The Red Guara or Red Macaw – National Bird of Honduras

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The Red Guara or Scarlet Macaw is native to Honduras, mainly from La Mosquitia and thanks to a conservation project it can be found flying freely in the archaeological park of Copán Ruinas, now declared the Sacred Valley of the Red Macaw .

Its habitat extends from southeastern Mexico to the jungles of Cochabamba in Bolivia , preferring humid tropical forests near abundant water sources.

In Honduras there are two species of Macaws: the Red Guara (Ara Macao) and the Green Guara (Ara Ambigüa) , and other species have recently been introduced.

It is popular as a domestic bird for its sociable demeanor and because it learns to imitate words. It was venerated by the Mayan and Aztec civilizations and even the Inca empire in Peru, for the beauty of its plumage.

National Bird Day of Honduras

The  Guara Roja or Red Macaw was declared a National Bird of Honduras on June 28, 1993 by the National Congress of Honduras, as a measure to preserve the fauna and biological diversity that Honduras has.

That same day , the White-tailed Deer was named as the National Mammal of Honduras.

Other names for the Macaw

The Guara or Guacamaya in addition to being known as guaras are also known as parrots .

It is also often called the Central American scarlet macaw, flag macaw, red macaw or scarlet macaw.

The name Guacamaya comes from the Tupi languages ​​of Brazil, where the word Ara means ‘strong’ and Macao means precisely ‘macaw’.

In the Mayan language it is called oop, x-op, ah-k’ota and moo (the latter particularly in Quekchí), in Quiché caquix and in Tzeltal xcchc pan or xoua can mut.

Some common names in Spanish by which it is called in Latin America, and particularly in South America, are paraba seven colors, arará, flag macaw, scarlet macaw, and red and yellow macaw.

The Red Guara or Red Macaw - National Bird of Honduras

Characteristics of the Guara or Red Macaw

It belongs to the parrots family, the Red Guara was classified in 1798 by the Swedish Linnaeus as Psittacus macao , its scientific name is Ara Macao, it is a bird with beautiful red, yellow and blue plumage.

Their diet is based on nectar, roots, fruits, nuts and cereals.

The Macaw has all the characteristics of a common parrot, with the uniqueness of having very lively colors in its plumage such as yellow, red and blue; it has a very long and attractive tail; its natural habitat is very jungle areas.

The wings, long and pointed, have a wide yellow stripe that is formed by the larger and medium wing coverts (in some specimens a part of this area has green hues). The shirts are dark blue and the lower coverts of the back, rump and the upper and lower part of the tail are light blue.

The tail, which is somewhat longer than the body, is scarlet, with blue hues at the tips of the central feathers, while the outer feathers are almost completely blue. The underside of the wings and tail are orange-red and brown.

The importance of the Red Guara in the Mayan culture

The large area of ​​bare, whitish skin on the face is traversed by tiny lines of reddish feathers, barely visible from afar.

The bill is large, robust and hooked, with the upper jaw bone white (black stained in the lower corner) and the lower jaw black. The eyes are round, with pale yellow to greenish irises and located very laterally on both sides of the head.

Dark gray legs and 4 toes; 2 forwards and 2 backwards, which facilitate its movement between the branches of the trees and serve to hold its food.

Sexual dimorphism: Females are somewhat smaller, with a thicker, curved and shorter bill. The young specimens have a grayish lower jaw, brown irises and a somewhat shorter tail.

They mate for life after age 4. The female lays 2 to 4 white eggs in a tree cavity that hatch for 24 to 25 days. They raise the chicks for 105 days. At one year of age they separate from their parents. Its longevity is approximately 30 years, it measures between 81 and 96 cm long, weighs about 1 kg.

Scientific classification

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Edge: Chordata
  • Class: Birds
  • Order: Psittaciformes
  • Family: Psittacidae
  • Genus: Ara
  • Species: macao

Binomial name

  • Ara macao
  • Linnaeus 1758

Traditional legend about the Red Guara of the Honduran Mosquitia

“Long ago, there was a good god named Mapapak, who protected the Sumo Indian tribe. One night the moon was not as usual. It was getting darker and darker because the evil god named Wasalá moved the earth close to the moon.

Suddenly, the moon turned red with the help of the sun. The sumos knew it was a fight between good and evil. They felt in danger because they knew that eclipses could leave the tribe in ruin… So they left their houses and gathered in the jungle on the river bank.

Suddenly the evil spirit appeared, when they saw it they began to make noises and fires to scare it away. Mapapak sent a valiant messenger that was shaped like a bird with a thick beak and brightly colored feathers, green blue and yellow. This warrior of good defeated the spirit of evil, but in the fight he was hurt. Since that day, the macaw also has the color red in its feathers. It is the red guara, the national bird of Honduras ”.