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Tag Archives: Macaws as Pets

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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.  Read More »

The Many Sides of the Blue and Gold Macaw

Blue and Gold Macaw in flightThis magnificent parrot, also known as the Blue and Yellow Macaw (Ara ararauna) is something of an anomaly – rare in places, extinct in others, well known as a pet yet awe-inspiring even to veteran bird-keepers.

Range and Status

The Blue and Gold Macaw’s huge range stretches from Central America (southern Panama) south through Columbia to Ecuador and Northern Peru and southeast through Venezuela to Trinidad, French Guiana, Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay and northern Argentina.

In some areas, an innate intelligence and adaptability, along with legal protections, have allowed it to remain the most commonly-encountered macaw.  Elsewhere, however, its fate has been grim…indeed, the species disappeared from Trinidad by the early 1960’s (but has been re-introduced, please see below).  Introduced populations thrive in Mexico, Florida and other places.

Habitat and Behavior

Blue and Gold Macaws favor forest edges, overgrown swamps and riverside palm stands, but they venture far afield while foraging.  In Venezuela I observed them well out over the llanos (flooded grasslands), with not a tree in sight.  In some regions they remain within thick forests during the dry season and spread out into open habitats as the rains arrive.

Like most parrots, these sociable birds utilize regular roosting sites, leaving at first light and foraging, sometimes at great distances, until sunset.  The sight of a flock of Blue and Gold Macaws, backlit by the setting sun as they approach their roost, is among the most spectacular to be seen in the American tropics.

These huge birds always remain close to their mates…even within large flocks, paired birds, flying so that their wings are nearly touching, are easy to distinguish.  As much or more so than any parrot, Blue and Gold Macaws thrive on company – single captives will languish without ample human companionship and stimulation.

Pet Pros and Cons

As pets, Blue and Gold Macaws have much to recommend them, but again they present us with two sides.  They are, without question, one of the calmest of the macaws, and most are quite playful even as adults.  When handled properly, they bond well with people and become most affectionate to their owners.  Many develop impressive vocabularies as well, and they speak in deep tones that befit their size.

However, in common with their relatives, Blue and Gold Macaws demand a great deal of attention, have extremely loud voices, and require huge cages or outdoor aviaries along with near-daily out-of-cage time.  Breeding birds sometimes undergo a drastic change in personality, becoming extremely aggressive to even long-favored caretakers.

Conservation Efforts

The Blue and Gold Macaw seems to be holding its own in some areas, while declining in others; its status in many regions has not been accessed.  It is listed on Appendix II of Cites.

As mentioned, the Blue and Gold Macaw disappeared from Trinidad in the early 1960’s, a victim of habitat loss and over-collection.  In 1999, conservationists based at the Cincinnati Zoo began the process of reintroducing this gorgeous bird to its former island home.  Supported by private, government and corporate funds, wild-caught macaws were released and monitored over several years.  Local people were recruited to observe and protect the birds, and to deter poachers.  The “new” Blue and Gold Macaws were adopted by local schools as a flagship species, and are now thriving.

Further Reading

Blue and Gold Macaw video from the Cincinnati Zoo.

Other Macaw articles on ThatBirdBlog:

An Overview of Popular Macaws

Observing Wild Scarlet Macaws 


Blue and Gold Macaw image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by TonyBrierton and Snowmanradio

The Scarlet Macaw – The Wild Side of a Popular Pet

Macaw in FlightThe Scarlet Macaw (Ara macao) is surely one of the most recognizable birds on the planet.  Images of this spectacular parrot adorn the brochures and T-shirts of travel agencies, zoos and aviaries worldwide.  Less well-known, however, is its natural habits and precarious existence in the wild.


At 33.5 inches in length, and with a wingspan to match, this deep red (or scarlet!), yellow-shouldered bird is one of the world’s largest parrots.

Its huge range extends from Oaxaca in southern Mexico through Central America to Columbia, Peru, Bolivia and Brazil, and east to French Guiana.  Within this area, however, it is rare or absent from many locales, and may be extinct in El Salvador.  Feral populations thrive in Puerto Rico and Florida.
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The Macaws: An Overview of a Spectacular Group of Parrots, Part I


Macaws in a store or the wild draw the eye instantly – loud, gorgeous, active and intelligent, they are the ultimate parrot pets in the eyes of many hobbyists.  Indeed, when prices were lower, a macaw was often the first parrot purchased by those new to the hobby.

Some Preliminary Considerations

However, these strong-willed birds are not for everyone, and certainly not for those without some parrot-keeping experience.  More so than their relatives, macaws are prone to “bullying” their owners.   They learn very quickly, and once they believe dominance has been attained, can be quite a handful.  With massive beaks capable of exerting up to 300 pounds per square inch of pressure, they are not to be taken lightly.  Most species are large and loud, and require a great deal of room.  All must be kept busy…a bored macaw soon becomes a destructive and impossible pet.

That being said, a hand-raised macaw in the right situation is an unparalleled pet – affectionate, intelligent and talkative in ways that few birds can match.

Range and General Characteristics

Macaws comprise a group of 6 genera and 17 species, classified with all other parrots in the family Psittacidae.  Five species are recently extinct and a sixth, the glaucous macaw (Anodorhynchus glaucus), may be so.  The little blue or Spix’s macaw (Cyanopsitta spixii) no longer occurs in the wild but holds on in captivity.  Ranging throughout Central and South America and Mexico, populations of all are considered to be at risk.

The giant of the group, the hyacinth macaw (Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus) is also the world’s largest parrot.  Awe-inspiring to behold, hyacinths reach 40 inches in length, and sport wingspans of nearly 5 feet.  At a “mere” 12 inches, the noble or red-shouldered macaw (Ara nobilis) is the smallest species.

Choosing a Species

A number of macaw species have been bred in captivity and, despite superficial similarities, they can differ greatly as to their suitability as pets.  I’ll write detailed articles about individual species in the future, but would now like to present a general overview.  When observing macaws, please bear in mind that hybrids are quite common in the pet trade, and they may differ markedly from either parent species.

The Noble or Red-Shouldered Macaw, Ara nobilis

Noble MacawThis smallest of the macaws makes up in personality what it lacks in size.  Indeed, it is quite difficult to distinguish its bold, confident attitude from that of the much larger species.  Although a small macaw, the noble is still a substantial parrot, and, given its active and inquisitive nature, requires a huge cage and plenty of exercise.  It is, however, a bit less prone to aggression than other macaws, and well-habituated individuals make delightful, if often noisy, companions.

A Well-Known Subspecies

A subspecies, known as Hahn’s macaw (A. n. cumanensis) is one of the most widely-bred of the group, and is considered to be a fairly easy bird to train.  This and its small size make the Hahn’s an ideal choice for the first-time macaw owner.  Both noble and Hahn’s macaws have attained ages in excess of 50 years in captivity, and could potentially live a good deal longer.

Noble Macaws in the Wild

Noble macaws range from Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana through eastern Venezuela to southern Brazil.  They frequent lightly-forested areas, but flee to deep cover when threatened.  Forest-fringed savannas, palm groves, wooded farms and plantation edges are typical haunts.  Noble macaws are most frequently encountered in groups of up to 10 birds, with pairs being evident by their interactions.

Despite their brilliant coloration, these green and red birds are surprisingly difficult to pick out among tree branches.  This, combined with their unusual quietness while feeding, affords protection from both human and natural enemies.

During my time in Venezuela, I twice missed out on seeing flocks noticed by sharper-eyed colleagues.  Once they take to the wing, however, noble macaws are very loud and very fast…so I wound up barely glimpsing them, but with a good earful!


A detailed article on breeding noble and other small macaws in captivity, presented at the Canadian Parrot Symposium, is posted at:


Please also see my article Brief Notes on Wild Scarlet Macaws (Ara macao) in Venezuela.

Image referenced from Wikipedia and first posted by Snowmanradio.

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