Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Rio the Green-winged Macaw

Green-winged Macaws are also known as Red and Green Macaws.  Covered in red feathers with blues and greens on the tail and wings, they are the second largest parrot species in the world, only behind the Hyacinth Macaw. 
Rio, WBS's resident Green-winged Macaw (photo: Gay Schroer)

These beautiful birds have an average length of about 2.5 feet, and a wingspan of over three feet!  Even though they are so large, they only weigh about 3 pounds.  In fact, most birds are relatively light.  This is because the largest of birds' bones have a honeycomb structure instead of being solid like mammal bones.  Also, they don't have heavy jaws and teeth.   

Just because their beaks are lightweight they should not be underestimated. Green-winged Macaws have roughly two-thousand pounds of crushing force with their beaks.  This allows them to break open the toughest nuts and shells.  However, if for some reason this parrot couldn't break open a nut, they have what is called a rasping edge on the inside and end of their upper beak.  This means they could file away at the shell to make it easier to break apart.  Instead they have lightweight beaks.

Because their feet are xygodactal, macaws are very adept at picking up items with their feet (photo: Mike Cerutti)

Here at World Bird Sanctuary we have one of these amazing birds.  His name is Rio, and I honestly do not know if he likes dancing in the sand (a pun on the song “Rio,” by Duran Duran).  Rio has xygodactal feet, meaning that on each foot the outer 2 toes face backwards along with back toe, and the two inner toes face forwards.  This makes picking up fruits and nuts very easy.  Birds of prey like hawks and eagles have to reach down with their heads to their feet to eat food, but parrots like Rio can bring that food all the way up to their mouth with the foot. 

Apart from having gorgeous feathers, a very powerful beak, and awesome feet, Rio (like many other parrots) can even mimic words!  He is known for quietly saying “Hello?” and screaming “Hi Rio!”  at his favorite trainers.  Rio is only eighteen years old, which might seem like a lot, but not for a parrot.  Green-winged Macaws can live to be 60 to 80 years old!

During the summer months, Rio spends his time at various zoos across the United States as part of World Bird Sanctuary’s bird shows.  There he flies over peoples' heads in a seemingly spectacular attempt to wow audiences.  In the winter he likes to eat bananas and play games with his trainers.  One of his favorites is to pick up aluminum cans, and then put them into a recycling bin. 

Even though recycling helps us save money at World Bird Sanctuary, we still need your help.  For just $150 you can adopt Rio through our Adopt-A-Bird program   That tax deductible donation will go directly toward helping us feed and care for our beloved Rio for 1 year.

Submitted by Mike Cerutti, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist/Trainer

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