Family Parrots (Psittacidae)


Great Green Macaw (Ara ambiguus)


French: Ara de Buffon German: Bechsteinara Spanish: Guacamayo ambiguo

Psittacus ambiguus


, 1811,

north-western Colombia


Sometimes treated as conspecific with A. militaris, but, in spite of evidence of interbreeding, the characters of the two forms are constantly different over their respective ranges: present species is significantly larger, with weight 1265–1430 vs 972–1134 g (at least 2); paler lime-green on head and upperwing-coverts and paler blue on lower back to uppertail-coverts (1); orange-red vs dark red on tail (2); red vs black lines on face of old birds, notably females (1); deeper, more growling, less drawn-out call#R (1); more humid, lower-elevation forest habitat (sea-level to 1000 m vs 600–2600 m) (1). Race guayaquilensis sometimes considered too poorly differentiated to warrant recognition; mithocondrial DNA data do not show divergence with nominate race#R. Genus is masculine#R, so emended spelling ambigua is incorrect. Two subspecies currently recognized.

What do (1) and (2) mean? Learn more about the scoring system.
Subspecies and Distribution
  • A. a. ambiguus (Bechstein, 1811) – E Honduras and Nicaragua through Costa Rica and Panama to NW Colombia.
  • A. a. guayaquilensis Chapman, 1925 – W Ecuador (Esmeraldas and Guayas).
  • Descriptive notes

    85–90 cm; 1265–1430 g. Very similar to A. militaris but larger with larger bill, notably paler (lime) green on head and upper wing-coverts, paler blue on... read more


    Loud and raucous calls, similar to other large Ara macaws. Flight call a loud powerful “... read more


    Humid lowland evergreen forest and intervening tracts of partially cleared terrain, up to 1000 m;... read more

    Food and feeding

    Seeds of Dipteryx panamensis are highly important during the breeding season, but other seeds and fruit are taken, including the... read more


    Dec–Apr or later in Costa Rica; May–Oct in Ecuador. Nest is hole in tree, in one case a dead Cavanillesia platanifolia... read more


    Very poorly understood, but in Costa Rica birds range widely over Caribbean slope, perhaps tracking... read more

    Status and conservation

    ENDANGERED. CITES I. Retreating in response to habitat loss throughout its range, and sensitive to habitat disturbance; perhaps NW Nicaragua and Colombia’s Baud... read more

    Recommended citation

    Collar, N., Boesman, P. & Sharpe, C.J. (2020). Great Green Macaw (Ara ambiguus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 21 February 2020).