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Macaws – Everything You Need to Know About the Giant Superstars

Macaws perching together

Macaws, the “giants of the parrot world,” are a force to reckon with if we’ll talk about plumage and feathering patterns. But do they excel as pets as much as they do in shows? And how do they interact with their owners?

If you’re looking to adopt or buy a parrot, asking those questions is critical in making a wise decision.

So in this guide, we compiled everything you need to know about these giant superstars from their:

  • Origin and how they behave and survive in the wild
  • Types of species and their personality and distinct characteristics
  • Breeding behaviors and average lifespan

Whether you’re just an ultimate fan of macaw birds or you’re a prospective parent or owner, you’ll discover a lot from these birds, including caring tips in case you pursue raising them.

But before that, here are some spoilers about macaws that’ll give you an insight into what they’re like.

Species Overview

Scientific Name:  Psittacidae
Diet: Omnivore
Size:  11.8 to 39.5 inches
Weight:  4.5 ounces to 3.75 pounds
Talking Ability:  Can talk and imitate sounds and noises
Average Lifespan:  60 years

 

types of macaws

What Are Macaws?

Macaws, “the giants of the parrot world,” are the superstars in shows due to their overwhelming and striking plumage and feather patterns. 

The term “macaw” is the common name for 17 species of gigantic colorful parrots, and they’re all clothed in colorful feathers.

They often sport sickle-shaped beaks, long tails, and powerful beaks that can easily crack nuts and seeds. 

Macaws can easily tap fruits thanks to their scaly tongues and robust bones.

These birds also have gripping toes that enable them to grab and hold onto branches. 

Different Types of Macaws:

As we said earlier, there are many species under the macaw’s umbrella, and here are some of them:

1. Blue and Gold Macaws

Blue and Gold MacawsThese birds are the epitome of beauty and brains because they’re not just visually gorgeous but also intelligent and friendly. 

Since they measure almost three feet from the beak to the tail tip, they need a large cage or aviary. 

They can rival cats and dogs in terms of social needs, and they can be loud when vocalizing. So, they’re not ideal for beginners in bird keeping

But having macaw parrots can be very rewarding since they can bond with their owners and are lovely. So, they can surely brighten up your day. 

2. Greenwing Macaws or Red-and-green Macaws

Greenwing MacawsBeautiful would be an understatement if we were to describe these birds.

These birds are one of the most recognizable macaws due to the vibrant red color on their head, and shoulders and the greenish band below their shoulder and wings.

The green band in their wings then transitions into dark blue.

They’re charming and trainable. But they need lots of time and attention from their owners to thrive, so you can’t leave them for a long time.

These macaws are not known for their talking ability but they can learn up to 15 words.

3. Hahn’s Macaws

These guys don’t have as flashy featherings as other species in this list, and they’re the smallest, but they’re friendly, easy-going, and intelligent. 

You can quickly train them; they can become good talkers with constant practice. Like other macaws, these birds may also scream but strongly bond with their owners.

They’re an excellent option for those looking for a macaw parrot but aren’t ready for large birds.

4. Hyacinth Macaws

Hyacinth Macaws

These macaws are the “Great Dane” in the bird world and their striking plumage can surely tempt you to pause and behold their beauty.

They’re very affectionate, sweet, and friendly.

But Hyacinth macaws are not the best pets for novice bird owners because they require more time and care than other species.

The largest and perhaps most demanding species of macaws are hyacinths.

They can be highly tempting due to their size, beauty, and intelligence, but it takes so much patience and devotion to keep them. 

5. Hybrid Macaws

Hybrid Macaw ParrotIn contrast to other macaw species, hybrids are developed solely for their color and suitability as pets. As their name suggests, these stunning macaw birds have mixed genetics.

Thus, they incorporate the personality qualities of the species they were bred from. 

Only a knowledgeable owner well-versed in macaw parrot behavior should give a hybrid some thought.

6. Illiger’s Macaw

Illiger's MacawThese playful and friendly birds with primarily green plumage and blue-tinted wings love interacting with their humans.

They’re easy to train and bond strongly with their owners, especially if handfed as babies and raised in a supportive home. 

However, they need lots of mental stimulation and like to feel occupied.

7. Military Macaws

Military Macaw BirdMilitary macaws are known to be lovely, even-tempered pets when properly socialized. They are friendly and very loud birds.

The curious birds known as military macaws enjoy playing and socializing with their human “flock.”

However, these birds will need a lot of energy from their humans, just like other macaws. If you decide to keep military macaws as pets, prepare to spend a lot of time with them.

8. Scarlet Macaws

Scarlet MacawsThese birds easily top the list if we’d talk about the most beautiful parrots due to their flashy thick patches of feathers that are solid red, blue, and yellow. 

Scarlet macaws are striking and bold but full of energy and like a ball of sunshine.

Similar to the green-winged macaw, they exhibit red heads and breasts.

But green-winged species’ upper-wing covert feathers are mostly green while scarlets are usually yellow or a mix of yellow and green.

They also require daily stimulation and social interaction to remain tame. 

9. Severe Macaws

Severe MacawsThese macaws are a top favorite among bird enthusiasts, thanks to their friendly and comical personality. 

With enough socialization, severe macaws bond with their owners rapidly and learn new commands easily.

They also possess excellent communication abilities.

Although they can be endearing friends, severe macaws are just as dependent as other macaw species.

10. Yellow-collared Macaws

Yellow-collared Pet MacawAmong the macaws on this list, these yellow-collared ones may be the most clever, especially when escaping their cage. 

Don’t be deceived by their adorable face!

These macaws can be slightly mischievous, but we can’t blame them. They’re innately intelligent and resourceful.

So if you plan to raise a yellow-collared macaw, get a safe and secure cage and shower these excellent escape artists with love. 

Macaws’ Origin and Natural Habitat

These birds usually nestle in the southern portion of America, Central and South America. 

According to some evidence, macaw species are native to the Caribbean. It includes the Cuban macaw (Ara tricolor) and the Saint Croix macaw (Ara autochthones), which are now extinct. 

They mostly prefer to live in rainforests, grasslands, and grassy woodland-type areas.

Other macaw species are native to the Amason basin, including Peru. 

Did you know that:

Some macaws and parrots living in the Amason basin, like in Peru, eat clays at exposed river banks? That’s their unique way of neutralizing toxins they got from foods in the wild.

Personality and Behavior of Macaws

Pet macaws are outgoing, intelligent birds that frequently gather in 10 to 30 bird flocks. They can also be funny and affectionate. 

In the morning, flocks may fly great distances to graze on fruit, nuts, insects, and snails after sleeping in the trees. 

Some species also consume damp soil, which may assist in soothing their tummies and neutralizing toxins in their fruit-heavy diet.

Macaws’ Intelligence

These birds are intelligent, and many of them can learn to talk. Their intelligence level is comparable to that of a human toddler. 

They can solve problems, utilize tools, and communicate with other birds. 

These birds can also whistle or imitate sounds and noises they often hear inside and outside their home.

Macaws tend to produce loud squawks and screeches, so they can sometimes be ear-piercing. 

macaw birds

Macaw Reproduction and Family Life

Macaws are monogamous birds that usually live in pairs. When they choose their mates, they usually stick together, build their family and enjoy mutual grooming. 

The pair bonds together by preening, sharing food, and roosting. 

This close relationship is known as a pair bond.

During the breeding season(November to April), the mothers incubate the eggs while the fathers hunt for their pair’s food.

Not all pairs can produce an egg, but some can lay up to 4 eggs per season.

The eggs hatch after less than a month of incubation, and the baby macaws are now called fledglings.

Macaw chicks are initially defenseless. They require parental care until they develop their plumage, which happens at around ten weeks of age. 

Their eyes stay closed for several days and are only sparsely coated in downy feathers. Chicks in the same nest frequently compete for food. That’s why only the older and stronger chick commonly survives. 

At around three months old, the fledglings are sloppy as they learn to fly, but once they learn to handle it, they start flying alongside the adults to seek food.

The fledglings stay with their parents for a year and a half. 

macaw pet bird

Care and Feeding Guide for Macaws:

Food and nutrition

Just like other birds, macaws need a proper diet and nutrition to thrive. But what do macaws eat? Macaw birds’ diet in the wild include:

  • seeds
  • fruits
  • flowers
  • leaves
  • figs
  • nectar
  • palm nuts
  • clay from exposed river banks

But what is macaw’s favorite food?

Their favorites include grasshoppers, roaches, and nails, but their diet mainly consists of nuts, fruits, and greens. Macaws also like palm fruit and figs.

Some macaw species have unique dietary requirements than other parrot species because they require more fat in their diet. 

Compared to other birds, which spend their days soaring over the rainforest in search of food, nesting, and raising babies, wild macaws have diets that are often heavy in fat.

Cage requirements

A macaw bird needs a cage high enough to keep its tail feathers from slamming onto the bottom of the cage, which could cause them to bend or break. 

Compared to other parrot species, a macaw requires a significantly larger cage and play stand, so a prospective owner should consider their space at home.

The minimum cage size for macaw birds should be 36 inches wide, 48 -inches deep, and 60 inches tall. 

Toys and accessories

Macaws need mental stimulation daily, so they’d love it if you’d give them colorful java wood blacks, ladders, ropes, or puzzle toys. 

They’d also enjoy chewing shreddable toys made of non-toxic wood, leather, and cardboard.

Macaw: Common Health Issues

Macaws are prone to the following disease and self-destructive behaviors:

Psittacine beak and feather disease (PBFD)

This viral disease is also known as psittacine circovirus (PCV) or disease. The first case was observed in Australia.

It’s very fatal for nestlings and can cause long-term immunological suppression and feather and beak abnormalities.

There’s no effective treatment against disease and it’s difficult to get rid of once it spreads into a captive or wild population.

Proventricular dilatation disease (PDD)

This condition caused by avian bornavirus affects the nerves of the bird’s gastrointestinal tract, especially their proventriculus or actual stomach.

There’s no treatment for this disease. So, the treatment only reduces inflammation.

Psittacosis

Also known as parrot fever, this bacterial infection affects at least 465 bird species and can spread to humans. 

The main culprit of this disease is the bacterium Chlamydia psittaci. But the good news is it can be treated with antibiotics.

Beak malocclusion

This refers to the misalignment of the upper and lower mandibles usually caused by injuries or genetic deformities. 

This deformity prevents normal wear and leads to an overgrown, deformed beak and fractures.

Aspergillosis

This fungal infection causes respiratory illnesses in birds and is extra challenging to cure. Those acutely infected quickly die due to respiratory distress.

The bird should have a strong immune system to fight off the disease and eliminate the organism. 

Feather plucking

This behavior could be induced by itchy or sore skin caused by mites or bacterial or fungal infections. 

Severe plucking may permanently damage the follicles, which may prevent their hair from growing back. So, if you’re bird is in distress and plucking his feather, a vet visit may be necessary.

macaw bird playing

Lifespan of Macaws: How many years do macaws live?

When cared for properly, these giant parrots can live up to 30 years. Some can even reach 60 years in the wild. 

So, if you’re planning to adopt a macaw bird, prepare for a long-term commitment because these birds have lots of time and attention.

Macaws’ Conservation Status

Unfortunately, macaws’ popularity brought an ill fate for the birds. They became in demand in the pet trade, and many illegal traders exported them illegally. That is why macaws are extremely rare today. 

Land clearing, logging, and development caused them to lose their natural habitat. So these activities also contributed to the extinction of several macaw species. 

The International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species considers macaws as either endangered or critically endangered. 

The blue-throated macaw of northern Bolivia, the sizeable green macaw of north Colombia and Central America, and the Lear’s macaw of Brazil are some of the most in danger of extinction.

The Spix’s macaw, the bird that inspired the hit children’s film Rio, was last seen in the wild in 2000. And as of 2019, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and other authorities deemed the species extinct.

But ornithologists are optimistic about the survival of the glaucous macaw, which has been critically endangered since 2000.

The species was last seen in central South America in the 1960s, but there have been several unconfirmed sightings of individuals since then.

Scarlet and military macaw

Common Questions About Macaws

Is a macaw a good pet?

Macaws can make affectionate and loyal companions if they receive enough nutrition, mental stimulation, attention, and space for exercise. However, they can also be challenging to care for as pets due to their size and personalities.

What is the difference between a macaw and a parrot?

All macaws are parrots but macaws usually have larger bodies, bigger beaks, and longer tails than parrots. They’re both colorful and attractive members of the Psittaciformes order.

Which macaw is best as a pet?

The Hyacinth macaw, the friendliest of all macaws, is probably the best pet. They have an endearing and friendly nature but need lots of care and attention, so you have to consider if you can handle the responsibilities that come along with them.

How much money do macaws cost?

Macaw’s cost depends on the species, but it usually ranges between $1000–$18,000. Yes, these birds are expensive since they’re rare, and the maintenance cost is also relatively high.

Hyacinth macaws are often the most high-priced because they can cost up to $40,000.

Do macaws like to cuddle?

Macaws are physically affectionate with people they trust and know very well. They’re unlikely to be cuddly with a stranger. But they may cuddle and kiss their favorite family member or owner.

Will a macaw fly away?

Many birds will fly away if there’s an opportunity. Those who don’t fly away probably had their wings clipped, specifically the flight feathers, which are crucial for flying.

Without their flight feathers, they can’t gain much altitude, and macaws are convinced they can’t fly high.

Do macaws talk?

Many macaws can mimic human speech and learn a few words. Some species like the blue-and-gold macaw can learn faster than others. They start talking when they’re three months to one year old.

But others can’t talk. Instead, they vocalize by mimicking whistles and household noises.

Do macaws bond with one person?

Some parrots, like macaws, are one-person birds who may develop a strong bond with just their favorite person. But all parrots are capable of bonding with multiple people.

It may not be easy for some birds, but they can learn it in time.

Are male or female macaws nicer?

Both sexes can make excellent pets because both males and females are intelligent, friendly, and interactive.
It doesn’t matter what their sex is unless breeding is your concern.

Are macaws kid-friendly?

Macaws can be dangerous for kids because they have large beaks that could severely injure a small child when playing or in distress. So even if your kids are mature and responsible, it’d be safer if you’d choose kid-friendly parrots.

Are macaws hard to keep?

Macaws are challenging to keep since they need large enclosures, lots of time, and toys for mental stimulation and attention. They may be bitey at first, but this behavior will disappear as they develop trust in you.

Are macaws smart?

Yes, macaws are brilliant. They’re the second most intelligent parrot, with an IQ comparable to a human toddler’s. Some macaws can talk, exhibit creative and logical thinking, utilize tools and solve problems.

What is the quietest macaw?

Mini macaws are the quietest ones. As their name suggests, their smaller and less noisy than regular macaws.
So, they’re the better option if you have sensitive neighbors or live in an apartment.

Can two male macaws live together?

Macaws should not be put in the same cage, especially if they’re of the same sex. There’s a high chance that they’ll fight and injure each other.

These birds need a ton of space and constant monitoring, so it’s best not to put them together.

macaw breeds

Final Thoughts About Macaws: Are They the Right Bird For You?

Macaws are an A+ in terms of beauty, intelligence, and personality but they also have several flaws.

They’re not ideal for novice pet bird owners because they need lots of time, money, and attention. But experienced bird owners who already have the know-how in raising and dealing with birds may be able to handle these demanding birds.

These affectionate but sometimes bold birds explode with colors. They’re a pleasing treat to the eyes until they throw tantrums and scream when annoyed or in distress.

So, if you’re a newbie in bird keeping, we suggest starting with a beginner-friendly species as an introduction. And gradually upgrade to parrots and macaws if you think you can carry more responsibilities.

Which of the macaws above appeals to you the most? And are you ready to take on the challenge of being a macaw owner? Let us know your thoughts below.

READ NEXT: Top 10 Most Popular Pet Birds in the World

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