Macaws

Two Macaws on a perch

In order to be happy, macaws need at least one partner and plenty of space and love.

Hardly any bird lovers can resist the unmistakable plumage, striking beauty and character of macaws. However, these attractive jungle birds are very demanding of their owners. We have summarised for you the most important tips for owning and caring for these exotic birds.

Appearance: What distinguishes the appearance of macaws?

The Psittacidae family is a diverse bunch, although does have some common features: Nature has given all macaws a distinctive facial mask that covers both sides of the face with little or no feathered skin. 

The beak is generally black or white in colour and, typically of parrots, curved and strong. The feet are dark grey and the long, feathered tail is made up of different layers. 

Apart from these characteristics, diversity is typical of macaws: Size and colour differ greatly among the different macaw species. 

Two well-known specimens, the scarlet and blue-and-yellow macaw, are colourful and can reach up to 90 centimetres in size and weigh up to 1.5kg. In contrast, the chestnut-fronted macaw is just 50 centimetres in size and weighs slightly more than 300g. It is primarily green in colour and its plumage is adorned with red and bluish accents. 

How can we tell apart male and female macaws?

Whilst different macaw species can be easily recognised, there are no easy answers regarding their sex. 

There may be some slight differences in size and physique with some species. However, a clear determination of sex is often only possible with DNA analysis or an endoscopic examination. 

Blue-and-yellow Macaw alongside a Scarlet Macaw
Diverse but related: A blue-and-yellow macaw sits to the left and a scarlet macaw to the right.

Character: What are these colourful birds like?

The best way to describe macaws is lovely, lively and loud. Despite their strong curiosity and great intelligence, they are not as linguistically talented as grey parrots, for instance. 

However, this doesn't stop them loudly drawing attention to themselves even without words, mostly in mornings and evenings. Indeed, their cries are the origin of their onomatopoeic name. 

Once macaws have built up trust in you, you can treat them to a tickle because they very much need affection. However, they do experience attacks of jealousy now and then. 

Owning macaws: How much space do they need?

Species-appropriate housing for macaws requires plenty of space. Large macaws in particular take up a lot of space with a wingspan of sometimes more than one metre. 

These jungle birds need a macaw room or indoor or outdoor aviary and space to fly so that they don't feel constrained. A bird cage should only be used for transporting them. 

Housing for these monogamous birds must therefore have sufficient dimensions: With a body length of up to 60cm, 4 x 2 x 2 metres in length, width and height are required for a pair of birds. This increases to at least 6 x 3 x 2.5 metres with larger macaws. In addition, there is a closed protected area on all sides. 

The second requirement is keeping macaws at least as a pair, which does justice to the strong social behaviour of these colourful birds. It's not recommended to keep them with other bird species: Their sheer size and imposing beak can be far too intimidating for smaller birds. 

Air, light and temperature

If you opt for an outdoor aviary, you should offer your birds access to an indoor area or a heated shelter. Tropical temperatures prevail in the home countries of macaws, therefore they react sensitively to temperatures beneath 12ºC. In addition, they prefer at least 60% humidity. 

You can compensate for a lack of natural daylight with UV light sources and offer the birds a small nightlight for the dark hours. 

Checklist: Get your macaw excited with these accessories

  • Clever macaws are happy and settled if they are occupied with diverse toys.
  • Macaw beaks also want activity – for instance, with untreated branches that beg to be nibbled and can be easily handled by macaw feet. 
  • Eating and drinking areas should always be clean and easy to reach. 
  • Bring movement into the aviary with swings and climbing options. 
  • Whether it's with a sprinkler or spray bottle, most macaws really enjoy a lukewarm shower. 
  • Bird sand or litter are good floor coverings. 

Are you looking for accessories for a macaw oasis of wellbeing that can be delivered straight to your home? Find what you need in the zooplus Bird store

Several Macaws in a large aviary
Macaws are demanding to keep. They primarily need plenty of space and to be surrounded by their own kind.

Diet: What do macaws eat?

In the wild, macaws eat fruit, seeds, herbs or berries. They love fresh, untreated fruit and vegetables for their day-to-day diet. Nuts may occasionally feature on the menu too, because the beak of these colourful parrots is the perfect tool to open hard shells. 

You should always tailor the food composition and quantity to the macaw species, activity level and state of health. Along with varied parrot food, fresh water and mineral stones on a daily basis complete a species-appropriate diet. 

Health: How to give macaws a long life

Similar to cats, it often isn't noticeable when parrots are unwell. So find out about parrot diseases like psittacosis, aspergillosis, Pacheco's disease or PBFD and keep an eye out for typical symptoms. Clear up any abnormalities with your vet so that you can get sick birds treated in good time. 

What age do macaws reach?

With a species-appropriate diet, sufficient space and a loving partner, a macaw typically reaches 40 or 50 years of age, although they can even live to the age of 90. Future macaw owners should definitely bear this fact in mind. 

Purchasing: What you have to consider if you want to buy a macaw

You've made your decision: You want to offer a pair of macaws a lovely new home and can meet the high demands of these attractive birds? If you value good advice and want to know where your new pets come from, you're best off contacting a local breeder.

When buying macaws, individuals also have to consider legal regulations and have the relevant paperwork – a reputable breeder will inform you about this too. Macaws are more expensive than other parrots due to their size alone at around 600 to 2,500 pounds per bird. 

You can usually take macaws from animal homes or animal welfare organisations for a nominal fee. However, it is common to find there birds that are sick or suffering from behaviour disorders and are best off in the hands of experienced parrot owners. 

Are you still undecided on which birds should form part of your life? Find an introduction to the most attractive bird species in our breed profiles

Origin: Where exactly do these jungle birds come from?

Macaws are a subspecies of the Psittacidae family and are at home in warm climes, with their original home being the tropical rainforests of Central and South America. Many macaw species are found there along riverbeds and in open forests, or inhabit savannahs with trees, swamps or hilly areas. 

Unfortunately they aren't just valued pets, but are threatened in their natural habitat due to poaching and deforestation of the rainforest. This is one of the reasons why international trade of most parrots is now banned. 

This is another reason for responsible bird lovers to only contact reputable local breeders to buy macaws. 

Profile

Name: Macaw, also Aracanga
Size: up to 90 centimetres
Life expectancy: on average 40 or 50 years, sometimes up to 90 years
Housing: at least in a pair
Socialisation with other animals: not recommended
Cage: bird room or aviary with at least 4 x 2 x 2 metres plus shelter room for a couple
Food: fruit, vegetables, seeds, berries, herbs, nuts, additional minerals
Difficulty level: demanding 

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