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Is a Macaw the Right Pet for You – a Species-by-Species Review

Scarlet and Blue and Gold MacawsMany parrot enthusiasts view macaws as the ultimate avian pets.  Huge, personable, gorgeous and enormously intelligent, macaws seem to embody all that is desirable in a pet parrot.  However, macaw ownership is not to be undertaken lightly…while the rewards are great, there are many responsibilities and “downsides” to consider as well.

General Considerations

If you’ve ever been surprised by the volume of noise a budgie or lovebird can generate, consider what their massive relatives can do!  Macaw vocalizations must be heard to be believed.  I’ve observed Scarlet Macaws and others on Venezuela’s wide open grasslands, and have worked with them in huge zoo exhibits – even in these habitats, their calls were often deafening.  Highly social, it is in their nature to vocalize almost continually. 

Innate sociability drives macaws to bond with people, but many owners underestimate what this means.  An hour or 2 spent with your bird before and after work is rarely enough to meet its needs.  Wild macaws are never out of contact with mates and flock members for long…pets, especially those housed alone, demand more attention than most owners can provide.  And even with a great deal of close contact, the relationship can be rocky.  While macaws can be among the sweetest of all pets, most have very strong personalities and will test you on a regular basis.  Large, powerful beaks and brains render them as birds to be taken seriously.

All parrots, even the tiniest, need lots of space.  This fact of parrot life takes on greater importance when your pet is a 30-40 inch long, highly active macaw. Close confinement is torturous for macaws, and will lead to a host of often irreversible problems.

The aforementioned points apply to all macaws. Following is some information that is specific to individual species. Please bear in mind that while a species may exhibit certain tendencies, individual personalities will vary, and a bird’s past history will greatly affect its potential as a pet. As with all animals, certain individuals will appear to break all of their “species’ rules”.

Big and Beautiful, but…

The spectacularly beautiful Scarlet Macaw is among the world’s most recognizable birds.  However, as regards pet potential, its beauty is often “skin deep”.  Scarlet Macaws are strong-willed and quick to take offense.  This, coupled with their natural tendency to communicate physically, i.e. by nips and bites, renders them as birds best left to well-experienced keepers.

Other species sharing the Scarlet’s characteristics are the Military, Severe and Buffon’s Macaws.

Ideal Large Macaw

The Green-Winged (Red and Green) Macaw is an excellent “alternative” to the Scarlet. Among the largest of its family, the Green Wing looks a lot like the Scarlet Macaw, but is, in general, a much calmer bird.  Most individuals have very steady personalities, and many develop impressive vocabularies.

The Blue and Gold Macaw has been a favorite of mine ever since I cared for a group of youngsters at a bird importer’s facility many years ago.  My boisterous little gang acted like a bunch of puppies, even rolling on their backs and “pawing” the air.  In time, I learned that many keepers considered Blue and Golds to be among the most intelligent and playful of all macaws.  They are loud, but almost always mild-mannered, and very “forgiving” of typical first-timer mistakes.

The Blue-Throated Macaw puts one in mind of a scaled down Blue and Gold, and is also a good choice for those new to macaw keeping.

The huge Hyacinth Macaw, largest of all, often makes a fine pet and mimics words quite well.   At once imposing and beautiful, Hyacinths demand a great deal of attention but are usually very gentle to those with whom they bond.

Mini Macaws…a Wonderful “Compromise”

Hahn’s MacawAt 10-11 inches in length, Hahn’s Macaw is the world’s smallest.  However, along with the slightly larger Noble Macaw, it is a true macaw in every sense of the word.  If you’re looking for a giant parrot in a small package, either will fit the bill.  Both are sociable, playful and, like most macaws, a bit loud.  The Noble is often steadier in personality than the Hahn’s, and less likely to bite when disturbed.

The Yellow-Collared Macaw is small by macaw standards, but requires a calm, knowledgeable owner who can control its free-wheeling temperament.



Further Reading

Observations on Wild Scarlet Macaws

Hyacinth Macaw Conservation

Macaw Overview: further thoughts on various species

Scarlet and Blue and Gold Macaw image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by eddy
Red and Green Macaw image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Lee

Hahn’s Macaw image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Snowmanradio


  1. avatar

    Macaws are not for everyone. They live up 80 years old and take a lot of attention and upkeep not to mention the cost of owning them. We have been around macaws for many years and know the habits of the largest (hyacinth) to the smallest (hahns) macaws. Macaws have great personalities and most like to be around people they trust. If you are inclined to adopt a macaw into your life do so with the intent of keeping it for many years.

  2. avatar


    Thanks for your interesting and informative comment.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

About Frank Indiviglio

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I believe that I was born with an intense interest in animals, as neither I nor any of my family can recall a time when I was not fascinated by creatures large and small. One might imagine this to be an unfortunate set of circumstances for a person born and raised in the Bronx, but, in actuality, quite the opposite was true. Most importantly, my family encouraged both my interest and the extensive menagerie that sprung from it. My mother and grandmother somehow found ways to cope with the skunks, flying squirrels, octopus, caimans and countless other odd creatures that routinely arrived un-announced at our front door. Assisting in hand-feeding hatchling praying mantises and in eradicating hoards of mosquitoes (I once thought I had discovered “fresh-water brine shrimp” and stocked my tanks with thousands of mosquito larvae!) became second nature to them. My mother went on to become a serious naturalist, and has helped thousands learn about wildlife in her 16 years as a volunteer at the Bronx Zoo. My grandfather actively conspired in my zoo-buildings efforts, regularly appearing with chipmunks, boa constrictors, turtles rescued from the Fulton Fish Market and, especially, unusual marine creatures. It was his passion for seahorses that led me to write a book about them years later. Thank you very much, for a complete biography of my experience click here.
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