifetime. If you find yourself unable to keep your bird in a breeding situation, serious consideration should be given to donating it to a parrot sanctuary or to set it up in a breeding situation (breeding loan) with a reputable breeder, or another non-profit group dedicated to the preservation of these wonderful, but highly endangered macaw species. The Red-fronted macaw was placed on CITES Appendix I In July 1983.

Mutations

There are presentty no known mutations , if you know of any please send a photo with a description and some history to Gideon

 

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Although all reasonable efforts have been made by Thomasriver Aviaries to validate the accuracy of the information contained in this site, Thomasriver Aviaries shall not be held responsible for any errors in, amendments to, or any damages arising from information supplied as aforesaid. Thomasriver Aviaries does not give any warranties as to the accuracy and completeness of the information and shall not accept liability whatsoever for the use by any party of such information. No claims whatsoever shall be accepted for any loss or damage arising from reliance on the information by any party. We are not responsible for any bites due to our birds when they are viewed or bought, you take full responsibility when you handle the birds.

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