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Thursday, March 18, 2010
The Great Green And The Military

By Amy Baggs
Follow Amy's adventures in A Day In The Pet Bird Store.

Tank, a military macaw 
Tank, a military macaw, has a deep red band on his face and nearly yellow irises.

Zoe, a great green macaw 
Great green, or Buffon's, macaw Zoë has lighter, yellow-green feathers than Tank. 

Tank's brightly corlored tail 
Tank’s tail, above, is brownish-red with turquoise tips. Zoë’s, below, is orange-red with bright, lighter turquoise tips.

Zoe's brightly colored tail 

Green has been my favorite color since I was a child.  Maybe that is why I love parrots – there are so many shades of green!

I have a great green, or Buffon’s, macaw and a military macaw. A lot of parrot lovers are interested in my great green Zoë because they have never really heard of this macaw. My military is Tank, a large boy. I have held them together and people say “Oh look at the sweet couple! He’s big and she’s so cute!”

I always respond with “Thank you but the bigger one is the female and the smaller one is a large male; they are two different types of macaws.” Most people think I’m joking! I say that my Zoë is just a big-boned girl but, no, she is a great green macaw and they are large. This macaw looks like a military on steroids! But these two indeed look similar to the untrained eye.

Many people ask me to explain the differences between the two parrots. The No. 1 way to tell these guys apart is the size. Great greens are huge. This parrot is close in size to a green-winged macaw or a hyacinth macaw. Zoë, my female, weighs in at about 1,500 grams. Tank is a noticeable 400 grams less than his larger “sister.”

The next difference between these two is their colors. Wait, their colors are close enough, aren’t they? Nope, the great greens have a lighter shade of olive green with a tint of yellowish undertones, where the military’s green is more like an army green. (Maybe that is where they get their name.)  They both have a large band of red feathers above their beaks. The great’s is more orange-red while the military’s is more of a deeper, richer red.  They both have little dark feathers growing across their facial patches; however, the great greens facial feathers might be replaced by red ones as the bird matures. The tails are a bit similar. Tank’s tail is more of a brownish-red with turquoise tips while Zoë’s is more orange-red with bright, lighter turquoise tips.  Zoë’s tail is also longer and wider compared to Tank’s. 

Another telling distinction between these two pure macaws is their beaks. Both beaks are black and of course the great green’s is larger.  But Zoë’s beak has a lighter grayish end. Tank’s beak is pure black.

The last and most important difference between these parrots is in the eyes. Most macaws change color as they grow older. Tank’s eyes have changed and have gone from dark to almost becoming yellowish with dark pupils. Baby great green’s eyes have a large black pupil surrounded by a charcoal grey ring.  As they age, the grey ring enlarges. You can see this is Zoë’s eyes. She will be 12 years old this spring.

A lot of parrot enthusiasts have not heard too much about the great green, but they definitely know about the military. I hope you have found this helpful in telling these two beautiful macaws apart. Now, go out there and amaze others with your newfound knowledge. And if you ever see me out and about with my two large green brats, point out the great green macaw and I will be thoroughly impressed!

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The Great Green And The Military

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Reader Comments
Where did you get your great green macaw from? I am looking for an aviary that raises them. Thank you for your time.
Nancy, Rochester, WA
Posted: 11/12/2012 5:37:29 PM
Great info! Interesting that these small distinctions can mean so much. Nature is truly amazing.
Thanks so much for enlightening me.
Chuck, Omaha, NE
Posted: 3/30/2010 4:00:30 PM
What an informative article. Now I'll be looking more closely whenever I come across one of these beautiful birds. How lucky you are to live with both!
Maggie, Oceanside, CA
Posted: 3/27/2010 11:11:41 AM
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