Menu

Scales and Tales

Mac the Scarlet Macaw

Mac the Scarlet Macaw posing for one of his many portraits


On Wednesday, 10 March, we lost one of the very few living creatures that has been at Reptile Gardens longer than even us long-timers, Mac our Scarlet Macaw.

Like most parrots in the days before wildlife laws and captive breeding, Mac was captured in the wild, in South America. He was brought to the US in the early 1950's and arrived here at Reptile Gardens as a large adult bird in 1956. We estimate his age at the time of his death to have been over 70 years.

He was a huge, brightly-colored bird loaded with personality. In fact in regards to his size, many parrot breeders and bird fanciers remarked that he was the largest scarlet macaw they had ever seen.

Mac achieved legendary status here at the Gardens once we moved down to our new location in 1965. At that time, he spent his summer days outside on a perch in our prairie dog town, which was right next to our snake show arena. He loved it outside. He would sit on his perch and talk, squawk, and "perform" for Guests. Sometimes he would climb down and wander around the prairie dog town, even chasing a prairie dog now and then just for the fun of it. After years spent listening to the snake show he was able to recite most, if not all, of the 20-minute snake show word for word. He could speak much more clearly than most macaws.

Mac in the Sky Dome


One of his favorite things to do was to act demure and quietly wait for an unsuspecting Guest or staff member to wander nearby. Or if that didn't workhe would calmly say "Come here" to get his victim to come move in closer. As soon as he felt the person was sufficiently near and lulled into complacency or not paying attention to him, he would let loose with one of those amazing filling-rattling, eardrum-shattering screams for which macaws are known. This would, of course, cause his victim to jump nearly to the ceiling and cover their ears, which would then result in Mac laughing in a human laugh...really. As a result of this hobby, Mac added a considerable number of cuss words to his already huge vocabulary.

This was not a bird to be trifled with that is for certain. I have seen him splinter a broom stick with ease and bend metal food dishes into modern art. He was not generallyfond of men, especially men with facial hair and had moments in his younger days when he could be quite aggressive toward them. Apparently, at some point in his life before he arrived here, something happened involving a bearded man that he never forgot. He could fool a novice Dome Guide or bird staff member into thinking their lives were in danger by simply striking a pose. Don't tell anyone but our fearless reptile curator, Terry Phillip, known for his skills with deadly venomous snakes - the man who risks his life daily in the jaws of death - was once chased onto a table screaming like a baby and reduced to a puddle of fearby a mere bird: Mac the Scarlet Macaw.

For the past decade or so Mac has spent his days on a perch in the Safari Room of our Sky Dome. There, partially hidden among the jungle plants, he delighted Guests with his antics and was the subject of countless photos. New Safari Room guides would often wonder who was saying "Hello" and "Come here." when they could see no one in the room. He would sit and mutter to himself, occasionally embarrassing a parent with young children. Of course, he still took pleasure in startling an unwary passerby with his shriek.

Reptile Gardens will not be the same without Mac. Our staff, even the guys, loved Mac and the history he represented here. Year after year, Mac consistently scored as one of the top favorite animals in our Guest surveys. Sadly, in the last couple of years Mac had begun to show his age. He was losing his eyesight and his energy. Our veterinarian did all she could but ultimately he just couldn't fight the good fight anymore. The staff of Wildlife Experiences has been caring for Mac, and our other parrots, for some years now. I know they too are much saddened by his death after working so closely with him for so long. Whether you know it is coming or not, it is always heartbreaking when we lose one of our animal residents, especially one you have known for so very long.

Mac was never in a show or trained to do tricks. His status as a senior member of our staff was established early and he always got to do just what he wanted. This impressive bird will live on in the tens of thousands of photos taken of him over the past half a century plus that he spent here keeping us on our toes and enriching our lives.

Mac on his outside perch in the early 1970's

Back

Close

Activities

Main Exhibits

Shows

Shops

Close

Animals

Snakes

Other Reptiles

Amphibians and Bugs

Native to South Dakota

Close

Botanical Gardens

Indoor

Outdoor

Close

About Us

Sky Dome

Step inside the Sky Dome to experience a warm tropical climate while exploring our indoor jungle filled with exotic and unique flora and fauna. 

Rattlesnake Gulch

Try your hand at gemstone sluicing or go on a 3D safari. Our very own old west ghost town as numerous photo opportunities and activities to keep the kids entertained.

Cheyenne's Habitat

Cheyenne the bald eagle has been a permanent resident of Reptile Gardens for 11 years with permission of the US Fish & Wildlife Service.

Maniac's habitat

Maniac is our resident giant saltwater crocodile. At over 16 feet long and1,350pounds, he is one of the largest giant crocodiles in the western hemisphere. If you don't see him at his enclosure inside the SkyDome, make sure to check outside!

Prairie Dog Town

Get down to eye-level with these fuzzy little animals and see firsthand what life is like in a typical prairie dog town!

Methuselah's Playground

Methuselah was a giant Galapagos Tortoise weighing in at over 600 pounds, and a long time resident of Reptile Gardens. His memory lives on at this playground featuring a bronze statue of Methuselah himself. 

Snake Show stage

Get up-close-and-personal with our snake ambassadors in this family-friendly snake handling show.

Gator Show stage

Dozens of Alligators, Crocodiles, and Caimans and one keeper...what could go wrong? Separate fact from fiction in this educational, family-friendly show and get a chance to pet Fluffy, our baby gator!

Bird Show stage

Interact with birds from around the world at the Bird Show, where they love to show off their beauty and intelligence. 

Gift Shop

Carrying a wide variety of Reptile Gardens souvenirs as well as educational books for every age and a variety of stunning rocks, minerals, and fossils from all over the world.

Green Parrot Cafe

Hungry? Refuel with buffalo burgers, The Maniac burger, Black Mamba Shakes, Indian Tacos, and more!

Giant Tortoise

Don't miss this photo opportunity! Get up-close and personal with these friendly giants who love to have their neck scratched and are great with kids. 

Tortuga Falls

Take a stroll through this meditative garden, gaze into our turtle and koi pond, listen to the waterfalls, and don't miss Darwin the Kookaburra! 

Walking Garden

We're about more than just Reptiles! Our outdoor gardens are beauty to be seen as they change throughout the season and year after year. 

Living Wall

This vertical garden is a wall of color that grows and changes through the Summer season creating striking patterns and unique portraits as it grows. 

Pet A Python

Don't miss your chance to Pet a Python!  Our snake handlers ar here to talk about any questions or myths you've heard about snakes. Don't forget your camera! Our pythons are very photogenic and love to photos with you!