What's special about macaws?

There are six genera of macaws in the parrot family – do they have something in common that distinguishes them from other parrots, or is it just a name?

Oh, and the dictionary says the name comes from “macau” – as in the Chinese port? Eh?

To the best of my knowledge, macaws have longer tails than the rest of the parrot family, and their beaks can differ. As to the etymology of the name, I’m stumped as well.

Macaws FAQsThey are larger than other parrot species. They are more colorful as well. They live up to 80 years. I believe other parrots are shorter lived.

Macaw Photos
photos of all the parrot groups

“Macaw” is a common name, used for the largest New World parrots, which have long tails and bare facial skin. Traditionally they have been considered to be rather closely related. However, the recent split (actually, resplit) of Diopsittaca and Propyrrhura from Ara is in due to recognition that these genera may in fact be closer to the small Aratinga parakeets than to the rest of the macaws. Also, the genera Rhynchopsitta and Ognorhynchus, commonly called parrots, may actually be modified macaws. So “macaws” cannot really be considered to form a natural group.

The name is derived, via Portuguese, from the Tupi Indiam names for these birds, macao, maca, and macavuana. It has nothing to do with the Chinese port.