The military macaw is 70.5 cm (27.8 in) long on average, 99–110 (33–43 in) across the wings and weighs 900–1,100 grams (2–2.4 lbs). It is mostly green in color with the head a slightly paler shade. It bears a red frontal patch, with a white bare facial area barred with narrow black lines. The flight feathers are blue and the red tail bordered with blue. The large strong beak is grey-black and the iris yellow. The military macaw appears superficially similar to, and may easily be confused with the somewhat larger great green macaw.
Military macaws live in large flocks and can live about 50–60 years in the wild. They can often be heard long before they are seen. They are a very noisy bird making a variety of loud cracking and shrieking sounds, including a loud kraa-aak.
In the wild
The military macaw inhabits arid woodlands and subtropical forests. They typically live at elevations of 600 to 2600 m, higher in the mountains than most macaws ever range. However, these macaws may seasonally fly down to lowlands, where they are likely in humid forests and thorny woodlands. They will nest in the tops of trees and more often in cliff-faces over 600 ft. (200 m) above the ground. The three subspecies of the military macaw are distinguished geographically. A. m. militaris are found in areas of Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, and Venezuela. A. m. mexicana occupy areas in Mexico and A. m. boliviana live in Bolivia and Argentina.
The military macaw’s diet consists of seeds, fruits, nuts, berries, and other vegetation found on treetops in their forests. Their beaks are well adapted for eating various seeds and nuts as they have the ability to break open the hardest of shells with relative ease.
Military macaws will leave their roosts in flocks around dawn and head to their feeding areas. They will also visit heaps of clay known as “macaw licks”. These clay licks are found along riverbanks or sometimes in the interior of the Amazon rainforest. Macaws will flock to there to feed on these clay deposits, which appear to detoxify the poisons found in the seeds and vegetation of the rest of their diet. It is also thought that this clay provides the macaws with dietary salt not available in their normal diet.