Merlin - The Red Fronted Macaw, Ara rubrogenys

Merlin the Super Red Front
Videos, language, and pictures

Red Front Info
Good Red Front News


This is my buddy Merlin. You can find more pictures and movies of him below. Merlin is a Red Fronted Macaw born April 30th, 2004. We bought him from an aviary called Avalon Aviary. The aviary is run by a fantastic woman named Suzanne who has spent about a year with us helping us to decide what kind of bird would be right for us and teaching us all about each species. I would highly recommend anyone looking for a bird go to Avalon Aviary.

This species of Macaw hails from Bolivia and there are apparently less than two thousand of them remaining in the wild. Sadly, it appears that habitat destruction and outright murder by the ignorant savages who kill them when they stop to eat corn and nuts will likely ensure their extinction in the wild. I realize some people have problems with keeping birds as pets but, after some research, it is abundantly cleat that many species of birds we keep as pets would go the way of the Dodo if not for the interest by owners and Aviaries.

Merlin Landing

Red Fronts are absolute charms, they have all the goofiness of caiquies coupled with the energy of Amazons, the flight ability of hummingbirds, and the cuddliness of bigger macaws. They are also breeding well in captivity so owning one doesn't strain the breeding pool like owning a Blue Throated Macaw would.

Our little guy is a sweet, bright, and affectionate little bird, he gets on well with the cats and exhibits the uncanny ability to know quickly if someone likes him or not. Within two days of owning him he took to one friend (Brian) immediately and made threatening gestures to another (Kevin) within 30 seconds of meeting him.

We have chosen to allow Merlin to remain flighted. This opens up a whole new can of trouble as we must be more vigilant that he does not escape or fly into harm (or destroy household items). In my personal opinion birds should be kept flighted if at all possible. I know this is not always possible with smaller birds but if you can devote the attention necessary to keep your bird flighted they will be much happier, much more pig headed but much happier. Red Fronts in particular are fantastic fliers, Merlin can take off vertically, hover, and fly backwards, it is a treat to watch. Unlike many other species of birds Red Fronts delight in constant flight, clipping one would be like hobbling a marathon runner.

If you get a Red Front and then clip it, you are destroying much of what makes them such wonderful creatures. People will give you a hundred reasons to clip a bird butI can offer one simple counter, 'It is a bird'. If you are really prepared to devote to decades of patience with one of these creatures then why can't you devote yourself to the diligence required to keeping it safe while still allowing it to be a creature that is uniquely defined by its ability to fly?

Merlin goes everywhere with me. I have attached a bungie cord to his harness so he does not get snapped back when I fly him outdoors. He goes on walks with me, has been up to the top oflocal 7000-8500 foot peaks with me over a two hundred times, been on my shoulder when I am am climbing moderate sport routes, and is known by tons of people in Boulder stores. Merlin has even been on traditional rock climbing routes and long overhanging rapells with me.

Merlin is a goofy little fellow and likes to fly over to me and bite me before yelling 'Ouch' and also likes to wrestle on the floor and play dead when I make a shooting gesture at him. If you get a Red Front be aware that they have very high energy levels and need a great deal of interaction. They also can get quite willfull for a period of time and require consistency in dealing with.

Red Fronts also have a rather shrill call. Be prepared to deal with it. We have trained Merlin to use words, signals, or actions (such as shaking a door handle) to indicate what he wants and this has greatly cut down on the yelling but it took time and he still occasionally sounds off. Check one of my videos to get an idea for the sound they make.

An interesting thing about Macaws is that they use words contextually. Some people think parrots are mimics which is incorrect, they are actually using language to communicate. Our guy has a problem with the letter C and TH and S sounds so 'Come Come' sounds like 'om om' and 'Thirsty' sounds like 'her he'

Merlin Flying
UPDATE- As of April, 2010 we now have Merlin's brother, Chaco living with us, whoever his last owner's were should be ashamed as one of them clearly abused him.  We have also picked up Rio, Merlin's and Chaco's older brother from a previous clutch.  To Rio's owners I say Kudos, you obviously treated him with love and respect.  If anyome out there has more than 3 red fronts I'd love to hear of it. Merlin and Chaco Kayaking

For anyone thinking about owning red-fronts here is a video I posted on youtube demonstrating their synergistic effect when it comes to making noise -- If the above seems ridiculous to you then donate here Good Place to save wild Red Fronts. It finally looks like there might be a chance for Red Fronts in the wild. If you have any questions about Red Fronts that DO NOT involve clipping them please email me. I very well may have the largest number of non-breeder Red Fronts in the United States.

Merlin's Vocabulary

Merlin Bird Hello
Hello buddy
Hey Buddy
Come Come
Good Bird
How Are You?
You're OK
Good Girl
Hi My Friend
Good Boy
And much more.....


wmv format, need media player

1. Shoot The Bird
2. Miscellaneous Merlin
3 Miscellaneous Merlin #2
4 Goofy Bird

More Pictures

Merlin On A 180 Foot Hanging Rapell

Merlin Gearing Up For A 5 Pitch Climb

Read more about Red Fronts from a great aviary Avalon's Red Front Page

Some Information on The Red Fronted Macaw (Wikipedia's page is too limited, the below is taken from the link)

Family/Sub-family Psittacidae

Species name author Lafresnaye, 1847

Taxonomic source(s)
SACC (2005 + updates), Sibley and Monroe (1990, 1993), Stotz et al. (1996)

Identification 55-60 cm. Medium-sized, tricoloured macaw. Largely bright green. Orange-red forehead to mid-crown and small auricular patch. Large shoulder patch and mottled thigh coloration as crown. Pale blue primaries. Narrow ring of pale pinkish bare skin around eye. Large black bill. Similar spp. Military Macaw A. militaris occurs in different habitats, is larger and has no red on wing. Voice Rather musical and high-pitched growls and harsher squeaks.

Population estimate 1,000 - 4,000
Population trend decreasing
Range estimate (breeding/resident) 10,100 km2
Country endemic? Yes

Range & population Ara rubrogenys is endemic to a small area on the east Andean slope of south-central Bolivia, from south Cochabamba and west Santa Cruz through north Chuquisaca to north-east Potosí. It is principally found in the valley systems of the ríos Grande, Mizque and Pilcomayo. It is locally common but declining, with the population variously estimated at 2,000-4,000 individuals in 1991-19926, and as few as 1,000 in 19912. In the Caine valley (Cochabamba and Potosí) 40-100 indivuduals were considered resident and secure in 1989-1992, but only one was seen during five days fieldwork in 19954,6. Conservative estimates indicate there may now be fewer than 500 breeding pairs, although not all nesting colonies have yet been found, and there are additional non-breeding adults in any given year9.

Ecology: Its original natural habitat is inter-Andean dry forest, but this has been degraded to thorn and cactus scrub by centuries (if not millennia) of human activity9 and it now inhabits subtropical, xerophytic thorny scrub with many cacti and scattered trees at 1,100-2,500 m, dispersing locally to 3,000 m. It nests and roosts on undisturbed, steep-sided river cliffs. Its diet includes seeds and fruit, but natural food sources are often scarce and birds feed extensively on crops, particularly groundnuts and unripe maize8. Egg-laying has been reported from November and exceptionally as late as April, with pairs fledging one, two or occasionally three offspring annually5,9. Adults and their young remain on the breeding grounds until late March or early April 9.

Threats Its original natural habitat is inter-Andean dry forest but this has been degraded to thorn and cactus scrub by centuries (if not millennia) of highly unsustainable human activities, nowadays mainly overgrazing by goats, firewood cutting and charcoal production9. An estimated 40% of natural vegetation in valleys within its range had been converted to agriculture by 1991, with other areas degraded by intense grazing. Several important food trees are harvested for fuel and charcoal. As food plants are lost, agricultural land is used more, thereby increasing the species's exposure to persecution as a crop-pest, and the use of firearms for pest control has been recorded1. Illegal trapping continues, but has been reduced as a result of legal protection5,6,10,11. The majority of the Bolivian parrot trade is domestic but more valuable threatened species end up in Peru or further afield. 26 Red-fronted Macaws were recorded passing through the Los Pozos pet market, Santa Cruz between August 2004-July 2005, and there are four other wildlife markets in the city and others in Cochabamba, suggesting this figure may only represent a small proportion of birds illegally trafficked in the country11.

Conservation measures underway CITES Appendix I and II. Its capture, transport and export is prohibited under Bolivian law3, although this is not effectively enforced11. In 1992, 5,000 posters urging the protection of macaws and their habitat were made and apparently well received throughout the region. Non-breeding birds occur in the southern edge of Amboro National Park9. Armonía has a long-term conservation project on the Rio Mizque working with three subsistence farming communities to protect breeding cliffs with 20-25 active nests. An ecotourism lodge was inaugurated here in 2006 with proceeds going to the local communities, and it is planned to establish a protected area at this site9.
Conservation measures proposed Continue surveying and monitoring2,7. Fence key patches of gallery forest to limit cattle-grazing and permit vegetation to regenerate7. Effectively enforce trade laws11. Organise awareness campaigns2. Identify suitable sites for protected areas within rio Grande and rio Pilcomayo drainages.8

References Collar et al. (1992). 1. Brace et al. (1995). 2. Clarke and Duran Patiño (1991). 3. Fuller and Gaski (1987). 4. Herzog et al. (1997). 5. Juniper and Parr (1998). 6. Pitter and Christiansen (1995). 7. Snyder et al. (2000). 8. Kyle (2005). 9. S. K. Herzog in litt. (2007). 10. A. Rojas in litt. (2007). 11. Herrera and Hennessey (2007).

GOOD NEWS, A Great organizaton has bought up 100+ acres of Red Front territory for eco-tourism and  conservation, maybe these guys have a chance

© 2009 Jared Workman